As B.C. election looms, both NDP and Liberals take hard line on oil pipelines – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – May 7, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The environment, and particularly opposition to oil sands pipelines and tanker traffic, has become a big theme in the B.C. election, forcing both the NDP and the Liberals to take a hard line against what seem to have become politically toxic projects.

With a week to go before British Columbians go to the polls, Liberal Christy Clark has distanced herself from proposed oil sands pipelines, after front-runner Adrian Dix, leader of the NDP, said two weeks ago he is opposed to both Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain expansion. With the Green Party also opposed to both, only the shrinking provincial Conservative Party remains supportive.

It’s not an encouraging scenario for pipeline proponents, the province of Alberta or the federal government, which has made oil-market diversification to Asia a key plank of its national agenda.

What’s interesting is that the green factor is influencing the campaign at a time voters are mostly worried about the weak provincial economy, and despite past political failure (remember the federal Liberal Green Shift?) to push environmental issues to the political front lines.

“I think the green issue has become for a lot of people a ballot box issue,” said Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria. “It’s one of the ones that they are going to have in their mind the day they go into vote.” Why?

It’s partly about politics. Concern about oil pipelines is actually on the wane in the province, but the NDP’s Mr. Dix came out against both projects to keep the Green Party, which enjoys greater backing than the Conservatives, from strengthening. The Green Party has shown potential on Vancouver Island, where a star candidate, U Vic climate scientist Andrew Weaver, is running in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

“This probably explains the NDP’s sudden shift on the [pipeline] matter – their internal polling has probably indicated that they needed something to further their environmental credentials to keep loose NDP supporters still on the roster,” pollster Ipsos-Reid said in releasing a poll on Friday that showed the NDP is at 45% popular support (down three points relative to the beginning of the campaign), the Liberals are at 35% (up six), the Greens at 10% (up a point), and the Conservatives at 7% (down four).

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