From aquaculture to energy and other natural resource projects, NDP Premier John Horgan will have to deal with a new cabal of activist-politicians and an emerging coalition of NGOS.
By Fabian Dawson
Fresh from the election victory, John Horgan, the leader of the NDP has vowed to rebuild British Columbia’s resource and coastal communities that are struggling from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is going to be easier said than done as a new cabal of MLA’s, several beholden to eco-activist groups, join the NDP caucus to set the stage for Horgan’s majority government.
At the same time, political insiders in Victoria tell SeaWestNews they are watching with concern the formation of a broad lobbying coalition of environmental pressure groups to take advantage of “developing governing conditions”.
They have identified six major coalition efforts which are building capacity to act as “restraining influences on cabinet decision making” and to work with “MLAs expected to step into the caucus directly from environmental organizations known for their radical agendas”
“The BC NDP government is well aware of the very strong support for natural resource industries, which are the backbone of the provincial economy,” said Stewart Muir, executive director of Resource Works.
“Even though the party no longer depends on BC Green support, the new BC NDP caucus contains some polarizing anti-resource voices. These are outnumbered by those who understand why it is worth working toward solutions that benefit everyone, while protecting the environment. I expect Premier Horgan’s strong mandate will allow him to be practical about encouraging well-paid employment opportunities, a great many of which are to be found in the resource industries,” he told SeaWestNews.
Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute said Horgan will have to find a way to keep both sides of the party mollified, adding “at times, this will be impossible.”
“At the helm of a minority caucus, he carried a big stick which he could use in the event different factions within the party grew restless: “do you like being in power? Do you want to keep it that way? Then there is no room for public dissent or division.” Governing on a razor’s edge enforces discipline very effectively.
“Now, there is a much bigger caucus and little chance of government falling. The environmental faction – that opposes or questions projects such as TMX, Site C, and LNG, may be emboldened to speak up.
“They will find themselves at odds with the faction of the party that has traditionally supported working people – the private sector labour unions, etc. – who are motivated by the economic growth of BC,” said Kurl, who moderated the pre-election leadership debate.
Among the activist-politicians joining the NDP are Niki Sharma who took the Vancouver-Hastings riding and Fin Donnelly who will represent the Coquitlam-Burke Mountain constituency.
Sharma, a lawyer and senior campaigner for U.S.-based STAND.earth, has a long track record of activism against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and LNG development in BC, industries she claims that are in a “race to the bottom”
The BC NDP has offered qualified support for LNG development, saying that any such effort must fit into the provincial climate plan and touts it as an industry that “meets B.C.’s needs and conditions.”
As for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which will bring billions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to BC, Horgan said on the campaign trail that he has done what he can, to stop the project.
“The supreme court rejected our regulations and the project is proceeding. I believe it’s appropriate that we follow the law, issue permits and ensure the company is living within their environmental assessment restrictions — and so far they have been,” Horgan told Kamloops This Week.
Sharma and her STAND.earth crew continue to state “we’ll make sure this pipeline expansion will never be built” and remain aghast at the NDP for choosing to go ahead with the controversial Peace River Site C dam project, which employs 4,700 people.
The anti-fish farm lobby has a new and loud voice in the form of Fin Donnelly, a former federal politician, who has been pushing to oust BC’s salmon farmers from the oceans to grow millions of fish in tanks on land.
He has strong allies on this front with the three MLAs from the Green Party, especially Adam Olsen, who retained his riding of Saanich North and the Islands.
Both Donnelly and Olsen subscribe to the central unproven pillar of the anti-fish farm lobby groups that state salmon farms in the oceans are causing the collapse of wild stocks, despite voluminous peer reviewed science that shows otherwise.
With 20 First Nation agreements to operate in traditional territories, BC salmon farmers support close to 6,600 jobs and generate $89 million in annual federal, provincial, and municipal taxes. The salmon farmers also plan to immediately invest $113 million in aquaculture projects and generate nearly 450 new well-paid jobs, to help the province in its post COVID-19 recovery efforts. Translated that is $5.8 million in near-term annual tax revenue.
The NDP is generally supportive of the aquaculture industry as long as the farmers get First Nations consent to operate in their traditional territories on Vancouver Island, and if science shows that fish farms pose no more than a minimal risk to wild stocks.
One key issue involving the future of aquaculture in BC would be the NDP’s drive to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions and make the province a low-carbon supplier of choice for food and energy.
In BC alone, moving the current production of Atlantic salmon to land based tanks will result in an increase 22,881,000 kgs of Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions. That is equivalent to the energy needed per year to power a population of 52,200 or a city the size of North Vancouver.
In addition, raising fish on land will move the industry away from coastal communities to bigger markets in the US and make BC raised salmon, which is the provinces top seafood export, valued at about $550 million annually, much more expensive.
The NDP has been silent so far on the negative impacts of land-based aquaculture on its climate change commitments.
(image courtesy of BCNDP shows Premier John Horgan)