Rafe Mair: The BC election no one can win

Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)
Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)

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.

BCNDP Leader John Horgan touring Metro Van Pipes in 2014 (BCNDP/Flickr cc licence)
BCNDP Leader John Horgan touring Metro Van Pipes in 2014 (BCNDP/Flickr cc licence)

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

If Asian LNG prices keep falling - as analysts predict - this may be as close as BC Premier Christy Clark comes to building even one LNG plant (BC Govt Flickr CC Licence)
Christy Clark playing the LNG game (BC Govt Flickr CC Licence)

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:

[quote]The B.C. Liberals have taken things to an entirely different level altogether. The government has locked-in contractual obligations to independent power producers to the tune of nearly $60 billion, which means that in some years, B.C. Hydro will likely be paying over-market prices for electricity it doesn’t need.[/quote]

(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!)

Why BC Hydro always overestimates future power demand- Economist
Headquarters of the once-great BC Hydro

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.


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.

24 thoughts on “Rafe Mair: The BC election no one can win

  1. The NDP have been flailing for decades and likely won’t recover. Their old raison d’etre is eroding, and they haven’t embraced where they need to go to stay viable. Horgan is a relic from some misty, never-realized NDP past. He has nothing to offer and has admitted as much. Changing leaders after the last provincial election when NO ONE ELSE WANTED THE JOB was moronic and did BC voters a grave disservice. NDP parties all over Canada are acting on stupid, horrible advice. It’s not a stretch to wonder whether they’re simply being paid to undermine true opposition.

  2. Anyone see Christy run from Media questions at an awards ceremony on 6pm Global tv Thursday night?

    It was awesome.

  3. The evidence regarding the adverse health and environmental effects of fracking has expanding dramatically in the last five years. The point you have repeatedly about methane (formerly called “natural gas”) extraction, use and processing into LNG creating a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than coal and oil is now widely accepted in scientific circles. Christy Clark and John Horgan are caught in a time warp that’s about 50 years out of date. Future generations will pay for their moral failure (and I mean exactly that) to address the imperative of climate change.

    The run-of-river hydro debacle — poorly regulated installations, many set up by “friends” of the Clark government, and bought by BC citizens at a grossly inflated price locked in for many years — adds a further millstone around the necks of people under 20, who will be paying for this major miscalculation throughout their lifetimes.

    And depositing endless indebtedness in the vaults of BC Hydro is another devilish process that also promises more grief for the next generation.

    I would suggest that the only candidates to vote for — whatever their party (or independent stance) — are those who commit to voting to scale down fracking and LNG, renegotiating the run-of-river hydro deal, coming clean about BC Hydro’s “hollowing out”, and seriously ramping up the renewable energy sector (which generates far more jobs than the fossil fuel industry ever did!).

    For the rest, teleporting them to the 19th century where their ideas were acceptable (or simply voting them out) would be a way of preventing them from doing any more harm.

  4. This up and coming election is going to be similar to the recent fiasco in the USA. Who are you going to vote for? The devil you know or the devil that is waiting? This seems to be the common thread in all elections now. People voted someone in recently because he had sex appeal but no common sense. God Help Us!
    We are forever more voting a party out not replacing them with someone we believe in.
    I still miss Raif’s open line program that called a spade a spade. I am so sick of politician’s lies.

  5. I know what I want, and I have wanted for a long time. The end of contributions to political parties from corporations, or unions, or any special interest groups.
    I also do not want to say any more 39% “majorities.
    These two things could change politics forever.
    The NDP needs to hammer home the 1st big time, and expose what is going on.
    Value add our resources in Canada- whether it be logs or bitumen.

  6. Mr. Mair, I’m sure you may consider yourself an expert in B.C. if not Federal politics having being elected and all….but your blanket statements are your opinions alone. The sentence that Christy is most “certainly lying through her teeth”, not showing bias at all are you? You believe that to be true therefore it must be correct? From that point, regardless of what you had to say lost any impact because to me you showed that you are a mean, bitter individual. I have read many of your opinion pieces and you write as if you are are right and all others are not, regardless of subject. Keep to your castle in your Lions Bay haven and spew on if you feel the need but be assured most are not listening. I, like many, will vote for Clark through our Liberal MLA who does an excellent job in our riding. I also, like many, wish to see both LNG and the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Don’t care to debate, like you it’s the way i feel. Rant over. Thanks for the forum.

    1. Keep speaking out Rafe. You make us proud. I’m bitter about Ms. Clark and company…and rightfully so. On May 9th, 2017 I’ll do my part to return democracy to the people of this great province, not Clark’s puppet handlers. Top ups are not part of a democratic government. Ms. Christy will come to realize that fact.

      1. Sorry Michael but I have to agree with Rafe.
        Christy Clark will say ANYTHING to get re-elected.
        Half truths, lies whatever. If you choose to believe she’s an outstanding upright citizen may I suggest you review the sale of BC when she was a cabinet Minister privy to confidential insider information and her ex Husband was involved in the ales proceedings Rail and the ensuing raid on the Legislature AND the 11th hour ,$6 million dollar out of Court settlement the Liberal govt illegally handed over to stop the trial and shut everyone involved up with binding nondisclosure agreements………….
        Ms Clark is a lot of things but …….pure as the driven snow?
        Dont make me vomit

        1. Further, Michael does not seem to fully understand that the riding mla he endorses so enthusiastically does what he/she is told by the premier;
          How to think, what to think, who to think about, where to think about it and what to say, mla’s do what they are told and that is one of the shortcomings of our political party system.

  7. Rafe, You and I have both been MLA’s supporting the environment fom opposing political parties. Your analysis is bang on!

    In all my years in politics I have never heard so many lies from government, so many hidden reports and secret decisions and more lies when they are unearthed. I have been waitng patiently for the opposition to respond. Christy Clark called them the party of “no” but they have hardly said no to anything.

    You are right. LNG is key to all the major issues. Fracked LNG is no better than the oil from the Kinder Morgan pipeline. I am proud that the NDP brought in the ALR.However, the Site C dam is destroying farmland that can feed us to provide power to make LNG. The Massey Bridge is being built to accomodate LNG, jet fuel, and coal ships that will lead to destruction of more ALR farmland for port back up lands. Rafe, you and I were looking into energy alternatives decades ago.

    I have assumed the opposition was waiting until the election campaign had begun. Well it has. We must get rid of Christy Clark. It is past time for the NDP to give us something to vote for,

  8. Why is John Horgan not attacking the Liberal record on Hydro or other issues ? Will John Horgan turn out to be another Adrian nice guy Dix ?
    Come on John Horgan we need a change but right now you have not convinced anyone that you can lead this Province. What a waste of an excellent opportunity for change.

    1. Agree with Guy, Christy has to go and John needs a kick in the butt. C’mon John where are you?

      Whoever wins we need Rafe appointed to post of VP we’ll pay him a 1$/yr to be the moral and spiritual guide/compass of the gov’t

  9. Troy……I’m with ‘hogwash’.
    Throw some names my way as well please.
    Having been away from BC provincial politics for a number of years now, I am unaware of some of the egregiously disturbing facts put forth by Rath Mair on former governments.
    Although nothing regarding Gordon Campbell is surprising, as, and although I was not necessarily affected by his decisions, I too suffered ad nausea when his appointment to Britain on our behalf, was announced by Harper.
    Kinda like “one arsehole to another” 💩

  10. I worked in Sierra Leone for 3 1/2 years and never understood when the Sierra Leoneans would say: “we got what we deserve”, meaning a civil war that lasted 11 years and was infamous for amputations of civilians’ limbs and widespread sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. I do not think the Sierra Leoneans deserved what they got but I better understand what they meant. We stand a real risk of complacent sleeping British Columbians re-electing the BC Fiberals. Rafe, the time is rife for a revolution before we lose our environment to fracking, transmission lines, pipelines, clear cuts, oil spills, etc. Let’s join hands with the First Nations who are leading the way.

  11. Many years ago I had a lengthy conversation with Kevin Falcon, who was my MLA at the time. I accused him and the Campbell government of trying to bankrupt BC Hydro and sell it off piecemeal. He assured me, or at least attempted to, that they were only trying to make it run more efficiently. The fiasco that is BC Hydro should have been enough to end the Liberal reign years ago but as long as there is no credible opposition, they will keep getting re-elected. Once again our choice is between corrupt and incompetent. Either way, we lose.

  12. BCLiberals, by coddling so many private companies, have put our Crown corporations into great debt and environmental danger. They are morally bankrupt.
    BCNDP had better quit following their handlers & PR ‘experts’ and listen to the electoral districts’ concerns. Take the moral highroad on issues and be tough in confronting the opposition.
    BCGreens have said they don’t jump to the Leader’s tune, so maybe that would be better…but they, too, have to be hard on issues in this election.
    If investments into clean energy, basic income, transparent governance, regulation & enforcement of our Crown corporation responsibilities while following the Precautionary Principle were promised on oath … I’d believe in ‘politics’ again.

  13. Mine was when he said that he thinks Christy is under payed and she needs the top up of 50k because she is a single mom. A vote for the Green party is a vote for the Neo-Liberal party of BC. That’s why the Liberals bought ads for the Green’s in some ridings last election.

  14. There are some great alternatives in many ridings to the same old tired and corrupt red vs. Orange, candidates that are running not for fame, or fortune, but to simply make their ridings a better place. These folks have sound, progressive policies, that will improve conditions for many. These of course are the selfless candidates running for the BCGreen party.

    1. I would have agreed with you until I happened to tune into a CFAX 1070 talk show about two years ago. Andrew Weaver offered his input on BC Hydro…specifically “run of river” hydro generation. We have come to know that though safe practices were promised, they were not followed. Many fish bearing streams no longer bear fish because no environmental procedures were followed. We are also now aware of how obscenely expensive this energy is. The surprise re Mr. Weaver’s call to the radio station? He said he was in total agreement with the Liberal crony managed IPP’s.

      That is the moment in my eyes that Andrew Weaver stopped being green and was no longer a viable candidate for me to vote for.

    2. Yup, I have to agree.
      Same old…. same old.
      Clark or Horgan…….Yeesh
      The same tired, partisan, dumbed down, hack politics that alienates so many people……
      Cant get too excited this year but I’ll drag my sorry butt to the polls on election eve in May, hold my nose and vote….. anyonebutChristy

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