I’ve been very critical, especially recently in the tyee.ca, of John Horgan, leader of the NDP, and the Official Opposition itself. This is, I assure you, nothing personal but is entirely a matter of the quality of the opposition presented and the effect it has on forming public opinion.
Socred praise for Barrett NDP
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of talking to an old friend of mine of some 40 years, Grace McCarthy. As a couple of old pols will do, we started to reminisce. We got onto the topic of Oppositions and I was surprised – I shouldn’t have been – to hear both Grace and me extol the virtues of the NDP under Dave Barrett when we were in the House.
We talked about how the NDP kept us on our toes which, combined with a hostile press, did much to ensure that we moved carefully both in legislation and in policy.
I found both Grace and me not only congratulatory towards Dave Barrett, but there was a sense of warmth because both of us know what the opposition was supposed to do and enough time had passed for the personal sharpness to have disappeared. We agreed, of course, that we didn’t like it a damned bit when they did their job but that it was very much in the public interest.
The duty to oppose
The classic definition comes from Lord Randolph Churchill who said “it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose.” This doesn’t mean that it opposes the trivial but on all major issues it opposes the main parts.
A good example is Site C, which is as controversial an issue as British Columbia has seen in decades and, in fact, it goes back to my time in government in the 70s. In those days, our government rejected Site C largely based upon the cost, the lack of information as to alternatives and the consistent history of BC Hydro over-estimating its energy needs. “The more things change …”
With the present announcement of approval, Mr. Horgan should be dealing, may I say harshly, with a number of aspects of the development.
The residents of the area have a right to have their views expressed in the legislature and in the public. It doesn’t matter if Mr. Horgan thinks that it’s just “too bad” that they will lose their farms and homes – he and his colleagues must take up their case.
Plenty of faults to find with Site C
There is the question of the loss of 30,000 acres of farmland. Mr. Horgan may think that’s a worthwhile sacrifice but there are a hell of a lot of British Columbians who feel this land is sacred and that, indeed, it was the NDP which first made the inviolability of agricultural land the law.
There’s the question of alternative forms of energy. Mr. Horgan should have BC Hydro on the griddle asking about sources of supplementary power such as wind, tide and in particular geothermal. BC, we’re told, has virtually unlimited geothermal resources, yet there is a paucity of information on whether or not that could be harnessed instead of Hydro, or at least, supplementary to hydroelectric power.
NDP’s questionable support for LNG
The entire question of LNG is a huge one which Mr. Horgan chooses to gloss over.
Do we want to produce LNG with the damage that extraction does to the atmosphere?
Do we want to have LNG plants and the dangers they present?
Do we want to be enablers to other parts of the world so that instead of moving away from fossil fuel’s, they can use ours to their hearts’ content?
Do we want to run the risk of transporting LNG, especially in tankers down our fragile coast?
Cost of Site C
As one who has seen these things develop in the past, I would simply guess, just based on a gut the feeling, that the final price for Site C is likely to be closer to 12 billion than eight. Of course I could be wrong, but I bet my gut feeling is shared by many British Columbians who’ve watched these matters over the years.
Can Mr. Horgan assure us, as Leader of the Opposition, that he’s thoroughly tested this cost and is satisfied with it?
Instead of opposing in the way of our longstanding parliamentary practice, Mr. Horgan has chosen to ally himself with the Liberals, making this a “non-partisan issue”. (Now, in fairness, Mr. Horgan has retained some reservations in the area of revenue and need, but has not been vocally opposed to it.)
Where does NDP stand on the environment?
This brings into question this government’s entire environmental policy and whether or not Mr. Horgan is generally satisfied with it. If not, where is he opposed?
You simply cannot, logically, oppose the Ebridge pipeline because it brings toxic substances through our land and down the coast while at the same time supporting Kinder Morgan doing precisely the same thing.
You can’t logically reject the increased use of fossil fuels and then support LNG which, according to most scientists, poses the same danger to the environment as coal or oil.
Hardly a government in waiting
To be opposed to governmental policy, as a proper Official Opposition, doesn’t mean being against every jot and tittle. Moreover, in the fullness of time, you may support some or all of it. What it means really is the old American expression, “I’m from Missouri” and using skepticism to bring from the government a full justification of its policy, point by point.
There is another very serious aspect of the Official Opposition which Mr. Horgan seems to have overlooked. The Official Opposition should present to the public a “government in waiting” with its own policies in place as well as spokespeople for these policies.
Can anybody look at the Opposition as it exists today and say “I see a future government there”? I sure as hell can’t. I don’t even see a future Premier!
John Horgan and the NDP have less than 2 1/2 years to present themselves to the public has something to be supported.
Unless they get started on this project now, it will never get done in time.