Tag Archives: Adrian Dix

A rally against Kinder Morgan's proposed pipeline and tanker expansion last year.

Public Will Soon Turn on Kinder Morgan…Will the NDP?


Mike Smyth had an interesting column in Sunday’s Province, dealing with the proposed second and much larger Kinder Morgan Pipeline to Vancouver, which would see a five-fold increase in tanker traffic through Vancouver’s harbour. In it he told us that the company was being very laid back compared with Enbridge, holding a series of public information sessions. Mr. Smyth, quite correctly in my view, said that the public, if only mildly involved now, would change its attitude toward Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan will and indeed is being dishonest with the public. This is no different than Enbridge or any other pipeline – they all maintain that there will be no spills and that, if there are, they will be minor (which is what Enbridge said about Kalamazoo) and quickly cleaned up. This is nonsense and the public will very soon be letting Kinder Morgan know that.

We must all know that corporations simply do not tell the truth except by accident. Their face to the public comes from highly skilled public relations departments and highly skilled and expensive outside agencies.

As we have seen with BP in the Gulf of Mexico disaster, after the tragedy they are quick to find pictures of healthy birds and animals to show that all is well again.

Close to home, the Ashlu private river power project is of interest. Ledcor received its right to dam and divert the river on the basis that migratory salmon would not be interfered with. The permission was in these words:

A decision was taken on November 30, 2009 and was that the authority may exercise any power or perform any duty or function with respect to the project because, after taking into consideration the screening report and taking into account the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, the authority is of the opinion that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. (emphasis added).

To say that salmon have indeed been adversely interfered with is putting it very mildly indeed.

This report from the Wilderness Committee:

More than 3,000 pages of documents obtained separately by the Vancouver Sun and the Wilderness Committee through freedom of information requests show water-flow fluctuations caused by run-of-river hydro projects are killing fish — and the problem is not isolated.

While independent power producers insist their sector remains the cleanest energy option, the documents bolster environmentalists’ long-standing concerns about the industry.

“I’m seeing significant environmental problems,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee. “And that runs completely counter to what the companies are saying, which is essentially, ‘Trust us with your wild rivers and there won’t be any problems.’ ”

The documents detail repeated short-term fluctuations in water flows, resulting in the stranding and killing of juvenile fish downstream of two plants, Capital Power on the lower Mamma and Innergex on Ashlu Creek, another tributary of the Squamish.

In one incident on Ashlu Creek, on May 8, 2010, 166 salmon and trout fry became stranded due to rapidly dropping water levels. Fewer than half of the fry could be returned to the creek alive. Another 39 fry died during a stranding on April 20, 2011.

Neither hydro operation has been charged.

This happens all over the province – companies get government permission to dam a river, the understanding being that salmon runs will not be harmed, then the salmon runs are extensively damaged.

What is also endemic is the lack of any government surveillance of water used and released by the company. They promise, cross your heart and hope to die, that they will conform to the terms and when they don’t there are no consequences.

While Kinder Morgan isn’t into hydroelectricity, its pipeline will cross many streams and rivers and it too will cross its heart and promise that it will be so careful in fish habitat we have nothing to worry our pretty little heads about.


But there is much more. If this line goes through there will be upwards of 350 tankers leaving Burrard Inlet every year going through the very dangerous 2nd Narrows Bridge, loaded with deadly bitumen.

We will be assured that there won’t be any accidents and, if there are, why it will all be cleaned up spick and span and that there will be no residual damage.

This is bullshit and they know it.

Kinder Morgan’s Director of Engineering and Marine Development Mike Davies acknowledged at a recent debate in Vancouver that there have been more than 70 spills from the current Trans Mountain Pipeline over its 60 year lifetime. That includes a 2007 spill that drenched a Burnaby neighbourhood in oil – for which the company was found partially responsible and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine by the courts. Then, last week we learned from a National Energy Board report on the spill of 90,000 litres of oil from the company’s Abbottsford tank farm in 2011 that emergency alarms warning of a leak went ignored by operators for hours.

This takes me into politics.

Adrian Dix, the leader of the NDP, won’t take a stand on the Kinder Morgan line until it formally files its application.

This cop-out is raw cowardice. Dix knows as much as he ever will about this pipeline – enough to oppose it no matter how much they will ship.

This is causing us at The Common Sense Canadian to re-think our policy for next May’s election.

Dix is evidently worried that he will be seen as “against everything”. No one, least of all Damien Gillis and I want Dix to be against everything but only those projects that will damage our precious province and all the fauna and flora that our wilderness sustains.

In addition to damage done in any particular place there is the question of the cumulative impact of the half dozen or more oil, gas and condensate pipelines now proposed for BC. No environmental process, Provincial or Federal, has addressed this question.

In fact the process reminds one of a Soviet “show” trial. The result is certain but to make it look good, governments hold hearings where the desirability of the project is out of order, it already being  a “done deal”.

As it sits right now, as we survey the scene on environmental matters, there is little to separate the uncaring, corrupt Liberals from the gutless NDP.

Schematic drawing for closed-containment fish farm - from DFO's feasibility study on the subject

One Step Forward with Fish Farms, Two Steps Back with Proposed Fossil Fuel Exports


A couple of thoughts today.

A promising article on fish farms appears in today’s Vancouver Sun. At face value it looks like great news – the story of fish farming on land with no contact with the ocean.

As I say, it looks great but I want to hear what Alexandra Morton has to say.

The objection industry has always made is that it’s too expensive for them to compete that way. The answer to that, according to the Sun article, is that excrement can be recycled for profit and that expenses such as fish lost to predators, or to kill sea lice are avoided.

There is only one fair way to compare the two approaches: charge fish farms an appropriate rent for their leases to include ALL the environmental losses. This levels the playing field and is only fair.

The market for farmed fish is there as we deplete wild stocks around the world. The trouble is that our wild stocks are not depleted by over-fishing anymore but by allowing poisoned farmed fish to mingle with the wild.

Bringing the farms on land will only happen if ocean farms are taxed their appropriate due.

On another note, no sooner had the news been out that the US was looking to be self-sufficient in energy than the bottom feeders rose as one to tell us this means we must update our mining of the tar sands and the piping of it though BC to the coast then shipping by tanker to Asia. The US will no longer need our filthy bitumen so we must redouble our efforts to bugger up the environment in BC to ship even more of the stuff down our fjords.

What ever happened to weaning ourselves off fossil fuels?

If the rapacious industry must continue to mine bitumen, send it to a refinery in Alberta. Irrespective of US capabilities, there will always be a world market for oil.

Moreover, there is an economic reality being ignored. The price of fossil fuels will reduce considerably over what we figure makes a profit. It’s an open ended market. China takes our bitumen if that’s the cheaper way to get energy, it abandons us if it’s not.

I invoke Mair’s Axiom I: “You make a serious mistake assuming that people in charge know what the hell they’re doing!”

Here we are in BC doing everything we can to press forward with LNG plants to convert natural gas to liquid to ship it to new markets while the gas prices plummet. With “fracking”, supply around the world has dramatically increased. Do we really believe that the third largest country geographically in the world, China, doesn’t have fracking capability either at home or closer than Canada? In fact, they are just getting started.

China has it both ways – it can import from us when supply is short (don’t hold your breath for that to happen) or produce it cheaper closer to home.

We are idiots.

This neatly segues into the question of the next BC budget.

Going into the May election the Liberals will want a balanced budget. One of the main factors will be, of course, income and no prize for guessing where that will come from.

You got it – natural gas. The government hasn’t a clue what that figure will be but you can bet the ranch that they will generously err on the high side.

We must all remember that in 2009 they were more than $2 BILLION short of the real numbers and they got away with it.

Desperate people do desperate things and the false card the Liberals play is that they are better stewards of the economy than are the NDP – even though the evidence is quite to the contrary.

The NDP, in the meantime, have completely lost their minds. They are, you see, going to help the Liberals prepare the next budget! This all from Adrian Dix‘s desire to make the legislature more cooperative.

(I wrote a two-part series in The Tyee, recently on how that can be accomplished and this is not the way).

Randolph Churchill (father of Winston) once said, “it’s the duty of the Opposition to oppose”, and he’s right. My series suggests how that can be done safely.

The greatest fear of any legislator is the “unforeseen consequence” of his policy. Now the NDP are going to join the process so that we will not get the value of “the other side” and the NDP will deprive themselves of any ability to question the budget in the next election because, it will be said, it was the NDP’s budget too.

I, for one, am becoming quickly disillusioned with Dix and Co. Not only are they onside with the government’s energy policy – or prepared to go easy is areas like LNG – they seem to be laid back polishing up the crown they’re sure to get next May.

This isn’t helpful for the public but also puts the NDP into a sort of “drift”. The Liberals can see that and you can bet they will be in better political shape next May than they now are, helped along by the total collapse of the Conservatives.

Mr. Dix, in politics 6 weeks is an eternity and in this old pol’s view you are looking to inherit that which you must earn.

Why isn't Adrian Dix fighting Kinder Morgan like he is Enbridge?

Dix Should be Questioned on his Free Pass for Kinder Morgan


Mike Smyth of the Vancouver Province took on Adrian Dix this morning for not applying the same principles in his stance on the proposed Enbridge pipeline and consequent tanker traffic to the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning.
Mike is absolutely right. Dix has shown a political wimpishness which puts him, on this issue at any rate, right there alongside Premier Christy Clark.
The proposed lines both go through wild, inaccessible areas of BC, will carry the same gunk (bitumen), with the same certainty of disaster. Bitumen is impossible to clean up at the best of times (see Kalamazoo/Enbridge) and spills will be out of reach of any spill cleanup attempted. As I say, that doesn’t much matter because they can’t be cleaned up anyway.
We will have, along side the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, the same pattern of serial spills, growing with each spill, with the same deadly results.
Dix’s cowardice comes out of the recent Chilliwack by-election when he felt it unwise to be against Kinder Morgan because it would look like the NDP was against everything. He came up with the weasel explanation that he hadn’t yet seen the Kinder Morgan environmental plan.
Why are those “weasel” words?
Because Dix knows as much about Kinder Morgan as he does about Enbridge. The argument has been proved. Both pipelines go through a hugely sensitive environment with fish bearing rivers and streams and Kinder Morgan’s threatens the Fraser River directly. The bitumen is the same, the spills a certainty and impossible to clean up.
The tanker traffic is deadly for both.
Get your act together, Mr. Dix or, on this issue at any rate, you aren’t much of an improvement over Premier Clark.

The Angus Reid poll on Enbridge published today shows a majority of British Columbians against the project. It must have been commissioned by Enbridge – at least that’s the suspicion when the story in both morning papers emphasizes that 24% might change their minds if Premier Clark gets her demands met. That sounds to me like “if the dog hadn’t stopped to pee he’d have caught the cat.”
This issue is not going to get any better for the pipeline people as the inevitability of catastrophic ongoing spills and the accumulation of ecological disasters becomes more firmly understood by the public. This will get clearer and clearer as time passes.
As I’ve said before in these pages, Premier Clark’s demand for better environmental oversight and money from Alberta are going nowhere. No matter what environmental safeguards are put in place there will be spills on land and sea on a serial basis. And there is no such thing as a “minor” spill of bitumen.

Enbridge’s Kalamazoo disaster turned out to be the biggest land spill in US history.
Finally, in my view as on octogenarian native of British Columbia, I say that our wilderness and coastlines are not for sale and I think that’s a view supported by most of us.

BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix has tools available to him to stop the Enbridge pipeline (CP photo)

Dix Can Reclaim Control Over Fish, Pipelines and Tankers from Harper


Dear Adrian Dix,
You and your party have taken a strong stand against the Enbridge Pipeline and tanker issues, for which I applaud you. I think you should broaden this policy, but first some background.
Stephen Hume has a fascinating article in the Saturday July 14 Vancouver Sun in which he quotes a man from Kitimat who, with the assistance of a man with mathematical training, vetted by a Mathematics professor at Thompson Rivers University, assessed the risk of spills, ruptures, etc. from the Enbridge Pipeline and tankers out of Kitimat, using Enbridge’s own figures. The results are scary, to say the least. By all means, read the article, but the bottom line is that over 50 years there is an 87% chance of a major spill on land or sea.
Here, Mr. Dix, are two other major factors – we know that getting any sort of cleanup on land is virtually non-existent due to the terrain and all but impossible at sea, AND, as Kalamazoo teaches us, there’s very little that can be done to clean up these spills. Very quickly after a spill on water, the bitumen is freed from the condensate which permits it to be piped, and it sinks like a rock.
There is one other new factor the BC government must face – almost nil protection of fish and their habitat by The Department of Fisheries and Oceans thanks to Bill C-38.
We have a jurisdictional clash here, for under The Constitution Act, federal power over fisheries is paramount but the Provinces have control over “Property and Civil Rights”.
Now we get into sticky ground here, but there’s no question in my mind that the Province can and should legislate so as to protect all wildlife, which is its clear right. Hunting laws are provincial as are fishing laws over those which do not go to sea. The dangerous ground is that if the “pith and substance” of your laws was to deal in fisheries over which Ottawa has jurisdiction it might be struck down by the courts.
There is absolutely no need to be concerned about that if you proceed properly.
Dealing with the pipeline, there is an unquestionable provincial right to protect all fauna and flora. Properly done, this would not be a ruse or look like a ruse to trample on the Federal jurisdiction over fisheries but a legitimate effort to protect our trees and our wildlife. Moreover, how could the feds be heard to complain that the matters under their jurisdiction are being protected?
The same argument applies to the coast, where birds and bears depend upon a pristine climate within which to live and eat.
Now, what I suggest Mr Dix, is that your legal beagles go to work and prepare draft legislation which could be tabled as a private member’s bill at the next sitting of the legislature – assuming there is one – and made public in the meantime. From a strictly political point of view, I can think of nothing more useful than having the Feds challenge the constitutionality of your position.
You should go one step further – return to the local governments their power to permit development in their bailiwicks as they had before the Campbell/Clark government took it away. They did that for the Ashlu private power plant. We know from the result of that project that the fish died in ponds because too much water was sucked out of the river. The Ashlu River would still be free of impediments to fish had the Squamish-Lilloett Regional District’s jurisdiction been honoured.
You have spoken loud and clear Mr, Dix – it’s time to put it in writing.


BC NDP Confirm Support for Fracking, LNG


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun, reporting on the BC NDP’s support for natural gas and LNG development in BC integral to BC’s future, dismissing the mounting environmental concerns about fracking and LNG in the process. (June 14, 2012)

Opposition energy critic John Horgan sounded almost as happy as the B.C. Liberals recently when Shell Canada announced that it was moving forward on a $4-billion pipeline to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a proposed liquefaction plant at Kitimat.

“Very good news,” Horgan said. “I’m pretty excited about it. Shell’s a big deal. They’ve got gas that they want to get out of the ground, and they want to get it to a market where they can get a better return than they do in North America.”

Natural gas, not oil, be it noted. Still his enthusiasm for LNG development stands in marked contrast to the national NDP’s recent doomsaying about resource exports, hydrocarbons, pipelines and tanker traffic.

When Horgan was reaffirmed as energy critic by new leader Adrian Dix last year – a position that is likely to translate into a term as energy minister if the New Democrats form government in 2013 – he made it clear that the party’s green proclivities on oil would have limited application to development of the provincial natural gas resource.

“A natural-gas proposal makes sense,” Horgan said, “because it’s a product from British Columbia, so the royalties would stay here, the jobs would be created here. And gas vents; it doesn’t stick.”

His made-in-B.C. stance even extends to the most controversial aspect of natural gas development, namely the means of extracting it.

Fracking, to use the unflattering short-hand term for the process of hydraulically fracturing shale rock to release the gas trapped within, has generated concerns about excessive water use, subsurface pollution, and seismic activity.

But would Horgan “call for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until British Columbians know more?” The question was put to the would-be energy minister by would-be NDP candidate George Heyman of the Sierra Club during Horgan’s recent appearance on Voice of B.C. on Shaw TV.

“No,” was the clear implication of his more lengthy reply.

“People within the NDP predisposed to green, environmental concerns were troubled that you heard from other jurisdictions where people were lighting their taps on fire because the gas had seeped into aquifers and into the water tables.

“That’s not the case in B.C. Our deposits are three and four kilometres under the ground. In Pennsylvania, the Marcellus play, which is providing gas now to much of Eastern Canada – that’s very shallow, relative to our deposits.”

He’s impressed with the B.C. industry’s experience and expertise. “We’ve been fracking in B.C. for decades and we do it fairly well. I’ve been to a number of frack sites, and I’m comfortable with the technology.”

As for water use, he maintains the provincial party has already addressed those concerns. “We’ve put in place what we consider to be a scientific panel that would review and ensure that water is disposed of appropriately, and that we reduce the amount of fresh water that’s involved in fracking.”

Seismic activity? “Not significant issues when you’re that deep in the ground. You wouldn’t want to necessarily be fracking along the Juan de Fuca fault, but in the Peace country it’s relatively safe – at least, that’s what I’m advised, and I’ve not heard of any seismic activity in the Peace.”

So green New Democrats like Hey-man should relax. But even as Horgan and his colleagues support fracking, pipelines, terminals and the tanker traffic necessary to transport the product overseas, there’s another big challenge to LNG development.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Horgan+deems+greener+future/6780093/story.html

Rafe Mair interviewed Adrian Dix earlier this year on his party's positions on the environment and resources in BC

Dear Mr. Dix: A Letter From Rafe Mair to BC’s Future Premier


Dear Adrian Dix,
The recent polls show that you and your party have a wide lead over the Liberals and Conservatives – something which gives many of us who care deeply about the environment encouragement, including thousands of us who are not usually supportive of the NDP. It is those people whom I have in mind today.
The political spectrum has altered substantially in recent years with a wide gap in centre, which your party is clearly occupying. To do this with success you must address concerns about the nineties when the NDP was in office. Apart from the fact – a big one – that the NDP had, ahem, leadership problems, in fact the NDP had a much better track record in fiscal matters than painted by the “right”, especially when one considers the sudden trauma of the “Asian ‘flu”, which all but ground our forest sector to a halt.
The Campbell/Clark Government has, with some success, painted the NDP as a government that bankrupted the province.
I believe that you should deal with those issues – though not at length, because voters want to know what you will do, not what you have done. The fact is, however, that the Liberals will present themselves as steady stewards of the public purse, which they clearly are not, and in my view you must be able to match allegations with facts.
Before I get to the environment, one other issue. When we sit around the fire relaxing with a toddy, we often muse that it would be wonderful if the federal and BC governments could just get along. The fact is that we are a federated state which sets out – not always with clarity – the powers, rights and obligations of each government. The system is built on tension, not ass-kicking, and the Premier and her party ought to know this.
Premier Clark is presently dealing with the Kitsilano Coast Guard issue with kid gloves. That may be a good policy in issues like this but in the larger sense, the people of BC, I believe, want the provincial government to stand up boldly to the Ottawa bully, especially in these days where the Harper government wishes to devastate BC’s environment.
This segues neatly into the environment issue. This issue does not lend itself to compromise. One of the “weasel” words from the developer is “mitigation”. You either protect the environment or you don’t, and three obvious issues come to mind: fish farms, private power and the pipeline/tanker debate.
On the first, you simply must force them to go on land. I believe it was a mistake to turn that power over to the Feds but that’s been done and we must deal with what we have. I suggest a protocol which requires farms to move on shore within a reasonable time or their licenses will not be renewed. The fish farmers have all denied they do to harm the environment for over a decade and they must be brought to heel. You cannot simply pawn the issue off to Fisheries and Oceans Canada – the people expect you to act.
Your position on private power (IPPs) is more than a bit hazy. You seem to be opposed to them but will, after you make the contracts public, still honour the contracts. I realize this is a tricky issue because if you go further, you will be painted as anti-business. Can you not declare that any licenses granted but not acted upon will be taken away? On other proposals, and I especially refer to the Klinaklini, surely you must say to them, “Proceed at your peril”.
And, of course, you must revive the British Columbia Utilities Commission – with teeth, as in days of yore.
This leads to BC Hydro which, if in the private sector, would be in bankruptcy protection. Much of that unhappy situation results from the IPPs from whom BC Hydro was forced to buy electricity at hugely inflated prices. Hydro has some $40 BILLION dollars in future payments for power it does not need. How can an NDP government deal with this without taking action on these contracts? Isn’t this analogous to the mayor elected on a reform ticket still honouring sweetheart deals between the former mayor and his brother-in-law? These IPP contracts are scandalous payments to the government and its political pals and cannot be protected by “sanctity of contract”
Your position on pipelines and tanker traffic is, in my view, pretty solid but must be restated at regular times. I understand that you have postponed your decision on the Kinder-Morgan line until you see what their new proposal is. That probably made sense in the Chilliwack by-election but otherwise makes no sense at all. It is a time bomb now – how can that situation be improved by increasing the line’s capacity?
The 2013 election will largely be fought on environmental issues – for the first time in my long life.

You must walk the tightrope of support of our environment and the rightwing allegations that you are anti-business. You must expect that, well before the election, the federal government, with a sweetly smiling Premier Clark, will announce big contributions to the province so that we, too, can get rich out of the Tar Sands and be prepared for that. The answer is like the joke where a man asks a woman to go to bed with him for $50,000. She muses about her obligations to her kids, etc. and blushingly agrees. The man then asks if she will go to bed with him for $50 to which the indignant woman exclaims, “What do you take me for, a common prostitute?” to which the man replies, “We’ve already established that, madam; now we’re dickering over the price.”
The lesson is our province is not for sale at any price.
Rafe Mair


NDP Leader Dix Lawyers Up for Enbridge Fight


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix’s decision to seek legal counsel on stopping the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. (May 13, 2012)

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix is predicting a “businesslike” relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper if the NDP wins next spring’s provincial election, even though he’s investigating ways to challenge a critical component of Harper’s economic plan: Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline megaproject.

Dix said Friday he’s assembling a legal team headed by Vancouver lawyer Murray Rankin, a specialist in aboriginal, natural resource and environment law, to consider his legal options to oppose the controversial $5.5-billion pipeline proposal now before a federal review panel.

Dix said the legal team is looking at various legalities surrounding the issue, including the federal legislation and the Harper government’s approach to the joint review of the Enbridge proposal by a panel drawn from the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

One matter they’re looking at is a 2010 deal in which the B.C. government said it accepted that a federal environmental review would be equivalent to a B.C. process.

The agreement notes that the federal review will “take into account” the views of the public and first nations. Dix said there may be questions about whether Ottawa has fulfilled that commitment.

The NDP leader had tough words for Ottawa’s handling of environmental reviews of two controversial natural resource projects: Calgary-based Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and Vancouver-based Taseko’s New Prosperity gold-copper mine.

The Harper government is aggressively championing the pipeline, tabling legislation certain to ease the project through the regulatory review process despite aggressive opposition from many B.C. first nations.

The project is also the centre-piece of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s so-called national energy strategy, which is seeking cross-Canada approval for infrastructure to get natural resources – especially oilsands crude – to key markets like China.

Photo: Darryl Dick/Globe and Mail

NDP Byelection Wins Bad News for Both Liberals and Conservatives; Good for NDP, Environment


The two by-elections are very bad news for the Liberals, not much better for the Tories and excellent news for the NDP.

Let’s start with the last first.
The loyal opposition is now in the position where a couple of Liberals crossing the floor can bring the government down. I don’t believe that will happen but it’s a worry for the Liberals. Mostly this confirmed Adrian Dix’s leadership. Any time you have a contested election, the losers and their supporters have a death wish for the winner – more about that in a moment. Dix is firmly in control. The NDP made a brilliant move in saying that while they oppose Enbridge and coastal tanker traffic they promise a local referendum for Kinder Morgan. One of the moves of the Campbell/Clark government was to extinguish the right of local governments to pass judgment on environmentally sensitive projects and the NDP understand that the late US Speaker, Tip O’Neill, was right when he said “all politics is local”.
For the John Cummins Conservatives this by-election was a bitter blow, for if the Tories can’t win a by-election – governments usually have trouble with them – in a staunchly “conservative” riding, what chance do they have in a general election. This hardly enhances the opportunity for a new party along the Socred lines since Cummins brings nothing to the table.

For the Liberals, these votes can’t be put down to the usual anti-government pissed off voters. Premier Clark’s leadership was on the line and the Liberals know it.

Going into the by-elections all but one caucus and cabinet minister wanted someone else. She has stumbled from one gaffe to another since she took office. She must go and soon; if she stays, it will be the best news the NDP could get. She’s like Bill Vander Zalm was in 1991 – a loser brought to his knees as much by cabinet and caucus disloyalty as personal stupidity.

When a premier is in trouble he/she must be able to rally the troops – this Ms. Clark is utterly unable to do. She must go, with a temporary leader in place pending a leadership convention, for which time is very short.

Never mind the weeping that a split vote cost them Chilliwack and a turncoat won in Port Coquitlam – the fact is that the government lost two elections which were referenda on the Liberals and their leadership.

There was another winner – big time: the environment. In Chilliwack, the Kinder-Morgan pipeline was a big issue – to my memory, the first time the Environment was a large issue there.

These by-elections did more than alter the make-up of the Legislature; they altered politics in BC – Big Time.




Rafe Mair – One on One with BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix (Part 1)


In the first of a two-part interview, Rafe Mair grills BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix on private power, Site C Dam and BC’s flawed environmental assessment process. What will the NDP do with existing and future private river power projects (a.k.a. IPPs) if they form the next government – and where do they stand on Site C Dam? Watch and find out…and stay tuned for part 2 Thursday, dealing with Enbridge, LNG and salmon farms.

Image: Angus Reid Public Opinion

BC NDP Widens Lead in Latest Angus Reid Opinion Poll – In-depth Analysis


New Poll results: NDP up to 42% while Liberals drop to 28%, Conservatives flat at 19%, Greens flat at 10%

It is clear now from four consecutive opinion polls that BC politics has entered a new phase, and that partisan support has shifted into a radically different paradigm.

The main change happened late last year when about 12 per cent of decided voters departed from the BC Liberal Party and joined the newly-revived BC Conservative Party (not necessarily all by membership of course); meanwhile support for the BC NDP was up only slightly and for the BC Green Party was down slightly.

Now the latest opinion poll from Angus Reid Public Opinion shows that that new paradigm has held and even increased in the last three months, most notably with a widening gap between the NDP, now up 2 to 42%, and the Liberals, down 3 to only 28%, which in an election held now would produce a large majority for the NDP; but also important is that support for the Conservatives went sideways, up only 1 to 19%, and for the Green Party was up 2 to only 10%.

That new paradigm of plunging Liberals, rising Conservatives and steady New Democrats first appeared in an Angus Reid poll last November and then was highlighted in two polls by Forum Research, one in December and another last month, and now they have been confirmed by the always-reliable Angus Reid firm, which surveyed 800 of its online panelists Jan. 27 to 29 and claims a variability of 3.5%.

That pattern – which shows up well in a colored graph contained in the report, which you can download here – suggests more than a few voters have lost hope that BC Liberal Party Premier Christy Clark will make major changes from the style and substance of her predecessor Gordon Campbell, who she replaced last March, and they instead have turned to the Conservatives, who jumped from about 5% to about 20% soon after former Member of Parliament John Cummins became their leader.

Clark has lost her edge, pollster notes

“The governing party is now losing a quarter of its 2009 electors in 2009 to the BC Conservatives, and Clark has lost her edge on issues like crime and the economy,” said Mario Canseco, the polling firm’s Vancouver vice-president, noting it’s the first time the Liberals have been below 30 per cent since Campbell announced his resignation in November 2010.

The Liberals’ support recovered to about 43% during the party’s leadership campaign but once Clark took over in March 2011 the support drifted down to 31% last fall and now has gone further down to 28% – apparently because Clark wasn’t moving fast enough to repair problems left by her predecessor, notably to extricate BC from Campbell’s (tainted) Harmonized Sales Tax deal with Ottawa but also dealing with many other troubled areas.

A stats table shows that the Clark Liberals are now holding on to only 60% of their 2009 voters, with 27% having gone to the Conservatives and another 10% to the NDP, while the NDP is holding 88% of its voters and only 5% have gone to the Conservatives and only 2% to the Liberals. [Maybe those two NewDems were attracted to the Liberals by that sterling stallion MLA Kash Heed once he was “exonerated” from the illegalities in the Vancouver-Fraserview campaign??]

Keith Baldrey of most-watched GlobalBC-TV described that as “a very deep dark hole” for the Liberals but he and other pundits tend to agree that there is still lots of time for such things to change again before the May 14, 2013 provincial election, such as maybe some floor-crossings by disgruntled Liberal backbenchers or moves by other MLAs (the Legislature resumes sitting on Feb. 14) and/or calls to replace Clark with someone stronger or better-liked, though right now really no one else stands out who would be better.

Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer also was damning, noting Clark “has failed to deliver a fresh start” and failed on certain other promises she made during her leadership bid, such as connecting more with young voters.

“The Liberals are misreading the mood of the public,” added SFU’s Doug McArthur on CKNW’s Simi Sara Show, noting they need to and probably will make some changes and work harder to develop a more positive forward-looking vision.

Meanwhile, a closer look at some of the poll’s breakouts shows that NDP leader Adrian Dix was wise to downplay the significance of this poll even though it shows him for the first time as best choice for Premier (26% to 22% but with a massive 40% undecided), his approval rating climbed to the top too (45% to Clark’s 40%) and his “momentum score” (net change in approval) was up a healthy 6 points while Clark’s crashed 24 points.

Clark still tops Dix on the economy

That prudence by Dix was appropriate because a breakout in the report shows Clark still leads Dix as the leader best-suited to deal with the two most important policy areas, the economy and federal/provincial relations, which another table shows are by far the most important issues in the minds of voters: Economy is at 27% and Health Care at 21% and all the rest such as leadership, poverty, tax relief and crime are well below 10% and fed-prov is not even mentioned – but note that Health Care qualifies as a federal-provincial issue IF you assume that federal-provincial negotiations are critical to the future funding of health care, which is a fair supposition given that that was virtually the only agenda item considered when the Canadian Premiers convened last month in Victoria following Ottawa’s unilateral move to fundamentally change the health care funding formula in years ahead.

On the economy Clark tops Dix by 24% to 23% and on federal-provincial relations she leads by 27% to 21% (perhaps reflecting how she hosted Prime Minister Stephen Harper at her son’s hockey game recently) while on Health Care Dix leads by 33% to 20% which probably reflects that the NDP gets a lot of support from health and social service workers who were hammered by the Campbell Liberals.

In other words, the crux of BC’s partisan politics remains the same as always: how best to manage the economy so that the people can afford top-notch health care. That is the issue on which Campbell dominated the NDP for a decade, and it is still the case for Clark.  Though Dix is helped by having been seen to have been an excellent official critic of Health for his caucus, he still obviously has some work to do on the business and investment climate, job creation, Crown corporations, taxes, finances and related issues – perhaps especially how job creation could be linked to environmental protection and delivery of more new social services for an aging population [with a new style of care facilities needed to reduce costs and caseloads in hospitals].

[And by the way, though it wasn’t mentioned in the survey, Dix has also been doing a better job of running his caucus, which is subtly evident in the way several critics and MLAs have recently sounded more confident when they stepped forward to comment on issues in their policy areas, which suggests they’ve been given more freedom than under former leader Carole James.]

Stats suggest Liberal attack ads backfired

Probably one of the more important or at least interesting findings in the poll is that the attack ads the Liberal Party ran against Dix, labelling him as risky Dix and pointing people to a “risky Dix” website, failed to turn around his momentum and actually may have even helped raise his profile and further help him by triggering a few sympathy votes, perhaps especially among women, an amazing 47% of whom now support the NDP compared to only 24% for the female-led Liberals. Among men it is 37% NDP, 32% Liberals and no aberrations for the others.

In other words, women voters are flocking to the NDP now even after the party ousted its female leader!

On the age breakout there are only a few standout statistics, such as young voters showing Liberal support low at 23% and Green support high at 19%, and plus-55 voters (i.e. “seniors”) showing NDP 40% (a bit below what it should be), Liberals 31% (their best age segment) and Conservatives 22% (probably the core of that party).

The Household Income breakout is interesting and entertaining too because the NDP is dominant in all three categories, low, middle and high! On incomes below $50,000 it’s NDP 47 to Liberals 24, from that to $100,000 it is NDP 39 and Liberals 32, and on $100,000-plus it is NDP 43 to Liberals 30 and the other parties not notable.

In other words, even people in the top income bracket now prefer the NDP!

Clark’s decline due mainly to lack of changes

Why has the Liberal support suffered such a fall-off?  The problem really goes back to the Campbell Liberals’ grossly-tainted election win in May 2009 after which Campbell became a virtual despot trying ever-more-extreme schemes to hide and suppress the reality that he had badly botched the management of many many important areas all around the public sector and furthermore that in order to win the 2009 election and thereby keep hiding the scandals he had to lie about the government’s finances, cheat to win some seats in the election and then impose the harmonized sales tax to try cover up how he had cooked the financial books.

The full gist of that is only now beginning to be grasped by the electorate, and few in the mainstream media have yet articulated that let alone have critics in other parties dared say it even when they enjoy the protection of Parliamentary privilege, but anyway the polls show that that view of Campbell’s terrible record is now a key entrenched fact of public opinion, aided greatly by the petition and referendum victory against the HST.

Some of the other Angus Reid break-out tables provide interesting and useful insights into why Clark’s ratings dropped, such as who and where Clark has been losing, but they don’t offer much hope of a turnaround anytime soon with her disapproval at 49% and approval at 40% with a not-sure of only 11%.

Regarding how views of Clark had changed in the last three months, 36% said they had worsened while only 12% said they had improved, only 42 per cent stayed the same and only 10 per cent were not sure – which has to be one of the worst quarterly drops for a Premier in BC polling history.

Dix climbed despite attack ads

By comparison Dix’s score fell by 16%, which probably reflected some effects of the Liberal attack ads; Green Party leader Jane Sterk worsened by 15% (probably reflecting her decision to not run candidates in two pending byelections); and Conservative leader Cummins declined only 7% while having a huge “not sure” score of 34%.

Looking at Dix’s scores, he had the top approval at 45%, a substantial disapproval at 36%, he worsened among 16% but improved with 22% and stayed the same with 49% and had a “not sure” of only 13%, which would seem to be a fairly healthy maturation for a new leader of a left-leaning party and much better than for the other three leaders but still not enough yet to ensure a win for him in the next election.

In the regional breakdown there are only a few stats that stand out, such as the NDP’s dominance on Vancouver island at 51%, their solid lead in the North and their competitiveness in the Interior – and no weakness anywhere. (That Island finding should be of some interest to the Forum researchers who claimed that Dix had a problem of low recognition there.)

Read the full Angus Reid report here.

John Twigg is an independent journalist based in West Vancouver and a former long-time member of the Victoria Press Gallery. He can be reached at john@johntwigg.com.