Christy's impossible dream

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, May 2016

Realities like increased GHGs just get processed in the premier’s political mix-master.

April Caverhill illustrationWHEN I WAS A CHILD I dreamed I could fly. It was a recurring dream that took me up over our house and around the world, which for me at that time was the breadth of my town plus a few added kilometres stretching up and down the road. I’d wake to my muscles still twitching with the memory of it all, the easy takeoff and graceful landing, the instinctive choreography of arms and legs for optimal gliding on the winds. The conviction that humans were somehow primordially linked to birds perdured so strongly in my bones that unlocking the ancient code to human flight became my life’s mission. 

Since I’m not world famous and you don’t know how to fly, you’ve already figured out that my mission literally never got off the ground. 

Premier Christy Clark has a dream as well, one that she often and lavishly shared during the grand election campaign of 2013. At lecterns all around the province she promised to sprinkle the north with LNG operations and enrich our coffers with untold royalty and tax revenue—she was sure of it. According to her own crunched numbers, the industry, once up and running, would funnel $100 billion into a new “prosperity fund” that would eventually wipe out provincial debt and perhaps even personal income tax. It would also generate 100,000 new jobs. What a dream—and to top it off, the hard hats she often wore during the campaign flavoured it all with a hearty soupçon of added credence. 

In the north she emphasized jobs and toured industrial facilities, including a plant in Dawson Creek that reclaims sewage water for use in fracking—hey, are you thinking what I’m thinking? We in the CRD could soon have plenty of surplus effluent. Knowing there’s a market for it could potentially blow the blockage right out of our own sewage imbroglio, couldn’t it? 

But I digress. Today much of the gild has come off the LNG lily and things have grown complicated. BC’s extractable gas reserves are not the mother lode first reported by the government, and not nearly enough to supply all the operations on its books. Our First Nations, who own so much of the land in the LNG crosshairs, are increasingly keen on their sovereign rights and can play corporate hardball as well as anyone. Oh, and fracking causes earthquakes, we now know without a doubt.

People are losing their tolerance for human-caused disasters like the Mount Polley tailings dam breach in 2014. We’re quite aware that in almost every single North American breach (I’m inserting the word “almost” to cover my ass) the assurances of foolproof systems and rapid spill containment measures have turned out to be what we in our family call “poop promises.”

To add to Clark’s challenges, the would-be investors have been wallflowers, hanging back for huge tax concessions and “static regulations” guarantees. Royal Dutch Shell has left the party altogether, and Clark’s fervent attempt to pull Malaysian-owned Petronas onto the dance floor led to an awkward stumble when Malaysia’s President was caught with almost a billion public dollars in his own bank account. 

Then there’s the softening of gas prices in Asia, her target market, and the hard science of climate change. But Clark remains cheerfully undaunted: A quick spin of these realities in her political mix-master produces a folksy new missive—that selling our LNG to China so they can stop burning coal will lower carbon emissions globally! (While raising them in BC of course, but her new and quietly appointed Deputy Minister of Climate Leadership Fazil Mihlar, a former policy analyst with the Fraser Institute who once recommended eliminating the BC Environmental Assessment Act, will no doubt help sell the say-what?! message.)

And finally, consider the polemical billion-dollar Site C dam project, mostly being built to feed the LNG venture. Only the government could wring viability out of a business model that would drown a prime valley to build a dam to produce electricity to power the fracking to barge LNG all the way to China to save our environment.

Premier Clark might still have dreams about becoming Queen of the North, but times are changing. Some dreams were clearly never meant to fly. 

Trudy’s new dream is to see us transition to a low carbon society with government leading the way. 

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