Kinder Morgan pipeline sets the table for next B.C. election

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      Later this morning, Premier Christy Clark will make her first comments in response to the Trudeau cabinet's decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline and reject the Northern Gateway project.

      The premier's remarks will come in the wake of a noisy demonstration last night in downtown Vancouver where protesters vowed to block the project.

      But it's hard to look upon the premier as a neutral player, given her party's reliance on political donations from Calgary-based energy companies.

      Earlier this year, Integrity B.C.'s Dermod Travis pointed out on this website that the B.C. Liberals have received $1.1 million from a single Calgary company, Encana, since 2005.

      In October 2012, Clark attended a party fundraiser at the famed Petroleum Club in Calgary. The event was hosted by billionaire oilman Murray Edwards, chair of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. It's contributed more than $150,000 to B.C. Liberals over the past decade.

      Other big B.C. Liberal donors have included the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Spectra Energy, Enbridge Pipelines, Chevron Canada, Northern Gateway Pipelines, and Talisman Energy. 

      Clark is their preferred candidate. And she dispelled any doubts when she visited Fort St. John earlier this year to attend a citizens' rally promoting liquefied natural gas development.

      I expect Clark will reiterate the "five principles" necessary for her government to support new pipeline infrastructure. One is that "British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of proposed heavy oil projects that reflect the risk borne by the province".

      But the reality is that Alberta will keep the royalties that flow into its treasury from development of its bitumen resources. B.C.'s tourism and fishing industries will face the risk of a major tanker accident. To many Lower Mainland residents, it looks like a rotten deal. 

      Meanwhile, the premier's friendship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes it hard to believe that she's ever going to stand up to him when B.C.'s interests take a back seat to federal priorities.

      That could be enough to fry the political career of Richard Lee, the long-time B.C. Liberal MLA for Burnaby North. The premier can probably also kiss off any chance of winning Burnaby-Lougheed, Burnaby-Deer Lake, Powell River-Sunshine Coast, Vancouver-Point Grey, and Vancouver-Fairview in the May 2017 provincial election.

      The Trudeau government's decision to approve the Kinder Morgan project might even jeopardize the re-election chances of Naomi Yamamoto in North Vancouver-Lonsdale if enough residents in that constituency decide to cast protest votes for a Green candidate, enabling a New Democrat to win the seat.

      There is a significant number of British Columbians who support development of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, but most of them are already B.C. Liberal voters. The risk for the premier is that this issue will mobilize the project's opponents to get out and vote, and also to work hard for candidates who share their views. And the opponents are in the majority in the seat-rich Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island.

      B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has already let the public know that his party opposes the Kinder Morgan pipeline. He has said this "risky project" is not in B.C.'s interests.

      In contrast, Clark looks like the candidate for Big Oil and for the prime minister.

      No matter what she says between now and next May, it's going to be extremely difficult for her to shake that perception when B.C. voters go to the polls.