There are those in downtown Vancouver and Victoria who would have us say no. They just say no to LNG. They say no to everything. They say no to workers. They say no to jobs. They say no to small business…” – Premier Christy Clark, April 20, 2016.
These lines were delivered by the premier at a pro-LNG rally in the northeastern B.C. community of Fort St. John. Get ready to hear a lot more of it, as Christy Clark and the BC Liberals aim to hold key swing ridings outside of the province’s major population centres in next year’s election.
Pitting urban and rural B.C. against each other is just one of several lines of attack Clark and the Liberals have already begun to deploy, casting the BC NDP as a party opposed to economic development. After the way the NDP’s stand against the Kinder Morgan pipeline was weaponized by the Liberals in the 2013 campaign – aided of course by a mainstream media used to casting the NDP as job-killing socialists – Clark has every reason to believe this type of talk will work.
But it is pure, cynical nonsense. The opposition should turn this talking point on its head and throw it back in the government’s face.
Christy Clark was born and raised in the Lower Mainland. Her political career has followed the path of the consummate big city insider. The only reason she sits in the legislature representing Kelowna is because she lost the race in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey last election.
The BC Liberals’ key donors are a who’s who of Howe Street and of big money in the big city. Their head of fundraising, for goodness sake, is Bob Rennie, Vancouver’s most reknowned condo salesman. While Clark is off selling LNG by pretending that only “latte drinking” urban environmentalists oppose her one-dimensional agenda, those of us in Vancouver can barely afford a regular cup of drip coffee because of the corrupt and over-heated real estate market off of which Rennie and other government cronies are making a killing.
Clark’s divisive rhetoric is disrespectful of the intelligence of British Columbians. All across the province people are struggling; despite the constant hype about B.C.’s “strong economy,” persistent and staggering inequality means that the majority in both rural and urban B.C. are having trouble paying the bills.
While projecting an image of empathy with those struggling in small towns across the province, Clark’s game of bashing Vancouver when she’s in Fort St. John is in fact a distraction from the fact the B.C. government has abandoned so many to their fate.
On the BC Liberals’ watch, the forestry industry has declined and workers in towns where the mills have shut down have been left high and dry. Public services have been cut or shuttered, and the cost of post-secondary education has skyrocketed, putting new career paths out of reach for too many of those who’ve lost good paying jobs.
Far from representing a sincere desire to boost the fortune of workers and families in the B.C. interior and north coast, the LNG push is a short-sighted sprint for profits from the export of fossil fuels. Given the worldwide glut of supply, it’s not clear the promised LNG “bonanza” will ever even materialize. So, at best, a select few residents in a select few parts of the province will have short-term jobs. It’s the oil and gas executives in the big cities in Canada and abroad who really stand to gain from LNG. Like the gold rushes of the 1800s, the largest profits will funnel back to the centres of capital accumulation, and when it’s over the locals will be left with ghost towns and environmental degradation.
In fact, Christy Clark’s single-minded focus on boosting LNG and other extractive industries represents a total failure of vision. Past B.C. governments created Crown corporations and built key infrastructure like B.C. Ferries and B.C. Hydro. The current government can only imagine new ways to pillage wealth from the land on behalf of its wealthy corporate donors. Given that most of this land was never ceded by the indigenous peoples either before or after B.C. joined Canada, this attitude is all the more untenable given the recent Supreme Court decisions recognizing Aboriginal rights and title.
The lack of connection between people in Vancouver and the rest of B.C. is a real problem, but to bridge it we need a government that will make bold plans. British Columbians today can live long and active lives without ever seeing most of their province, which is more than three times larger than Great Britain. Youth in B.C. are more likely to go backpacking around Europe than around their own province, and retirees more likely to spend a week on the beach in Mexico than in Tofino.
The provincial government could spend less money selling LNG abroad, and more money selling B.C. at home. It could encourage local tourism; improve ferry, bus and passenger rail service in the province; open new post-secondary positions for students to study the regional ecology and to develop renewable energy technologies.
“Supernatural B.C.” should start to conceive of itself as a Costa Rica of the North, where ecological protection becomes crucial to our identity, and not just a land for big corporations to pillage.
The BC Liberals have governed for the first 16 years of the 21st century with a 19th century mentality. So ignore this attempt to divide people in big cities form those in small towns. We’ll all benefit from a new direction for B.C.