What's a B.C. climate voter to do?

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      There are four things that could conceivably wipe out much of humanity by the end of this century: nuclear war, an asteroid hitting Earth, a super-eruption of the volcano in Yellowstone National Park, and abrupt climate change.

      Fortunately, three of these things are not part of the current B.C. election campaign.

      But the fourth, abrupt climate change, is a very real voting issue for a large number of citizens, particularly in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

      In the last federal election, the choices were relatively easy for B.C. voters who put climate change at the very top of their list of priorities.

      If they lived in Saanich-Gulf Islands, they voted for Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May.

      In ridings where the Greens were not competitive, they should have voted for the NDP because its leader, Tom Mulcair, was far more committed to addressing this issue than the federal Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau.

      That was obvious in Trudeau's support for the Keystone XL pipeline and in Mulcair's clear opposition to fracking for natural gas in Quebec.

      Mulcair, however, didn't help himself with his wishy-washy stance on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which played a role in his party's losses in Burnaby North-Seymour and Vancouver Granville.

      Trudeau, on the other hand, misled voters by claiming he would change the pipeline-approval process for the Kinder Morgan project. 

      This helped the Liberals win votes in greenish ridings, including the two mentioned above, as well as in North Vancouver and Delta.

      After the election, Trudeau broke that promise, which he made in the video below.

      Watch this video of Justin Trudeau's forked pre-election promise to the Dogwood Initiative's Kai Nagata that he would redo the process for approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

      Since being elected in 2015, the Trudeau government has come out in favour of three new oil pipelines: Keystone XL, the Kinder Morgan expansion project, and Enbridge Line 3.

      It gave the go-ahead to the Pacific Northwest LNG project which, if built, would obliterate any chance of B.C. meeting its greenhouse gas emission targets. 

      Trudeau is also supporting the Site C dam in northeastern B.C. even though there's not nearly enough domestic demand to justify this $8.8-billion megaproject.

      It's clear that this dam is being built to generate power to frack natural gas for the LNG industry, which Trudeau supports, or to provide electricity for energy companies to extract more fossil fuel from the oilsands. It amounts to a big fail for Trudeau on the climate.

      What about the B.C. election?

      B.C. voters who care intensely about the climate were tricked by Trudeau. So is it any wonder that they don't want to be fooled again in the provincial election campaign?

      They already know there's no hope that the B.C. Liberals will do anything meaningful to curb what they see as an existential threat to humanity on Earth. 

      For them, B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark is their equivalent of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

      That's because Clark will support any fossil-fuel project, no matter how detrimental it will be. Then she'll cover her tracks by making false claims that switching to LNG as a bridge fuel is actually good for the climate.

      It's ridiculous and insulting when you consider how far the price has dropped for renewable energy and how many fugitive emissions are released into the atmosphere through the fracking of natural gas.

      Clark's bull-headed, damn-the-torpedoes construction of the Site C dam will obliterate valuable farmland just as climate change is wreaking havoc with agricultural production in other parts of North America.

      The B.C. Green leader, Andrew Weaver, can be counted on to address climate change. It's his life's work. His 2008 book, Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, was an outstanding analysis of the state of the world at that time and the risks posed by a warming planet.

      With Weaver, the only concern for a climate voter is that the Greens are sometimes the monkey-wrenchers in B.C. elections. The B.C. Greens can be viewed as the happy dunces for the fossil-fuel industry. That's because Green candidates have siphoned off enough progressive votes in the last three contests to play a pivotal role in the reelection of the B.C. Liberals.

      Savvy climate voters know that by voting Green, there's always a risk of helping reelect a government headed by the least climate-friendly option possible: Christy Clark.

      Back when John Horgan was calling to axe the carbon tax, Andrew Weaver (above) was a UVic professor and one of the foremost voices in B.C. in favour of imposing levies on carbon.

      B.C. NDP remains a paradox

      At the same time, climate voters understandably have trouble trusting the New Democrats on this issue. In the 2009 election campaign, the party under Carole James called for the elimination of the carbon tax. It could have been fixed, but the New Democrats preferred to junk it altogether.

      The party's environmental policies improved in 2013. And the addition of climate-friendly candidates such as David Eby and George Heyman helped calm down conservation-minded voters who disliked the party's axe-the-tax campaign of four years earlier.

      It's worth noting that in the early 1990s, the New Democrats under Mike Harcourt introduced many positive environmental initiatives. There was a sharp increase in the amount of designated provincial parkland. After some heated confrontations in Clayoquot Sound, the NDP endorsed an approach to logging that was far more grounded in science than it had ever been in the past.

      The Harcourt government also took measures under then municipal affairs minister Darlene Marzari to contain urban sprawl. A new forest practices code helped protect rivers. But there was still no ban on logging in community watersheds.

      Environmental policies deteriorated under Harcourt's successor, Glen Clark. B.C.'s third NDP premier sidestepped the B.C. Utilities Commission with new power projects in the Kootenays. The Clark government also allowed a large ranch near Kamloops to be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

      More disturbingly from a climate perspective, the Clark government promoted a natural-gas pipeline to Vancouver Island, which was going to fuel three gas-fuelled power plants. This was a massive make-work project for the building trades with some very disturbing implications for the atmosphere and air quality.

      One of the directors of B.C. Hydro at the time was the party's most recent critic for the Crown utility: Adrian Dix.

      The B.C. NDP government of the 1990s was also a big supporter of Burrard Thermal, a gas-powered electricity plant that had a harmful impact on air quality. And the Clark government also kick-started the natural-gas boom in northeastern B.C. with nary a concern for the climate or a whole lot of effective regulation. 

      B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan was a key political adviser to senior NDP politicians of that era, including Dan Miller, who served as an interim premier and who was the strongest advocate of the natural-gas free-for-all.

      After Horgan became the party's energy critic following the 2005 election, he loudly called for a reduction in gasoline taxes. At that time, he was anything but the climate hawk that he portrays himself to be today.

      Nobody can seriously question the NDP's Nicholas Simons's commitment to the environment, but how much influence would someone like him have if John Horgan becomes premier?
      Stephen Hui

      Some New Democrats are very green

      If veteran New Democrats like Nicholas Simons or Rob Fleming or Lana Popham or even Mike Farnworth were leading their party, climate voters might feel a little more comfortable casting ballots for the NDP candidate in their area.

      Simons and Farnworth were perceived as the climate-friendly candidates running for the B.C. NDP leadership in 2011. Horgan and the eventual winner, Dix, had more backing from the private-sector unions and did not go nearly as far with their promises around environmental issues.

      But there are signs that under Horgan, the B.C. NDP sees climate change as an issue of major significance. It's backing Lower Mainland mayors' proposals on transportation. Two of the greenest politicians in the region, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote, have given the party credit for doing that.

      With Heyman as the spokesperson on the environment, the B.C. NDP is advancing sensible ideas on how to promote the renewable-energy sector in B.C., which is important to the province's economic future.

      The party has also promised to ban the trophy hunt for grizzly bears.

      And West Coast Environmental Law has given the B.C. NDP a "B" on its proposals to address greenhouse gas emissions and for its policies on meeting legislated targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

      The Greens scored better than that, but there's always a risk of a Green vote helping to elect B.C. Liberals, who received a failing grade.

      I believe the B.C. NDP is serious about stopping the Site C dam, though I could be proven wrong. The test will be if a B.C. NDP government halts construction of the dam while it's being reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

      The bigger question is if Horgan becomes premier, is he going to be another Trudeau and let the feds get away with the Kinder Morgan pipeline and echo Clark's support for fracking natural gas to promote LNG exports?

      The feds are holding most of the cards on the pipeline issue. The key will be if the B.C. government puts all of its legal muscle behind the fight, including filing a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada on the Trudeau government's approval.

      For climate voters, it's not encouraging that Horgan has received significant financial support from unions that generally favour huge capital projects, including LNG facilities and pipelines, that employ their members.

      To date, Kinder Morgan has angered the labour movement by refusing to promise not to employ temporary foreign workers. The union representing Chevron refinery employees is also upset about the possible implications of the pipeline on their future, concluding the risks are simply too high.

      But could those positions change if there's an NDP government and these corporations suddenly start offering sweetheart deals to workers to get on the good side of a new premier?

      Environmental icon David Suzuki has campaigned with Andrew Weaver in advance of the May 9 election.

      It's troubling that the B.C. NDP was mostly missing in action in the citizens' fight to stop Port Metro Vancouver from becoming North America's leading exporter of coal.

      On the upside, the party platform looks pretty good. Many NDP candidates have a solid understanding of climate change and a progressive outlook. And its promise to ban corporate and union donations would permanently change the political landscape, ending the dominance of the fossil-fuel lobby over political decisions concerning the climate.

      Horgan has also gone out of his way to appeal to indigenous voters, who tend to put the climate and other environmental issues higher on their list of priorities than many nonindigenous voters.

      But still, there are doubts. Doubts seeded by the record of the Glen Clark government and the NDP's record in opposition under Carole James. It's also worrying to witness Horgan's reliance on surrogates, such as Heyman and Fleming, acting as his ambassadors to the climate-justice movement rather than making this issue a centrepiece in his speeches.

      And why is someone as intelligent and wise as David Suzuki so gung ho for Weaver, even though voting Green sometimes helps elect B.C. Liberal candidates?

      It's a conundrum that is probably going through the minds of many climate-conscious British Columbians.

      Even if there are two or three dozen greenish or very green B.C. NDP MLAs elected, it's worth remembering that under our parliamentary system, the premier holds all the cards. He or she can hire and fire cabinet ministers, kick people out of caucus, and even determine who will be permitted to run for reelection.

      In the end, the question for climate voters comes down to this: can they trust Horgan to make their issue a major priority in a B.C. NDP government?

      We'll learn the answer when they go to the polls on May 9.