Increasingly Irrelevant NDP Opposition Failed to Question LNG Pipe Dream

Artist's rendering of one of 5 or more proposed LNG plants for BC's coast.
Artist’s rendering of one of 5 or more proposed LNG plants for BC’s coast.

Gordon Clark in the Province this week called into question the relevance of the NDP and I’d like to add my two bits worth (now there’s an expression that’ll date you!).

Clark is right and it has serious consequences for our province.

As I have often mentioned, Lord Randolph Churchill once said, “it’s the duty of the opposition to oppose.” He did not mean that oppositions must simply sow sand in the gears but they must, if the system is to work, question all government policies or they will be seen as adopting them. The latter may be fine in limited cases but certainly not in contentious ones.

The Clark government has bet its entire stack on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The NDP, through Energy critic John Horgan, supported LNGduring the recent election. The problem is obvious – “do you support LNG?” is more than just one simple question.

It would be like saying “I like apple pie”. Even if it means you’ll throw up? Even if the apples are stolen? Even if picked by slave labour? Even if the cooking oil is possibly poisonous? What if the crust contains carcinogenic elements?

LNG has to be obtained from somewhere and more and more of that is from shale deposits “mined” by “fracking”. Does that mean that the NDP supports “fracking” to obtain the original gas? (Fracking is a process where one drills deep underground, then horizontally, sometimes to great lengths; then, when finding gas or oil or both trapped in pockets inside layers of shale and using enormous volumes of water laced with chemicals, one cracks open the shale, releasing the oil or gas to the surface.)

This, standing alone, is a huge issue. It takes a lot of water – where does it come from? What happens to it when, chemically-laced, it’s released? What about stability of the land? It’s irresponsible in the extreme to base policy on extraction methods that have not been proved safe.

A proper opposition party would insist “fracking” be environmentally safe before even thinking of an LNG policy.

Fracking for natural gas and liquefying it is expensive, as acknowledged by the premier, and the market is heavily subsidized in other regions – especially Australia, which is a big player. So we, the taxpayers will be called upon to pay subsidies.

The Premier has already designated Site “C” Dam as the engine for powering our LNG (along with burning gas for electricity). Does the NDP agree with subsidizing international industrial giants? Does it agree with Site “C” and the enormous environmental damage it will do? There appears to be no case for Site “C” to supply power for any domestic purpose other than LNG. Does the NDP agree with Site “C” – even if the government can’t provide a proved need?

The gas must be piped a long way. Even though a natural gas pipeline is not as fatal as one carrying bitumen, is it worth the candle to take any risk at all?

What about the risks when converting gas to LNG? The accidents have not been many but when they happen they can be horrendous. Have the NDP and Mr. Horgan assessed these risks?

Leaving aside the environmental concerns for a moment, at this point in time, the market for gas is fragile to say the least. Moreover, the essential ingredient in any deal – supply – is uncertain. To put all our eggs into the LNG basket means we make a commitment which will be hugely expensive without any real idea of what, if any, market will be there.

“Fracking” has upset the world of energy, Big Time. More and more shale fossil fuels are being found almost daily. Anyone trying to predict the market in 5 months’ time, let alone 5 years is a gambling fool.

In short, say that the premier’s optimistic view is correct that we’ll be in business, rolling in dough by 2018, we must commit now to expensive plans, even though by 2018 there may be no viable market for our gas.

Is this what Mr. Horgan and the NDP mean by supporting LNG?

Put another way, are you satisfied that your money is safe with the NDP supporting LNG?

In answering that question, it’s not good enough for the NDP to say, “we just agree in principle but reserve the right to question how the policy is implemented.” In for a penny, in for a pound.

This is what Lord Churchill was talking about and the NDP is the only viable opposition we have.

The NDP has a hell of a lot more to think of than its energy policy. As Mr. Clark has stated, the party has become irrelevant. It still doesn’t know if it’s a movement, an heir of Fabian Socialism or a modern political party that is prepared to offer an alternative that ordinary people can consider as a possible government. I say, there is no in between.

This doesn’t mean that a party shouldn’t have principles – of course they should, but if those principles mean that policy must, like a religious catechism, adhere to ancient tenets, regardless of present day realities, irrelevance is the result.

This isn’t a new problem for the NDP. Those who remember the contest between the moderate Tom Berger and the activist Dave Barrett in the 60s will know that this is an ancient struggle.

Those wise men and women who run the NDP must understand just how bad their May 14 loss was. This province, if I may repeat former utterances, is 30-30-40. 30% will always vote NDP, 30% will vote for a right wing party and 40% are there to be wooed.

The NDP utterly failed to capture that 40%, even though they were facing a government that had been in power too long, was rife with scandals and had made a balls up of the public purse.

It would appear that the NDP will just drift until they get a new leader and, all the while, let the engine of energy policy pass while they stand at the station and wave them on. All the while, farmland will be destroyed, rivers will be ravaged, salmon runs ruined, pipelines will burst while tankers wreak havoc on our shores.

For those of us who had hoped for, indeed expected better government, it is a very bitter pill we must swallow.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

2 thoughts on “Increasingly Irrelevant NDP Opposition Failed to Question LNG Pipe Dream

  1. Saturday, 29 June 2013 10:32 posted by Damien Gillis

    Try $10+ Billion, Hugh. Dams are notoriously over-budget. This one faces serious engineering challenges as the ground is less stable than further west in the valley, where Bennett and Peace Canyon dams are located. With the Williston Reservoir we’ve seen massive sloughing over the years – we can expect that to be even worse with Site C and for costs to balloon as they try to anchor it to unstable ground.

    Saturday, 29 June 2013 09:05 posted by Hugh

    NDP John Horgan says BC Hydro’s debt (excluding what it owes to IPPs) this year will be $14.5 billion, up from $6.7 billion in 2002.

    Site C, if it goes ahead, would add $8 billion, making BCH debt $22.5 billion. Now what happens if interest rates on that debt go up?

    Saturday, 29 June 2013 00:09 posted by Sean in Vancouver

    The election is over and done with!

    Get over it people!

    The Honourable Christy Clark’s government has been reelected to do anything it wants in this province.

    The NDP and Greens lost!

    LNG, Kinder Morgan, and the Northern Gateway won, which is the true will of the people.

    Exploitation of our natural resources, while adoring our environment is our government’s mission

    Friday, 28 June 2013 14:56 posted by Michael Major

    Rafe is right on target here but there is another side to this gas inflated issue. BC Hydro is precluded from building dams and transmission infrastructure solely for the purpose of electricity exports. In BC we only export electricity that is deemed surplus to our needs. On the basis of wild speculation on LNG, BC Hydro will be required to build Site “C” and contract for doubling the amount of hydro power available for consumption in BC. After Site “C” is built, and after the fracking and LNG projects crash, BC Hydro’s corporate creditors and assigns will take ownership of its assets and move to export a vast amount of electricity that will have become surplus in the province. GE will own BC Hydro and it will hold all the critical paper on all the IPP’s and it will be freed from “surplus” constraints and allowed to wheel all that power that we cannot buy into the US “green” energy maw. The LNG demand is simply a faked basis for setting a level of public investment that will result in an enormous surplus and fire sale. Didn’t any read Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”. I did. Michael Major.

    Friday, 28 June 2013 09:23 posted by Roger Benham

    And you missed out that by supporting the whole concept of LNG, the NDP were disregarding global warming and instead supporting continual growth in fossil fuel consumption.

    Friday, 28 June 2013 07:42 posted by ron wilton

    Friday, 28 June 2013 05:19 posted by the salamander horde

    .. the ‘progression’ or perhaps better said, the ‘procession’ of coherent thought and action marching like lemmings down to the sea behind the bizarre and unelected ‘hot’ puppet Christy Clark is startling. Who is pulling her strings ? And does the electorate buy this farce ?

    Yesterday I wondered why Damien Gillis had not been conscripted to step in and speak for all rational and democratic people in BC.. which would free Christy to get back to babbling mysterious airhead nonsense on the radio.

    Thursday, 27 June 2013 22:20 posted by Kevin Logan

    Hi Hugh,

    I am not sure if you are addressing my comment or not, but what you point out is true.

    However, as you know, the current government has banked on LNG, to not only pull us out of the hole but also to wrack up 100 billion dollar prosperity fund (Chavez is no doubt blushing and spinning in his grave)

    The point I am making is that they have forced us to enable the LNG liquidation agenda, with the promise that the revenue stream resulting from massive LNG exports will balance the books.

    Clark took the bait, mostly because there are few other options available to recover.

    Personally speaking, I dont believe any of it will result in anything she is promising, but rather lean toward the points you make.

    The industry has never ever, left a 100 billion dollars on the table anywhere, but you go can almost anywhere and see bankrupted governments and SOEs they have had their way with.

    In the end it all serves to gut government, demolish democracy, sacrifice sovereignty and pillage the public purse.

    However pointing that out does not get you votes, “debt free” and 100 billion Prosperity does. And of course the “let the oil and gas pay the taxes”

    See Alberta on that one. lol

    Thursday, 27 June 2013 21:29 posted by Hugh

    BC Hydro acquiring new, expensive power, from Site C and IPPs, and selling it for less than what it costs to LNG plants.

    That will increase debt, not reduce it.

    Thursday, 27 June 2013 19:57 posted by Kevin Logan

    The Clark piece was an insult to journalists everywhere, I get that there is lot of disappointment with the NDP but that piece was over the top and the Province should be ashamed for publishing it.

    That said, the LNG issue is as Rafe says, and the apple pie analogy fitting.

    The IPPs, straddled hydro with twice as much debt than the the entire province has wracked up since they started calling the place British Columbia. And it was the precursor to ensuring BC Hydro would be forced to build site C and enable the LNG game.

    Being straddled with upwards of 70 billion dollars, BC Hydro has little choice but to power up LNG so as to dig BC out of the debt hole.

    This “play” has left us beholden to the oil and gas majors and the overall energy agenda the worlds most powerful companies have in store for B.C.

    This was and continues to be enabled by the American “doctor” Judy, aka Tzeporah Berman (Tzeporah sounds more like one of those blue people from the Movie “Avatar” I guess) as she stickhandled the PR agenda with her front company “Power up” and she continues to distract scrutiny away from LNG and onto the zombie Enbridge proposal.

    Its time we take back the agenda for our future.

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