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BC Election 2017
BC Politics

BC Belongs to Resource Companies, and Clark’s the Paid Caretaker

In her province, big money turns real people who care about real issues like the environment into ‘militant climate crusaders.’

Michael Harris 24 Apr

Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. His book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, was a number one bestseller.

This article first appeared on iPolitics and is republished with permission.

Unless Christy Clark’s bulldozer hits a ditch, the Liberal party’s power in British Columbia will probably grow. Just like the provincial debt, the horrid finances of BC Hydro and the evolution of Vancouver into a vast private club for the super-rich.

All this is supported by the nonsense view that Christy posing beside hulking dump trucks once every few years vanquishes all — including any zany notion of standing up for the environment. Even from a distance, surveying B.C. politics is like watching a python swallow a peacock.

What has politics become in British Columbia — and just about everywhere else in western democracies these days? A series of lies usually presented as a ‘plan.’ The plan always includes tax cuts, expressions of ‘respect’ for taxpayers’ money, smaller government and vows to return power to the people. This is called ‘vision’ in countries preoccupied by the Shopping Channel. Behind it all? Redistributing public wealth to “them that brung ya to the dance.”

Since election periods are so painfully short for the most part, the bullshitting and obfuscation usually can be pulled off before the fact-checkers swoop in and do any real damage. In the post-truth world of contemporary politics, it’s debatable whether the facts matter any more. As both Trump and Trudeau seem to have realized, politics is more pop-culture than policy these days.

It doesn’t matter which ocean your navy is actually in; the public is always at sea. Nor is there anything wrong with congratulating a newly minted dictator, as Trump did with Turkey’s tyrant. It’s all about membership in the club.

After the phoney sales pitch, all that’s left is the demonization of the opponent. In B.C., big money helps turn real people who care about real issues like the environment into “militant climate crusaders.” It goes without saying (we’re told) that the sole purpose of these tree-huggers is to make sure no one in the province ever works in the resource industry again. If you criticize the one per cent who crack the whip over the rest of us too vigorously, you are diagnosed as suffering from Clark (or Harper, or Trump) Derangement Syndrome. Tweets have turned our brains into bumper-sticker processors.

No wonder Christy Clark didn’t take Richard Branson up on his offer to ride naked on his back while kitesurfing. All she really needs is that painted-on smile and a hard hat to persuade British Columbians that they are just one mega-project away from Nirvana — whether that means bringing war to the Peace River Valley or blowing out a salmon nursey off Lelu Island.

B.C. under Christy Clark and the Liberals is run like a crooked casino. Money seeps from the pores of the corporate kleptocracy and flows uphill, downhill and in through the back door — all to the Liberal Party.

The Liberals just had to pay back $174,000 in illegal donations. Even a charity tried to get in on greasing the Grits. Clark also had to give up thousands of dollars her own party gave her to “top up” her salary as premier. A mere $195,000 a year wasn’t apparently enough for her. (Guess where that extra fifty grand came from? Hint: it wasn’t the tooth fairy.)

Mining companies send so many donations Clarkward that it’s hardly a surprise that no one has even been fined over the disastrous Mount Polley spill, let alone charged. You remember that one: Millions of metric tonnes of toxic mine tailings flowing into the pristine, rainbow trout-sustaining waters of Quesnel Lake — which also happens to be the water supply for the residents of Likely, B.C.

Just before the writ dropped for the May 9, 2017 election, the Clark government gave Mount Polley Mining Corporation, owned by Imperial Metals, the green light to re-pollute Lake Quesnel with 24 million cubic metres of “treated” mining waste. Murray Edwards, the billionaire owner of Imperial Metals, provided the hospitality on his yacht for Rona Ambrose’s January 3-14 Caribbean holiday off St. Barthes.

In B.C., it comes down to cold, hard cash — lots of it. There are virtually no financial limits on political donations and seemingly no limit on out-bound government contracts in B.C. — the eternal quid pro quo of a profession where money is mother’s milk. It’s done in Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and even in Ottawa by the Sunny Ways guys.

But B.C.’s pay-as-you-play system is surely the height of chutzpah. The New York Times was so appalled by the naked power of money in Clarkland, it depicted a place not normally on its radar as rollickingly corrupt — a kind of Somalia on Canada’s west coast. (For the record, Somalia has owned the distinction of being the world’s most corrupt country for 10 years running, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index.)

Clark’s corporate cave-ins have not been without consequences that might still come back to haunt her in this election. The B.C. Supreme Court is looking into her dodgy ethics in taking money from companies with vested interests in provincial government assessments, like the Trans-Mountain pipeline project already approved by Justin Trudeau. Advocacy groups believe Clark’s green light for Trans Mountain was influenced by hefty political donations to the Liberal party by companies like U.S.-based Kinder Morgan. According to The Tyee, that could decide the issue against the government in four Burrard Inlet ridings.

And then there is the mounting toll Clark’s high-roller policies have taken on ordinary people, particularly in B.C.’s largest city. I asked Vancouver resident and writer DG Thiel why she thought Christy Clark should undergo a career path change:

“There’s a forced migration going on in B.C. A government-led resettlement. As I look out onto English Bay on a clear spring morning I count the tankers at the mouth of False Creek Inlet, sitting like birds of prey. They will soon outnumber the blue heron who nest in the trees at the entrance of Stanley Park. I’ve lost my home to them.

“I feel disquieted by a growing rage that spills out of memories — as black and thick as the oil-soaked sea birds in my hands two short years ago. No official count was made of the dead that littered the rocks of our beaches — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Jericho, Kits, Locarno and Spanish Banks. There was no funeral for them. I feel the pain of being unable to save them and the sorrow that comes from resignation.

“I’ve marched, I’ve shouted with tens of thousands railing together against the destruction of our land, our water, our air. I’ve stood on the picket lines at Burnaby Mountain in peaceful, tearful protest. I’ve called my MP demanding action.

“I can’t protect them, so I’m leaving. I have to save myself and my family. My bags will soon be packed. I will trudge alongside countless thousands of other British Columbians who’ve turned their back on this town because they can’t buy a condo, or rent a flat, in this city of construction cranes. They’ve lost their homes too.

“In the end, none of it mattered. We were all CCed. Carbon copied after the fact by Christy Clark. Our voices have not been heard. Our tears have not mattered. We are no longer stewards of our land. Our province is being shaped by multinationals and developers. Clark’s posse.”

Someone might be able to say it better. Frankly, I don’t know how.  [Tyee]

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