Few issues (abortion?) divide politicians and potential voters like one that pits jobs/economy versus environment.
Less than a year before a B.C. election, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal is forcing political leaders to take a definitive stand on a controversial issue.
Concerned about an ecological catastrophe, especially a spill from a tanker into pristine West Coast waters, the Greens and the NDP oppose the project.
If elected premier in May, however, NDP leader Adrian Dix might hear the siren call of big oil money, particularly after the revelation Wednesday that B.C. posted a $1.8-billion deficit for the 2011/12 fiscal year.
B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins issued three conditions this week that his party has for the pipeline. The main one, a demand that B.C. be adequately compensated for risks to its environment, echoed one of five points outlined in a statement by Premier Christy Clark.
That demand, and her threat to block the $5.5-billion project if B.C. is not properly compensated, has pitted her against Premier Alison Redford of Alberta.
Redford rejects any suggestion that the provinces share revenue, stridently claiming that Clark is trying to undermine Confederation.
Clark battling oil-rich, cow-punching Alberta rednecks for B.C.’s benefit? Redford rebuffing cannabis-puffing, left-leaning B.C. hippies? Politically, it’s gold for both premiers.
Clark is walking a fine line.
With the Liberals still suffering from Gordon Campbell’s HST debacle, she’s caught between the lurking NDP and the potentially relevant Conservatives eager to steal right-of-centre votes.
She can’t afford to lose the votes of people legitimately concerned about ecological Armageddon or a business community that comprises much of her party’s support.
Like any debt-saddled B.C. premier these days, she also can’t entirely ignore the siren call of big oil money.