We are still a full human gestation from a Provincial Election, but the campaign season is in full swing. The BCLiberals are dropping hints of more landmines they are going to leave for the NDP to deal with next year, the cracks are starting to show in the spackle that is the BC Conservative Party, and the NDP seem to have decided it is time to stop watching Premier McSparkles(tm) bail water onto her own sinking ship, and are starting to speak up on specific topics.
At least the BCliberals are getting over their six months of mock outrage that Adrian Dix had not provided a campaign platform for them to critique, fully a year before the election. It wasn’t fair, they whinged, for him to criticize us and not give us anything with which to criticize him back. This seems a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Opposition, as there’s no compelling reason for the NDP to offer a platform if they are not the Government, have no power to implement their mandate, and are not even going to the voters asking to be made Government. If the Premier wants to see the NDP platform, then she is free to drop the writ.
However, sometimes the opposition has to strike when the iron is hot, and the iron is very, very hot around the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline right now. The Federal Conservatives keep bouncing between unabashed support and calling for careful scientific review (while concurrently laying off the very scientists who would do that review), the Premier of Alberta sees any pipeline anywhere as her Constitutional Right, and the Premier of BC is rattling something she must think are sabres: trying to look tough, pragmatic and “leaderish” around the issue.
It was a good time, apparently, for Adrian Dix to make his alternate viewpoint on the Pipeline clear.
So John Rustad (who?) responded with vigour. According to Google, the pipeline runs through his backyard, and he is one of the few BCLiberal MLAs who has confirmed he will return to contest his seat in May, so I guess he is a logical voice for the Government on this issue, I just wish his criticism contained more logic. You can read his statement here, and it is an incredible pile of wrong. Either Rustad is unfamiliar with the BC Environmental Assessment Act that he is talking about, or he is purposely misleading people about what it means. Hanlon’s Razor suggests the former, so let’s stick to that.
The BC Environmental Assessment process is not a “unilateral” hearing, nor would the Premier’s expressed opinion about the project mean the project could be “killed” by applying a Provincial Process. In contrast, since the recent Federal omnibus budget bill C-38, the Federal Environmental Assessment process is much less informed by science, as the Prime Minister’s Office or the Minister of Raping and Pillaging can now override any recommendation coming out of the review; including the recommendation of the specific Ministry running the scientific review or the scientists providing the data. The BC EA process does not include any such provision. Simply put, the BC EA process is now the much less political, more science-based process cmpared to the “sham process” (to borrow Rustad’s words) the Federal Government has created.
Here, let me pick one of his paragraphs apart:
“By prejudging the project and the federal environmental review process, the NDP have sent a dangerous message to investors. The NDP are, in essence, saying future resource development should be determined by popular opinion – not scientific review. This begs the question, what other resource projects would they try to halt prior to diligent review processes?”
It is clear that the Federal Government (who are running the current EA) have pre-judged the process; is Mr. Rustad assuming the Feds can run a fair, scientific process despite the bias they have already expressed, the specific language in new Federal EA Act that provides political override of the scientific conclusion of the EA process, and the ongoing gutting of the very scientific jobs that would provide the understanding of the environmental impacts – yet (breath) – the Province under Dix can’t, where there is no legislated ability to subvert the Provincial process? Read the BC EA legislation, does that look like the aforementioned “public opinion” poll? Not at all.
Aren’t the Federal Government and the Government of Alberta saying that all resource development should be approved, regardless of the present or future environmental impacts? what does that say to resource industries hoping to set up shop in BC? Come, pollute our streams, as long as we get a few jobs or royalties as crumbs, not need to assess the cost-benefit!
Finally, could someone in the BC Liberals communication department, the people writing these speeches for Rustad and other announcements, look up what the expression “begging the question” means? Or is it being used ironically here, as he is rather begging the question (in the logical fallacy sense)…
If Rustad had bothered to read Adrian Dix’s actual statement, he might have taken the hint and actually read (or had his communications staff read) the cited parts of the BC Environmental Assessment Act and the changed Canadian Envrionmental Assessment Act before he commented on it. The “new” Federal Act is no longer independent, science-based, or accountable, and therefore no longer in the same spirit as the Federal Act that was part of the 2010 Environmental Assessment Equivalency Agreement (which brought he two acts into harmony). If BC wants to have a legitimate Environmental Assessment of the Enbridge pipeline, it will have to hold its own.
The approach outline by Dix is clear, and completely within the spirit and the letter of the Act while representing BCs interests before the interests of Enbridge, unlike the silly approach proffered so far by the BC Government. Rustad trots out BC’s strange “five minimum requirements” approach for any proposed “heavy oil” projects in BC (that term poorly defined, but clearly not including liquified natural gas or refined oil products) to receive “potential” provincial support, although not outright approval. If the remarkable glut of weasel words in the preamble is not enough to reassure you, just review what those 5 conditions are, the 5-headed hydra of Premier McSparkles’(tm) “principled” position:
1. Successful completion of the environmental review process. This “condition” is actually required by Federal Law, and no-one is expecting the pipeline to go forward without this approval – which raises (but doesn’t beg) the question of just what the hell the Premier thought we have been talking about for the last 2 years!?
2. World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments; A completely nonsensical and unmeasurable requirement. What does “World-Leading” mean? Does every aspect need to be better than everyone else’s? Or just a cumulative? Does she require an insurance scheme and on-board navigation systems more comprehensive than International Law? Would any tanker company agree to that? Why? Who will measure, if it was even measurable?
3. World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines; Again, completely unmeasurable. A standard that is not measurable is not standard at all (see the recent Auditor General’s report on the BC Environmental Assessment Office, and assuring conditions are attainable and measurable with rational metrics). Perhaps we can have a spill-response Olympics, to prove our systems are better than those in Azerbaijan and Zaire…
4. Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; OH, Ok, we are making compliance with the CONSTITUTION a condition of approval? Wow, that’s bold. Why again is no-one taking this person seriously?
5. British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers. Translate: show me the money. Here is the heart of the “principled stand”. Act tough, hold out for more cash, a mob-style security shakedown.
The BCLiberal approach to the Enbridge Pipeline has been confused, self-contradictory, tone-deaf, a day late and a dollar short. It has lacked in both vision and in understanding of law, from Provincial and Federal EA statutes to the Constitution Act of 1982. It has been an embarrassment for the Premier, and she has, in turn, has been and embarrassment to the Province.In contrast, Adrian Dix has make a clear, definitive statement, citing the specific existing legislation he would invoke, and how he would invoke it. The BC Liberal response is to have some junior MLA ridicule him, avoiding any points of fact, or any specific flaw in his statement, just suggesting he might be “scary” to Enbridge.
Suddenly, the NDP are looking like a Government, the BCLiberals are looking like a desperate opposition.