Huffpost Canada ca
Matt Price Headshot

Christy Clark Must Stand Up to the Tar Sands

Posted: Updated:

British Columbians are getting bullied by the Harper government in Ottawa. It's time our Premier stood up for us.

It's an unprecedented attack on Canadians who care about the future of their kids and the health of the natural environment that makes B.C. so special. No longer content to just renege on our commitments to the world to rein in carbon pollution, the Harper government has now gone on the offensive against Canadians who dare question the expansion of the tar sands and associated pipelines.

Last month, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver issued an open letter undermining the democratic input of British Columbians registered to speak against Enbridge's tar sands pipeline across Northern B.C., calling such people "radical" and insulting their patriotism by calling them, in essence, un-Canadian.

A federal government memo uncovered through access-to-information found B.C. First Nations and environmentalists on its list of "adversaries," as opposed to oil companies ("allies"). Now, Vic Toews' new anti-terrorism strategy lists environmentalists alongside white supremacists as a possible source of domestic extremism.

And where is Christy Clark during all this? She's either nowhere, desperately trying to sit on the fence as her constituents come under assault, or else she's siding with the bullies.

Just days after former Harper advisor and Enbridge lobbyist Ken Boessenkool became her Chief of Staff, Clark went on CTV to echo Joe Oliver's arguments about "foreign" critics (while of course being silent about the billions of foreign dollars coming from the oil industry). In so doing, she brought into sharp focus that she herself has solicited political donations from Alberta oil companies, hosting a $500-a-plate dinner in the Calgary Petroleum Club -- outside money being paid to influence B.C. politics.

The fact that Clark hasn't entirely sided with her corporate donors on this pipeline is a testament to the fact that she knows a majority of British Columbian voters don't want it. Not only do we know that an oil spill from supertankers plying our sensitive coastline could be almost inevitable, but we are also discovering that this one pipeline will carry as much carbon pollution each year as B.C.'s entire annual emissions. So, while we work hard to do our part to green B.C.'s economy and society, Enbridge wants to entirely cancel out our gains several times over.

Not only is this pipeline a bad idea based on the facts, but now that the Harper government has turned it into a bullying contest means that neither Clark nor any other B.C. elected official can afford to remain on the fence any longer. Even if you are a politician who still somehow doesn't believe scientists when they tell us we have a climate crisis, if you do not stand up for the right of your constituents to express their opinions in the face of state-sanctioned bullying, then you are against democracy itself and do not deserve to be its standard bearer.

Some will say that Clark standing up for British Columbians against Harper like this will hurt her chances because of the political split opening up on the right, but this is a misdiagnosis of her problem. The split is opening up, not because she is governing more to the left than Campbell was, but because she is perceived to be a weaker leader. Strength is not found through photo ops of drinking Tim's coffee at hockey games with Harper, but rather by standing up clearly for your constituents and thereby earning their respect.

This pipeline is not about left and right, but about right and wrong. We need a leader who gets that and who makes the right choice about who to represent. Otherwise, B.C. voters will find somebody else who will.