Rafe Mair: The BC election no one can win
The election is sufficiently near to develop a few axioms to carry us through the sea of a largely imponderable mass of horse buns that we’ll have to face. I suggest that the following are good starts to our defence mechanisms as our eyes and ears become mercilessly assaulted by heaps of political bullshit, endemic to all campaigns, this one having a master, or should I say mistress, of it?
We can assume the following:
NDP Leader John Horgan probably won’t know what the hell he’s talking about most of the time but he will honestly believe that it’s appropriate and accurate.
Premier Christy Clark, though it is highly unlikely, may know what she’s talking about on some occasions but no matter what she says, where or when, she’s most certainly lying through her teeth.
In the days and weeks to come, I’ll be examining the Liberal record and Ms. Clark’s role in it with some care. That’s reasonable enough because she has been our elected premier for 3 1/2 years (My God, is that all it is?!) and the Liberals seem to have been in power forever. Let me take a look first at the John Horgan and the NDP.
Horgan missed golden opportunity with LNG
The Official Opposition is supposed to be the “government in waiting” – that is if they really want the public to take them seriously. I don’t imagine at this point that many believe John Horgan has got this done. Most people would be hard-pressed to remember any NDP MLA, with the exception of David Eby, and in some cases their own MLA – and Horgan scarcely looks like a premier-in-waiting. He has saddled the party with an impossible issue, namely blanket approval of LNG. I’ve mentioned this ad nauseam and am sorry for mentioning it again but it’s of huge importance and Mr. Horgan deserves to wear it.
He supports LNG because, he has said, “we can’t be against everything”. What he has done, as I predicted a year and a half ago, has foreclosed the NDP’s right to criticize any part of LNG and it is now stuck with approving things which nobody in their right mind – which is to say a non-Liberal hack – would dream of supporting. This for a gamut of good reasons – from the atmospheric damage it does, the substantial fracking damage to our water supply, the transportation dangers of natural gas to the refinery, pollution to air and water, immensely dangerous transit by tanker as LNG. Finally, he and his party accept, uncritically, the outrageous expenses of Clark and Coleman selling LNG they didn’t have to people who don’t want it and who, even if they did, could get it much cheaper or make it themselves.
The NDP can’t even point out that scientists have found LNG to be an even worse pollutant than they thought. He must also refrain from challenging the absurd Clark/Coleman statements that LNG will pay off all our debts and fill up their Prosperity Fund to over-flowing.
LNG should be the NDP’s biggest issue but their leader has made it into a big weight in their boots. Horgan would be wise to swallow his pride and make LNG an issue. Since he won’t, his party may lose the election because their leader feared he would lose face, and refused to deal with an issue that the people of British Columbia by and large do not support.
Record on Hydro should dog Clark
Premier Clark and her government have a substantial task on their hands, unless, somehow, the people accept her appalling record, rather than take a chance with a stubborn man whose personal pride has hidden any ability he might possess. (When I stopped and reread that, I thought to myself “what on earth have we done in this province to deserve an election where our choice is between supporting a failed a government or an opposition which gives no confidence it will be any better?”)
I’m not going to deal with the Liberal record overall today but just look at one aspect as being such an unbelievable failure that I’m only surprised it doesn’t have people taking to the streets. I refer to BC Hydro.
When the liberals took power in 2001, BC Hydro was not only a thriving Crown corporation – literally the envy of the energy world – it made a substantial and legitimate profit for the people of BC. It had, over the years, presented profits of several hundred million dollars per annum to the provincial treasury – in fact, close to $1 billion on occasion. They were real profits (with the exception of those gained in the California-Enron scandal) that built hospitals, schools roads and so on.
Hydro didn’t have to borrow money to pay dividends to the treasury as they have under this “business-oriented” government. Admittedly, that appalling practice started with the last NDP government but as Keith Baldrey, scarcely a Liberal-basher, puts it:
(Evidently Mr Baldrey somehow overlooked the inconvenient fact that this is what’s happened from the start and will, assuming the Liberals continue to reward their pals, go on ad infinitum!)
Just think about this for a second and let’s assume you have a small but nicely profitable business. For many years, you made a nice profit and it sustained your family needs. Suddenly, it starts to lose a bundle, and you’re advised that this is due to your incompetence, not bad luck, but you say to hell with them – we want that money, so we’ll borrow every year and because we have some assets, we will act as if everything was just peachy. You would, of course, reach the point where no one would lend you money and you’re out of business.
That, my friends, is BC Hydro, with this wrinkle – they’ve not gone broke because their banker has to lend that money, whether he likes it or not – because the Banker is YOU, the public of British Columbia, who are forced to pay electricity rates to BC Hydro or be without power!
Think on this when you’re considering how to mark your ballot – as of now, Hydro owes $852 million to the government over the next three fiscal years in mandatory annual dividend payments and, not having the money, they must borrow it — which ratepayers will have to pay — so that Hydro can meet government’s annual demand for a share of its non-existent profits, thus transferring the debt from us the taxpayers to us the ratepayers!
Did the poor, old, helpless government suddenly find itself in a position where global catastrophes or unforeseeable local conditions made it impossible for the poor Minister of Finance to do any better? Must we excuse the poor devil because he had no way of avoiding this calamity?
Usually, when financial disasters occur, a government has some sort of legitimate excuse. This government of fiscal fuck-ups has no excuse and in the next column I’ll examine how this bankrupting of BC Hydro was deliberate, probably because of Gordon Campbell’s Fraser Institute philosophy that no government-owned company can perform as well as a private company and he set out to prove that with catastrophic results. What we will determine, however, is that it wasn’t all loss, as this disaster unfolded because friends of the government made and continue to make billions of dollars. I will place before you prima facie evidence of wrongdoing by someone, for which the Attorney-General, who’s supposed to be above politics, must authorize a thorough investigation.
That she has not even commented on, much less authorized, an investigation is not an encouraging sign.