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article imageOp-Ed: British Columbia Election — The stakes for Canada and Alberta

By Karl Gotthardt     May 13, 2013 in Politics
Victoria - British Columbians head to the polls tomorrow and the stakes couldn't be higher for both Canada and Alberta. New Democratic Party Leader Adrian Dix opposes and will nix pipelines, while Christy Clark, Liberal leader has set five conditions to proceed.
When Christy Clark called the election in British Columbia (BC) it was a forgone conclusion that the BC Liberals would be easily defeated and that the NDP was likely to form a majority government in Canada's most western province.
A poll released on Friday in the Times Colonist, conducted by Oraclepoll Research Ltd., seems to indicate that the gap between the BC Liberals and the NDP has tightened. According to the poll about 41 percent would vote for the NDP, while 37 percent support the Liberals, 12 percent the Greens and 10 percent the Conservatives. 24 percent of voters were still undecided.
“Everything has been driven for almost two years by the distrust of the Liberals over the HST fiasco, and I get the sense that it’s still there but it’s got pushed to the background.”
It’s interesting to watch the NDP begin referring to the unpopular HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) again in recent days, Ruff said.
“The NDP up to now have really been benefiting from the government defeating itself, and I’m not sure if that’s a good enough end game to really ensure that you win,” he said.
Clark became leader of the BC Liberal Party in February 2011 and was sworn in as BC's 35th premier on March 14, 2011. She took over a beleaguered party, which under Gordon Campbell had been involved in several scandals and lost the trust of BC voters over the HST, which would combine the provincial sales tax (PST) with Canada's Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Adrian Dix has been the Leader of the BC New Democratic Party (NDP) since 2011, but has been a member of the BC legislature since 2005. During his leadership run he campaigned on a platform of eliminating the HST, rolling back reductions in the corporate tax rate, supporting the redirection of carbon tax revenue to pay for public transit and infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, supporting an increase in the minimum wage rate to $10 per hour, creating a provincial child care system, restoring grants to the post-secondary students, reducing interest on student loans, and restoring the corporation capital tax on financial institutions.
The outcome of the election, unlike most provincial elections, is of relevance to the rest of Canada and particular Alberta. British Columbia is home to Canada most dedicated environmentalists, with Elizabeth May the federal Green Party leader, holding the only Green party seat in the federal parliament. May has been dedicated to stopping pipelines that would carry Alberta bitumen to the west coast, including any increased oil tanker traffic. Adrian Dix, the NDP leader has given notice that he would nix any pipeline projects.
According to the, Dix opposes the giant Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project in the north and has said he would withdraw from the federal environmental hearing within a week of his election and do his own environmental review. He also opposes the expansion the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the west coast or any other heavy oil pipeline expansion. While he would have the support of BC voters, it would put him on a collision course with both the federal and Alberta government.
Christy Clark has left herself some room to move on the Northern Gateway pipeline and has set five conditions that must be met in order for the project to get approval by BC government.
1. Successful completion of the formal environmental review processes.
2. World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for British Columbia.
3. World-leading practices for land spill prevention, response and recovery systems for British Columbia.
4. Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights must be addressed and First Nations be provided with the opportunities to benefit from these projects.
5. British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of proposed heavy oil projects that reflect the risk borne by the province.
In her fifth condition Christy Clark is looking to Alberta to cut her a cheque to share in oil revenues. Alberta's Premier Alison Redford has said that this is a non-starter.
Redford told an energy conference in Calgary on Friday that the outcome of the BC election will not necessarily put an end to controversial energy projects that would transport Alberta bitumen to the west coast, but said that it was imperative that it gain access to Asian markets in the next three to five years.
"We have oceans to cross and we have enormous distances to cover. The need for interprovincial co-operation on market access is more urgent than ever,"
Redford has been working on developing a "National Energy Strategy," a meeting Christy Clark walked out of last year in Halifax. The two women have been at odds and haven't talked much since then.
The Harper conservatives have also put all their eggs in one basket, making the health of the Canadian economy dependent on Canada's resource industry. Both the Canadian and Alberta governments see billions of dollars and millions of jobs and the future of public services that Canadian families use every day at stake in an effort to gain market access.
Both Christy Clark and Adrian Dix have backed themselves in the corner with their pipeline politics. The election will be watched closely by Canada and Alberta. Regardless of the outcome the pressures will be immense on the new BC premier to permit pipelines in its province. While Christy Clark has some wiggle room, if Adrian Dix wins the election his supporters and environmentalists will expect him to fulfill his promises.
The National Energy Board will complete its review on the Northern Gateway pipeline at the end of this year.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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