B.C. election sets stage for battle over jobs vs. eco-justice – by Gillian Steward (Toronto Star – May 21, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

CALGARY—Politics in British Columbia has always been volatile and unpredictable, as last week’s election again proved. But it also was instructive in another way.

It was the first major election campaign in Canada to feature both the economy and the environment as key issues. That is surely a sign of the times. And even though Premier Christy Clark and her intense focus on the economy garnered the most seats for the Liberals, the popular vote tells another story.

The Liberals raked in 44 per cent of the popular vote but the combined vote of Adrian Dix’s NDP (39) and the Green party (8) totals 47 per cent. B.C. voters rendered a split decision when trying to decide whether they favour protecting the environment or protecting their province’s prosperity.

So the question remains: how will British Columbians reconcile these two competing interests? And how will that affect the rest of the Canada? Of most interest to Albertans is whether or not two proposed pipelines crucial to the Alberta economy will proceed through B.C. and under what conditions. During the election campaign, those pipelines came to symbolize the choice between economic growth and environmental protection.

Dix’s announcement midway through the campaign that he opposed the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline that would carry bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to tankers in Vancouver’s port surely painted the NDP as scary job killers.
Both Dix and Clark had already voiced opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline that also would carry tarry bitumen. But opposing that pipeline had somehow become more symbolic than real: it was about protecting aboriginal rights and pristine wilderness.

But did that mean that most people in B.C. were opposed to all pipelines?

Apparently not: in the minds of many voters, the Kinder Morgan line was much more tied to the province’s future prosperity. Dix had gone too far.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch how British Columbians resolve this dilemma. Protecting the environment and reducing greenhouse gases are obviously important to a lot of people in that province. But so is resource development and the employment it creates for professionals, technicians and construction workers.

Viewed from Alberta, it was refreshing to see those issues so fiercely debated. Voters in B.C. had to decide if the risk of environmental damage from oil spills was more important than employment opportunities. They mulled over whether B.C. should accept oil from extraction operations that will significantly increase greenhouse gases for decades. They argued about the impact of hundreds of oil tankers plying coastal waters.

For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/05/21/bc_election_sets_stage_for_battle_over_jobs_vs_ecojustice_steward.html

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