The following is the first in a two-part opinion letter series. In a sequel letter, Common Sense Canadian publisher Damien Gillis will do what he rarely does: disagree with his old pal and partner, Rafe Mair.
Dear John Horgan,
I hate to say this, but I told you so, and the flock of chickens I promised have now come home to roost.
Many months ago I took you to task for supporting LNG without reservation. I told you that by doing this you had prevented your party from questioning each and every step of the LNG process as well as government policy in trying to flog it.
Your excuse was that “we cannot be against everything”, probably the most nonsensical thing I have ever heard in the political arena and that’s saying something. What you said to your party and the voter is that whether or not you approve of a policy depends not on whether it’s good policy but the optics.
What, I asked, if it turns out to be lousy policy? How will you be able to criticize a policy you vowed to support? And that’s just what happened, Mr. Horgan…and I told you it would.
The duty to oppose
I tried to explain Lord Randolph Churchill’s dictum that “it is the duty of the opposition to oppose”. You obviously haven’t studied your politics or you would know that what he was saying was, basically, you must test every proposition of government policy in order to demonstrate its value or otherwise. If you approve of a policy before then, you abdicate your duty to the people. This was no minor matter I raised, Mr. Horgan, but goes to the very root of our parliamentary system.
See what’s happened? Since that time Christy & Co have screwed up every aspect of the LNG issue and you can’t utter a word about any of them because you’ve given her policy your blessing! Isn’t that precisely what I warned you would happen?
A big, fracking mistake
There surely is no need for me to list the litany of absurdities that the government has committed in the last term over LNG. I just raise a couple of factors.
You approve of fracking – even though most scientists condemn it. Is that perhaps because a lot of it happens in constituencies you covet?
The entire question of extracting gas to make LNG has now become a very significant issue, since the detrimental effects of methane have become known. When you gave your blessing, it was commonly said and, indeed, still is by Premier Clark, that LNG is the least harmful of all of the fossil fuels whereas we now know it’s the most harmful. Yet you’re unable to raise that issue.
On the question of the business handling of LNG, it’s hard to imagine that any government of any political stripe could so mangle a file as the Liberals have, yet you must be taken to approve – how dumb is that? Moreover, you must also accept as true all the sheer rubbish Christy has been pumping out about 20 LNG plants by 2020! Isn’t this just what I said would happen?
The company you keep
The situation in Howe Sound is a microcosm of the mess you’ve got yourself in – let’s have a peek.
Do you favour licensing a crook, big time tax-cheater and jungle-burner – the owner of Woodfibre LNG (WLNG) – to become part of our community, to be trusted by our environmental ministries, our finance ministries and the people of Howe Sound? The answer, sir, is yes, you do.
Do you favour the sham environmental process used by the Clark government to approve this company? The answer is yes, you do.
Do you care about the clear threat to sea life from toxic emissions from WLNG, a sea life that, thanks to cleanup mainly from citizens, includes a stunning return of herring, salmon, Orca, dolphins, sea lions and seals once largely gone? Of course you don’t, because you cannot quarrel with any aspect of LNG policy.
Do you give a damn that Howe Sound is far too narrow for LNG tankers, even by industry standards set by The Society of International Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), headquartered in London – the de facto world authority on LNG terminal siting standards? I doubt you’ve even read them, for why would you when you uncritically support LNG?
Do you know that Dr. Michael Hightower, a world-renowned expert on LNG tanker operations at Sandia International Laboratories, has defined for the US Department of Energy three hazard zones of 500m, 1600m (1 mile) and 3500m surrounding LNG tankers? That this means virtually the entire Sea to Sky Highway from Britannia to Lighthouse Park, Anvil, southeast Gambier, Bowyer, eastern Keats, Bowen, and all islands of the Pasley group fall within the zone?
Furthermore, from Britannia to Porteau Cove, Bowyer, White Cliff, both coasts of Bowen and eastern Pasley group are also within the much more dangerous 1600m zone? Do care at all about these people and their property put at risk? No, Mr. Horgan, you couldn’t care less because, of course, “you can’t be against everything!”
Kick ’em between the legs
You’re now telling people that you have to command respect, almost love, in order to get their support in 2016. Of course, you might get lucky and find that the Liberals have been so bloody awful that Screaming Lord Sutch and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party could win the next election. But that’s always a dangerous assumption, Mr. Horgan, and is where I’ve always disagreed with Tommy Douglas’s theory that when the government is falling all over itself, it’s time to get out of the way and let them fall. He was wrong, Mr. Horgan – that’s the time you kick them as hard as you can right between the legs to make sure they don’t suddenly recover their balance as sometimes happens.
You must now do something that every politician hates to do, even 50 years after they’ve left office. You have to admit that you were wrong and you have to say approximately this:
[quote]We made a mistake in supporting the government on the LNG issue. We wanted to make sure people realized we support development, however we were premature and we must review all LNG issues so that the public is fully informed, and that’s precisely what we are going to do. Whether or not LNG has a future in British Columbia remains to be seen. The government has made, as everyone knows, an unholy mess of the whole issue and it is our duty to try to sort this out and let the people make a decision on the facts.[/quote]
People will remember an apology like this for a long time but they won’t hold it against you, Mr.Horgan, hard as that may be to believe. That’s because the greater sins belong to the government and people know and understand that.
Even Dix would be better
Both of your predecessors, Ms. Carole James and Mr. Adrian Dix have proved to be far more effective in opposition, inside the House and out, than you have. Both in their time ran lousy campaigns, but the NDP should look for improvement, not perfection, and, even given the warts, Dix makes more sense as the leader of the NDP going into the next election than you do. The public won’t reject Dix in advance because he lost an election. The Liberal media will make a fuss but it’s a matter of making the best of a lousy situation. The issue is Mair’s Axion II, “you don’t have to be a 10 in politics, you can be a 3 if everyone else is a 2”. Under that formula, Dix doesn’t look that bad.
I have never, going back a ways now, seen a government that I thought should be tossed out on its ass quicker and more effectively than this one. At the same time I can’t remember any moment where the opposition was in a worse position to do that.
You should be fired but, never fear, your party won’t force you out…they would rather lose an election then lose face.
That means you may be the man who, through stubbornness, lost the election to the worst government in the living memory of this ancient political junkie.