It may seem a bit early to be talking about elections in British Columbia. With the sour taste of the one just concluded to our south still lingering and with winter barely underway, May 2017 seems a far distant horizon. But these days Tempus does seem to Fugit at ever increasing speed and old events recycle with remarkable regularity and clarity in the catalogue of political lessons never learned.
I’m thinking in particular of the recent federal government decision to bestow its long awaited blessing on the Kinder Morgan pipeline project thus setting the stage for re-run of the 2013 election. That’s the one that the press and pundits forecast the NDP, with Adrian Dix at the helm, would win by a landslide. The opposite took place.
The NDP election wagon lost its wheels a matter of days before voting started in 2013 when Dix, who had been wisely stating he wanted to see full environmental assessments of the Kinder Morgan proposal before deciding whether to support or oppose it, declared he and his party could wait no longer for all the facts. They would, if elected, oppose Kinder Morgan. And Christy Clark, saying a silent thank you, made the most of her assurances to maintain a pace of economic development and new job creation and won the election.
Time went by, Dix resigned as NDP leader and John Horgan stepped up to declare he was against the project at present but could possibly be converted. He was back where Dix was when he was waiting for full environmental impact in formation before deciding to openly oppose.
Horgan maintains the view that while “Kinder Morgan is a divisive issue” it isn’t the biggest problem facing British Columbia. He recently told CBC News reporter Richard Zussman: “It will be an election issue. But there are many, many other issues that will be critically important. We want to talk about a wide range of issues and so do British Columbians.”
While that is an accurate observation, the always restless electorate demands more than just talk. It wants, demands, needs decisions. In 2013, it was indecision and then a precipitous decision by Dix that went a long way to deny the NDP victory.
In 2017, Horgan faces even tougher decisions. In Alberta, Rachel Notley’s NDP government desperately needs the pipeline – and any other project capable of healing provincial economic wounds. Horgan says his main responsibility is to stand up for the people of British Columbia. Is it? Or should he first be thinking what’s best for Canada, then factor in provincial needs?
It isn’t just Horgan – or any political leader – who needs to think that way. Are we Canadians first or does our home province rate higher priority? It’s a question we all need ask ourselves from time to time – and answer honestly.