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.