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Posted: May 6, 2017

The issue that the B.C. election is really about

“Perceptions” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

You know what this election is about? No, it’s not about “free enterprise vs Godless socialism” as was so often said back in the 1960s during the Premier William “Wacky” Bennett era.

Nor is it about the black cloud that supposedly fell over B.C. in the 1990s, that caused the economy to collapse and people flee to Alberta to avoid catastrophe as a more recent Bennett is so fond of saying.

What it’s really about is the B.C. environment and how the political parties of today would use that environment to create a better life for the people of the province – regardless of our politics – or abuse the land for short term gain at the expense of future generations. So, no, I’m not going to engage in doomsday scenarios about what may happen if party A or party B gets elected. But I am going to provide you with an example of a political decision that will sully the land we all know and love and would make B.C. a lesser place if it’s allowed to go ahead.

The proposed $8 billion Site C dam is far from the Kootenays but like the dams of the Kootenays, will flood a huge swath of prime agricultural land in short supply in the north and provide a whack of electric power most of which is likely to be exported to the U.S. to be used by Donald Trump and his administration.

Doesn’t that make you feel warm and good all over? If it does, you should do a little more thinking.

The 1,100 megawatts of power to be produced by Site C would flood more than 6,000 acres of prime farming land and would be the biggest exclusion of agricultural land from the Agricultural Land Reserve in B.C. history! Yes, it would also provide power for 450,000 homes, but there’s barely 50,000 people living in isolated northeastern B.C. now and Site C power is not needed. So, where’s it going to go? It will go where the market dictates and that will be the U.S. and sold at a loss, according to many energy experts. And who will pay for the loss? You know the answer.

So where do the major parties stand on Site C? With the Liberals, it’s full speed ahead and indeed they’ve already started to build after excluding it from review by the BC Utilities Commission, an underhanded move that is being fought in the courts by First Nations people and area farmers and supported by a group of more than 200 leading Canadian scientists who wrote a letter to Premier Clark condemning the project.

And where do the other parties stand on Site C?

The NDP would halt the project, at least temporarily, and refer it to the BCUC where it was supposed to be reviewed in the first place. Only the Green Party favours outright cancellation of this unnecessary and expensive project, calling it “environmentally, economically and socially reckless.” Not to mention illegal under the former rules for dam approval in B.C.

So, who cares, you may be tempted to say. Well, I for one care because I don’t trust a government that breaks the rules for a project they want to push through. If they do it for Site C where will they do it next? For LNG development whether it’s needed or not? For pipeline development? Or to close schools as they’ve done all over the province or tried to do? To close hospitals as they did in Kimberley? Where does it end?

This is a matter of trust as much as it’s a matter of politics and on the trust scale I find the BC Liberal actions troubling.

However, after almost 40 years of reporting on B.C. politics, I don’t particularly trust any party. They’ve all broken their promises and bent the rules when it suited them. So, this time out I’m really agonizing, but I do think our treatment of the environment is the key issue that underlies all the other issues. And thinking that way leads to only one conclusion.

It’s time for a change.

Gerry Warner is a retired reporter who urges everyone to vote for the party of their choice on May 9.

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