Potential BC Premiers and their Environmental Stances


There could not have been a worse government for the environment than the Campbell Liberals. On every possible front – farmland protection, fish farm disasters, the sale of our rivers and bankrupting BC Hydro, the total lack of environmental enforcement – you name it, and only Ronald Reagan and James Watt would have been worse, and even that is debatable.

It’s more than just evil deeds but an evil philosophy that’s at the root of the matter. I say that because all candidates for office play the “I-truly-love-the-environment” card punctuated with stories of camping trips when they were kids and such things. Gordon Campbell once told me of how he’d seen a billboard with migrating sockeye at the Adams River on it and how he’d taken a solemn vow to protect the environment for his children and grandchildren so they could share this miracle.

The first concern is, of course, the Liberal leadership campaign which has the great attraction that the winner is automatically the premier. That this may be just for a few months is true but, what the hell, you made it to the top and your picture will go up on the wall of the rotunda in the Parliament Buildings. It therefore behooves us to examine the candidates very carefully and, in my opinion, rule out anyone who’s been in the Campbell Cabinet.
Even the sainted Carole Taylor?

You bet – she was there when the moratorium on farmed salmon was lifted and she knew what the scientific findings were. They all did and not even a road-to-Damascus-like conversion can change that. I have no doubt that Ms. Taylor would be a strong premier, especially on fiscal matters, but I say, and have long been saying this: “a future government can always clean up a bad fiscal inheritance, even though it’s tough to do, but once you’ve lost your environment, it’s gone forever.”
What about Christy Clark? After all, her husband Mark Marissen is a Liberal backroom boy with considerable influence.
She can’t be ruled out but after her humiliating loss to Sam Sullivan for the NPA candidate-for-mayor a couple of years back, she may well conclude, as I have, that she won’t get the nomination, and if she did, for the same reasons I’ve given for Carole Taylor’s unsuitability, she won’t be elected … then again, if she were, how would she compare being leader of the opposition to the untaxing (the way she does it) job as a talk show host?

What she does have going for her is her gender…but in my judgment that’s not a deal-cincher especially if she’s in against Carole James.
You must be able to read political jargon to know who’s in and who’s not and, quite frankly, if it’s George Abbott, Rich Coleman, or whomever, it doesn’t much matter for it’s simply one evil replacing another.
There are two outsiders to consider: John Furlong and Diane Watts. When Furlong says he’s out, I would say that’s 90% a commitment. I know John and I don’t believe that he does want the job. He’s a sports nut – a squash pro, and a good one, the head pro at the cushy Arbutus Club until he got into the Olympics. (For what it’s worth, my son-in-law Larry Armstrong has been pro since Furlong left). Furlong loves the game and if he were to leave the jobs and speechifying the Olympics have given him I believe he would move into the international squash scene. Still, until the deadline passes, you can’t count anyone out.
I’m changing my mind a bit about Diane Watts. Her recent denials haven’t sounded quite as dismissive as earlier ones have been. It almost sounds like “No, unless there is an enormous draft Watts movement count me out”.
Could such a draft occur?
Don’t rule it out. Although this is the BC Liberal Party not the federal party – the insiders are much the same for both and they have a very long history of not letting principles stand in the way of getting elected. Even though she has no experience in senior government much less the premier’s office she has proved to be a quick study in local politics.
I think she would be nuts to go at this time in her young life. There is no guarantee that she would win, meaning 4 or maybe 8 years in opposition – an unpleasant option – before she was in power. That amount of time in opposition is soul-destroying, especially for someone who has had no previous time in the “zoo”.
But by my reading of the chicken’s entrails, Diane Watts has only said “no”, not “no f’ing way”.
The other thing environmentalists must consider is the NDP with or without Carole James. Whether or not she is the best the NDP can put forward, let’s consider what would happen if she were to win. Her record on the environment has been dodgy at best. I say that knowing that she has shown an interest, which is more than any Liberal has, but she gets an “F” on private power companies (IPPS).
The government has forced upon BC Hydro “sweetheart deals” with IPPS which ruin our rivers to produce power when Hydro doesn’t need it, forcing Hydro to sell it at a 50% loss on the export market thus bankrupting our public power company. Ms. James says she will honour contracts.
This statement was no doubt made for the benefit of industry but it’s wrong. It’s like a mayor, getting elected on a “clean government” slate honouring the sweetheart deals the ex-mayor made with his brother-in-law.
The standard for judging government contracts made for political reasons is simply, “is it conscionable?”  These IPP contracts are only conscionable if the judgment is made on the rules of “Boss Tweed”, the Prendergast machine of Kansas City, or Chicago mayor Richard Daly Sr.
Ms. James must assure us that she will make these IPP contracts public and if, as I suspect, they are unconscionable, they must be terminated.
We’re faced, then, with a party, Liberal, that doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart for the environment and one that only pays lip service to our concerns.
I’ve spoken about a third party, perhaps involving Chris Delaney or Gordon Wilson, or both. This could well be the alternative environmentalists are looking for. They are both very fine, knowledgeable men but if they present themselves, environmentalists around the province must be satisfied that they intend to be that too.
These are interesting, no critical, political times and we at the Common Sense Canadian stand ready to join all who care about our environment as they make their political stances clear.


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 rafeonline.com.

3 thoughts on “Potential BC Premiers and their Environmental Stances

  1. I see that, rightly so, you did not include Jane Sterk and her BC Greens as a viable alternative. Our education is a business, universities should be promoting political leadership programs but as they are a business, it’s not in their interests. With more than 2.5 million people in this province, their should be a leader somewhere in that multitude.

  2. RAFE: Saw you on Chek TV tonight; you did a superb job. There are but 3 or 4 anti Liberals who, for me at least, pack a good punch against the evil ones, and you are one of them. In my small way, I and hundreds of others, are trying to assist. We really appreciate your leadership, honesty, and unflagging determination.

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