B.C.’s heavy fo­cus on me­gapro­jects and cost-cut­ting is likely to come to an end un­der the new NDP govern­ment

Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRIAN LEWIS

Me­gapro­jects and cost-cut­ting prob­a­bly are com­ing to an end.

there’s far more re­quired in gov­ern­ing a prov­ince than keep­ing its econ­omy healthy and bal­anc­ing the books. If, in the process, a premier chooses to ig­nore vot­ers’ ba­sic needs, that choice even­tu­ally bites where it hurts most — in the bal­lot box.

That is pre­cisely what hap­pened to Bri­tish Co­lum­bia’s Christy Clark in May. In her more than six years as premier, Clark had con­sis­tently placed B.C. among Canada’s top per­form­ers, eco­nom­i­cally, while post­ing five con­sec­u­tive bal­anced bud­gets.

Con­se­quently, on elec­tion day this past May, Clark and her B.C. Lib­er­als thought their strong eco­nomic per­for­mance would lead to yet an­other solid vic­tory over the ri­val New Demo­cratic Party (NDP).

Un­for­tu­nately for Clark, com­ing close only counts in horse­shoes. She fin­ished within one seat of a ma­jor­ity, cap­tur­ing 43 of 87 seats. Then, as ex­pected, she lost a con­fi­dence vote on the throne speech to a coali­tion of the NDP (41 seats) and the Green Party (three seats).

Sim­ply put, many B.C. vot­ers were fed up with the Clark govern­ment’s pen­nypinch­ing ways and its airs re­gard­ing voter needs.

Wel­fare rates, for ex­am­ple, had not risen dur­ing the Clark years; pub­lic tran­sit fares in­creased while ser­vice de­clined; B.C. Ferry Ser­vices Inc.’s fares jumped; schools de­te­ri­o­rated; child-care costs and hous­ing prices rose out of sight; and wait­ing lists for surg­eries grew.

In­stead, eco­nomic growth was the fo­cus of the Clark govern­ment and its mantra was the megapro­ject. Her govern­ment ap­proved the $8.9-bil­lion Site C hy­dro­elec­tric project, now un­der­way in north­east­ern B.C., while sidestep­ping the reg­u­la­tory process. Clark’s govern­ment also joined Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau in ap­prov­ing Kinder Mor­gan Inc.’s $7.4-mil­lion pipe­line ex­pan­sion project. That pipe­line is ex­pected to carry high vol­umes of crude oil from Ed­mon­ton to the Van­cou­ver sub­urb of Burnaby. From there, the oil will be shipped to Asian mar­kets via a sev­en­fold in­crease in an­nual oil tanker traf­fic through the Port of Van­cou­ver.

Clark also promised to es­tab­lish a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas (LNG) ex­port in­dus­try on B.C.’s west coast, and a new $3-bil­lion, 10-lane bridge over the Fraser River, re­plac­ing an ob­so­lete tun­nel, to link Delta and Rich­mond.

Now, the anti-Clark en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are hap­pily ap­plaud­ing NDP Premier John Hor­gan be­cause his new govern­ment is putting the fu­ture of many B.C. me­gapro­jects in doubt. As promised dur­ing the elec- tion, the NDP has sent Site C to the B.C. Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion for re­view, with op­tions to can­cel, post­pone or pro­ceed with the project.

As for LNG, only days af­ter Hor­gan’s govern­ment was sworn in, pro­po­nents of the $36-bil­lion, Pa­cific north­west LNG project un­ex­pect­edly can­celled that un­der­tak­ing. They said it wasn’t be­cause of the new NDP govern­ment, but tougher en­vi­ron­men­tal rules for LNG projects was part of the NDP’s cam­paign plat­form. The NDP doesn’t like the pro­posed 10-lane bridge from Delta to Rich­mond, ei­ther.

Stop­ping Kinder Mor­gan’s pipe­line (an­other NDP cam­paign prom­ise) will be tough, though, as the pipe­line falls un­der fed­eral ju­ris­dic­tion. How­ever, the NDP govern­ment cer­tainly can drag its feet on giv­ing ap­provals, per­mits, etc. for the project.

Now that Clark has re­signed as both Lib­eral Party leader and mem­ber of the leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly, Hor­gan has more time to undo B.C.’s pro­posed me­gapro­jects be­cause he has up to six months be­fore call­ing a by­elec­tion in Clark’s rid­ing. In B.C., “politricks,” is sel­dom dull.


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