It has become abundantly clear that the BC Liberals have set on their strategy for the upcoming Provincial election. Their strategy (which is in many ways is similar to their strategy in the last election) is to pre-emptively try to portray and define the BCNDP and their leader as inconsistent and “everything to everyone”, representing the “Party of No (development)” while at the same time trying to promote Christy Clark in contrast as being a strong leader with a strong/clear and consistent record and message (as above). But is the latter actually true? Have Christy Clark and her government been “strong/clear and consistent” or is in fact the opposite true? Have she and her government been anything but strong/clear and consistent but have been just saying as much to try to convince the voting public (and in some ways their own supporters) that this is in fact the case? Let’s have a look at a few selected issues over the last couple of weeks and see if that “strong/clear and consistent” claim holds up to scrutiny.
The Famous 5 Conditions For Heavy Oil Projects (well really the 4 consistent conditions and the one that seems to be in flux)
Back on July 23, 2012, to great fanfare the Provincial government announced their 5 conditions to support any heavy oil projects (note that the conditions only applied to heavy oil projects and not their beloved LNG projects another inconsistency really but I digress). As announced by then Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak and Minister of Environment Terry Lake, the five conditions were:
The BC Liberals and Christy Clark have repeatedly claimed that they have always been clear and consistent on the 5 conditions (as below). But is that actually true?
A search for the 5 conditions provided in various news releases and articles since then suggests that, for the most part, the 5 conditions have indeed been fairly consistent. Yes fairly. Not completely consistent. Just fairly. Why would I say that? Let me explain. You may remember that the Premier on November 30th released a statement regarding the five conditions following the Kinder Morgan announcement by the Feds. I’ve reproduced the statement below. Notice anything different? Why yes. Condition #4 appears to be completely different. “Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed” is no longer part of Condition 4 in the statement issued by the Premier instead the Premier describes Condition #4 as “Indigenous participation”.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that the legal requirement aspect of Condition #4 has mysteriously been omitted by the Premier. In a speech on October 10, 2012 to a special luncheon organized by the Chamber of Commerce in Prince George, Clark described the 5 conditions as follows:
“Five conditions have to be met, three of them are environment, one is about making sure First Nations are participating (emphasis mine), which is an obligation set by the Crown, and then the last is making sure British Columbia gets it s fair share so all of them are equally important and they all have to be met, not just one.”
Remarkable consistent with her November 30th release and over four years apart no?
Now anyone who knows anything about the recent Supreme Court rulings and the results of the case regarding the Northern Gateway project will tell you that ultimately the biggest Achilles heel of the Kinder Morgan project is Condition #4 and that this condition (well the original condition anyway) can likely never actually be met as the same flawed consultation process was used for the failed Northern Gateway Project and that was struck down by the Supreme Court as being inadequate. Why the Province originally included that aspect of the condition when it was clearly a Federal matter and something guaranteed by the law of the land I don’t know but there it is.
So is it just that the Premier being succinct as some apologists have suggested? Hardly. A graphic produced by the BC Liberal Caucus on day prior to the release from the Premier (as seen below) was very succinct indeed and yet still managed to capture the entire essence of Condition #4 (both indigenous rights and opportunities).
As everyone knows, official statements such as that made by the Premier above are gone over with a fine toothed comb. Was this is the first step in priming the public to garner support for ignoring a critical aspect of one of the original 5 conditions? Or did the communications staff for the Premier drop the ball on this one yet again as they did in 2012? Is the Premier’s office at odds with the party over the interpretation of condition 4? Not exactly sure. Whatever the reason, have the BC Liberals and Christy Clark been consistent on their Five Conditions? Well the answer is clearly and obviously no. Probably best to be clear and consistent if you are claiming to be clear and consistent. Just saying.
Before leaving this topic it should be noted that Bill Bennett in an interview in Calgary in July 2016 said that the only outstanding issue was spill response so I guess the legal aspect of Condition #4 has already been addressed according to the Bill Bennett and the BC Liberals right? Oh and of course nothing shows you standing firm on your Five Conditions and having a principled consistent position more than adjusting Provincial Park Boundaries in advance for the Kinder Morgan project before any decision on the project has been made either Federally or Provincially and before all of the Five Conditions have been met (and then putting out a release afterwards saying that it was not until all approvals and conditions had been met although original legislation clearly did not say that). See the Legislation for carving up Finn Creek Park that has already been enacted (Bill 25 having received Royal Ascent on May 19, 2016). Saying one thing publicly and doing something different in the back rooms. The BC Liberals way. Just another example.
Fentanyl/Opioid Overdose Crisis
You may remember recently that Christy Clark and the BC Liberals came under fire for not following the lead of Alberta and creating their own legislation (like Alberta did) in the absence of Federal Legislation concerning pill presses with local police also calling for the legislation saying that there is no legitimate reason to have a pill press. You may also remember that back in July that Mike Farnsworth and the BCNDP had introduced a bill banning pill presses but that got caught up in the cancelling of the Fall sitting of the legislature. So in the midst of the crisis the Solicitor General Mike Morris was trotted out to say the now oft-repeated line that pill press legislation was a Federal responsibility so no unilateral action would be forthcoming from the Province but that if no action was forthcoming from the Feds that B.C. would proceed with its own Provincial legislation in the Spring (huh, read that one again a couple of times, can’t have it both ways except in BC Liberals Land I guess). Besides, even if there was a ban on pill presses, pill-form fentanyl would just come from outside of the Province said Morris arguing against any kind of local legislation prohibiting any matter of any kind (assault rifles, tactical nuclear weapons, etc.) as of course it would just come from elsewhere anyway (where exactly do they get these people?). And so, what could have been at least a tangible step to try to help ease the Fentanyl/opioid crisis was ignored. Skip ahead a couple of weeks and to great fanfare, the BC Liberals decided to open two supervised injection sites unilaterally via a ministerial order because of “Federal inaction“.
Described as a “major policy shift”, MLA Terry Lake was quoted as saying that, “We can’t wait for federal changes in order to save people’s lives”. Wait? What was that again? So no problem going your own way unilaterally when it suits you politically (when you can sell it as you taking “strong action”) but defer to the Feds responsibility in the case of the pill presses as otherwise it would mean acknowledging that the BCNDP was correct on the issue? Huh? Are those the actions of a clear and consistent government caring about the people or governing only through considering what is politically beneficial? No matter how you slice it the phrases “major policy shift” and “strong and consistent leadership” are clearly incompatible. Heck the Premier and her government can’t even tell hope much money they spent on the crisis giving three estimates in three days.
Other jurisdictions have shown strong and consistent leadership by doing what was best for the people first as people were literally dying in the streets (see Alberta), not so much the BC Liberals. The BC Liberals sat on their hands seemingly not wanting to upset their base or (god forbid) acknowledge that the BCNDP were ever possibly right on anything (on pill presses, etc.).
Oh yes, and please do go ahead do congratulate yourselves. Congratulations again for doing nothing when people were and are literally dying in the streets and then taking the credit for the actions of others. Please do.
And then there was this. In her year-end interview with News 1130 Clark called the opioid crisis the biggest story of 2016.
Yet when her Health Minister Terry Lake was asked about the “biggest story of 2016” he suggested that no one saw the overdose crisis coming. What?
Boggles the mind sometimes. How could his ministry not have spotted, oh I don’t know this trend…
Or read the papers like this article from last year or listened to your own ministry that was warning about the impending crisis three years ago (see below). That is not clear and consistent leadership. That is called sitting on your hands.
Premier’s Meeting as Political Performance Art
At the recent Dec. 9 Premier’s meeting on Climate Change Premier Clark told reporters and anyone who would listen that BC would sign the plan as BC had concerns that other Provinces with a cap and trade system would not be able to reach the price the plan calls for by 2022. This was after of course in September of this the Premier writing in a statement on September 26 that “other’s may choose a broad-based cap and trade system and that’s fine. We recognize that either system will achieve emission reductions”. Well that doesn’t seem consistent does it?
Then at the recent carbon tax meeting she said that it was not OK in its current form and then later that same day after getting assurances that the system would be reviewed in 4 years, an about-face from the Premier occurred with the Premier saying that everything was all good now and saying that she would be signing on to the agreement after all.
The usual BC Liberals cheerleaders were quick to praise her “clear and consistent leadership” even though her position quickly had changed many times (twice in one day in fact).
Those far right observers who originally were quick to congratulate Premier Clark for her “strong stand” for Western Canada along side climate change denier Conservative Brad Wall,
were quick to see that flip flop in her position and call it for what it was, disingenuous political posturing.
Moreover it later came out that indeed that the key Provincial ask (a Provincial comparable review of carbon cutting in 2020) was already signed before Clark stepped up to the mike for her disingenuous public performance. In fact when she went to the podium to announce that she wouldn’t be signing the agreement, there was already an agreement in place. And her big win according to the BC Liberals cheerleaders (as seen above)? A single sentence stating that “BC will assess the interim study in 2020 and determine a path forward to meet with climate change objectives”.
Lastly, as pointed out by Gary Mason (of all people),
“The fact is, Ms. Clark’s act of bravado on the national stage was a convenient distraction from an ugly truth: Once considered Canada’s climate leader, B.C. is now an embarrassing environmental laggard.” With emissions projected to increase by 39% by 2030 and certainly missing its targets by 2020….“If the province intends to ignore its targets, both in the short-term and long, why be part of some grand plan to reduce emissions nationally?”
Indeed. Rather than actually showing strong and consistent Climate leadership, the BC Liberals just say that they are doing that and hope that no one notices. The fake nature of their climate leadership announcement has now become both an iconic and ironic “tell” in so many ways.
So would strong and consistent describe the bizarre political performance art performed by the Premier at the Premier’s conference on climate change? Hardly.
On a side note, it is interesting to note that the BC Liberals were (and still are) exuberantly celebrating having an independent review of the carbon tax in 2020 while at the same time being so resistant to any suggestion that Site C be the subject of an independent review via the BC Utilities Commission etc. Again hardly clear and consistent. All actions by this government appear to be completely inconsistent and completely politically motivated.
Yamamoto’s Letter and Then No Letter Letter
And there is this. On December 13, MLA Naomi Yamamoto, the Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness, one of those usually at the kids table politically within the BC Liberal government in the made up Minister of State portfolio of Emergency Preparedness, wrote to Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc expressing her and her government’s concern over the closure of the Coast Guard Communications Centre in Comox, an initiative originally started by the previous Harper Government. It was portrayed at the time as the BC Liberals standing up strongly to protect the interests of BC against those nasty Feds with the Comox Communications base (as expressed by Minister Yamamoto in her letter) being considered part of the “World Leading ocean spill response”, one of the vague subjective conditions required for the support of the Kinder Morgan pipeline (described above). It didn’t hurt that it fit within the BC Liberals’ declared strategy of trying to expand their seat base on Vancouver Island but that’s another story. Anyway, two days later it appears that Minister Yamamoto really wasn’t all that serious about writing the letter, that she must have had her fingers crossed at the time that she wrote it, suggesting that it was all a big mistake, and promptly apologized to Ottawa for writing the letter. Huh? That’s leadership? Apparently, either Minister Yamamoto or one of the infinite number of monkeys typing an infinite number of ministerial communications and press releases for the government got it all wrong. Minister Yamamoto, rather than standing up and taking responsibility for the letter which was presumably signed by her if it left her ministry, hung her staff out to dry and said that the letter was “inadvertently sent to the federal government from her office”. Now there’s true leadership. According to my definition, a strong and consistent government does not issue a letter demanding one thing one day only to apologize two days later and then hang your staff out to dry when things go bad, but maybe that’s just me.
Bill 27 Flip Flop: Human Rights Code Amendment Act Changes in Regards to the LGBT Community
Lastly, and then their was their flip flop and the controversy surrounding Bill 27, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act. Here is a video that eloquently details the flip flop and includes BC Liberals MLA for Chilliwack-Hope (Laurie Throness) empassioned speech against the legislative change to explicitly protect the LGBT community.
Do remember too that despite Christy Clark turning up for the photo-op for the event on the legislative steps (see below)
that she actually skipped the actual vote on the legislation in order to attend a fundraiser in Surrey instead. Because you know, priorities. It should also be noted that despite the smiling faces on the Legislative steps that the BC Liberals had blocked the introduction of similar legislation in the Legislature many other times.
Have a look at this video. In it Christy Clark decries how terrible leaving debt to our kids is.
And yet, her government is responsible for this. A massive increase in debt that will be her government’s legacy for generations.
Flip Flop on Taxing Real Estate Transactions
Flip Flop on $50,000 Party Stipend
On January 20, 2017 Premier Christy Clark announced that she would be no longer be taking a controversial $50,000 stipend from the BC Liberals party. This was of course after she initially denied the existence of the stipend calling it a “car allowance and various BC Liberal apologists such as Jillian Stead suggesting that there was nothing wrong with the practice because it had been that way for a long time (I kid you not) and the Minister of Inappropriate Outbursts and General Chortling, Rich Coleman saying that it was pretty common don’t you know (when it fact it isn’t). So why the backtracking and flip flop regarding the stipend? Some have speculated that it was due to the attention locally via Gary Mason and internationally via the Dan Levin New York Times article calling out the BC Liberals for the unsavoury practice. I think otherwise. I think that the polling on this topic was bad and that the BC Liberals flip flopped on their position on it accordingly (not the first time that the BC Liberals govern by polling that’s for sure). And where were the usual BC Liberals cheerleaders extolling the virtues of so-called strong leadership on this matter? Nowhere to be seen of course as nothing says strong leadership more than slipping the announcement in during a North Shore Rescue announcement on a Friday evening and then calling it just “a distraction”. No admission that it was wrong and had always been wrong? Yeah, right. Sorry but that’s anything but strong leadership.
So there you have it. Eight relatively recent examples all showing clearly inconsistent statements and leadership, weather vane politicking, and flip flopping by Christy Clark and the BC Liberals. By just saying that your leader and party is “clear and consistent” or “strong and consistent” just doesn’t make it so. That may play to your base but the electorate out there (if you haven’t noticed) is angry and not stupid. They know. Believe me they know. And they can see right through you.