The BC NDP fears debate over its true oil and gas agenda
How far will the party go to suppress grassroots concern over fracking, pipelines?
It’s a simple question: if elected premier, when would you stop approving new oil and gas projects in British Columbia? Good luck getting David Eby, or any elected member of the BC NDP, to answer.
Hurricanes, floods, fires and drought are killing people and destroying communities in B.C. and around the world. Scientists and diplomats are begging rich, fossil-fuel extracting countries to stop making the situation worse.
But that’s exactly what the B.C. government is doing. The province has approved not one but four major gas export pipelines. We still give subsidies to foreign oil companies and rebates for gas appliances here at home. The industry plans thousands of new fracking wells in B.C.
Without a major shakeup, the NDP is on track to blow B.C.’s weak climate targets – and condemn people here and around the world to deep suffering.
Youth, climate voters desperate for a plan
Grassroots members of the governing BC NDP have been pushing for a debate on oil and gas expansion. But the party establishment keeps shutting them down. Meanwhile, Coastal GasLink pipeline crews have begun drilling under the sacred salmon river at the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory.
The TC Energy megaproject, guarded by heavily-armed RCMP troopers and swarms of private security contractors, is just the tip of the spear. Behind it, Enbridge and TC have three more pipelines lined up to punch through Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan territory, if CGL can pave the way.
Alarmed by the government’s record on this and other issues, climate justice advocate Anjali Appadurai launched a bid for BC NDP leader. An estimated 10,000 members signed up to support her vision for a swift transition away from fossil fuels. Party favourite David Eby, who has run a low-profile campaign promising continuity with Premier John Horgan’s agenda, only managed to sign up 6,000.
Debates between the candidates are scheduled for early November. Eby would face off against Appadurai and Nlaka’pamux academic Cherry Smiley. This could finally offer grassroots members the public forum they’ve been waiting for. But pundits question whether the party will even let Appadurai take the stage.
It looks increasingly like party bigwigs are trying to torpedo the only candidate with a strong stance on climate, Anjali Appadurai – so they can install Eby as premier and continue the status quo.
What happened to the NDP?
The short answer is they won government in a province where powerful unelected interests have outsized influence over public policy. This has been the case since B.C. was claimed as a resource colony for the British Empire in 1858. But the power of the international oil and gas cartel is on a whole other level.
Earlier in their careers, many BC NDP MLAs made a name for themselves standing up to the fossil fuel industry. Nathan Cullen, Fin Donnelly and Murray Rankin once spoke with urgency and moral clarity as federal MPs. Niki Sharma was the Senior Oil & Gas campaigner at Stand.earth. The list goes on.
In opposition, Horgan’s New Democrats voted against Premier Christy Clark’s “sweetheart deal” for Royal Dutch Shell, Petronas and Petro China’s massive gas export terminal in Kitimat. But once elected, they offered the LNG Canada consortium an even sweeter deal. Clark praised them for the flip-flop.
Part of the problem is the power of corporate lobbyists. After Horgan became premier in 2017, oil and gas companies hired a slew of NDP insiders to lobby their old friends in government. As Attorney General, David Eby failed to close loopholes or force the corporations to disclose how much they spend on lobbying.
Those party insiders have a direct interest in continuing the buildout of fracking and pipeline infrastructure, no matter the consequences. And it’s many of the same lobbyists now demonizing Appadurai, grassroots NDP members and the broader climate justice movement.
The ugly world of party politics
Many of us came to the conclusion long ago that if British Columbians were to have any hope of checking the relentless power of the oil and gas industry, we would have to organize politically. That means encouraging people to get involved in things like regulatory hearings, elections and party democracy.
It’s also important to support the authority of Indigenous governments, and other forms of organizing – for example mutual aid for people facing climate disasters. But to have any hope of preventing even worse breakdown, we can’t avoid the political arena. If nobody is willing to engage with our flawed democratic institutions, the rich elites only deepen their control.
Dogwood has encouraged local people to get involved in grassroots politics and demand better from their politicians since 1999. We’ve never endorsed a party or a candidate, but we’re happy to point out a politician’s record – or celebrate when they stand up to corporate power.
Our stance on oil and gas expansion hasn’t changed. Years ago it was conservatives in power and conservative partisans angry at us for organizing to stop oil tanker projects. Now it’s New Democrats in power, pushing fracking and pipelines and attacking their critics.
The BC NDP is clearly struggling with the contradiction between its record in government and the values of many of the activists who make up the party. They can keep trying to dodge a public debate about fossil fuels and Indigenous rights. But as the climate emergency worsens, grassroots members will find new ways to force the issue. It might be better to have the conversation soon.
August 30, 2022 was the 50th anniversary of the election of the Dave Barrrett NDP Government in BC. The present NDP is in direct conflict with the vision of the NDP when it was founded in 1961 and when it formed the first government in BC in 1972. Instead of promoting clear cut logging we formed a legislative committee on forestry and fisheries to prevent clear-cutting along salmon bearing streams and rivulets that ran through the forest. Instead of subsidizing fossil fuels we put royalties on exports of coal and natural gas. Our legislative committee on oil spills banned offshore drilling and opposed supertankers from coming within Canada’s 12 mile limit. Instead of building dams we stopped the Moran Dam on the Fraser and Site C on the Peace and introduced energy alternatives. And of course we brought in the Agricultural Land Reserve to protect farmland rather than flooding farmland for Site C. The debate today is 50 years in the making. It’s time to take back the party of Dave Barrett and Tommy Douglas.
I was compelled to join the NDP party for one main purpose. That is to help Appadurai create some debate within the party we are stuck with for the next 2 years. Maybe some changes can be made within the party? I certainly hope so. A new Premier who’s not just another party hack would be like a breath of fresh air.
What are we all going to do when countless gallons of BC’s pure fresh drinking water have been used to frack for petroleum products?
We can’t drink oil and gas.
We can’t live without water.
Our soils can’t grow food without water……
Glad to see this. A few years back I stopped donating to the BC NDP though I still give to the national party. My great hope is that enough of us will get behind Anjali and see the BC party turn a corner.
Here’s a suggestion:
How about if your group ( and other like minded groups) decided to step outside of the established political system and went directly to the people by setting up a forum in which everybody is encouraged to debate issues like this one concerning fossil fuel development. Choose a sample of citizens who will be educated on the subject by being exposed to ALL points of view. Then, let these representatives of the people decide. With appropriate sampling procedures they should accurately represent the dominant opinion of the total population.
Armed with this information, the people would be clearly made aware of just how closely the actions of our elected representatives in government agreed with the viewpoints of the majority of their constituents ( had they all been given the same opportunity to be similarly informed).
I am not talking here about the knee jerk opinions of citizens but, rather, the viewpoint of people who have been properly informed of all viewpoints. The result would be much improved over polling a mish mash of individuals, many of whom are either just plain ignorant or overly influenced by special interests who have the financial and political power to control the conversation. Such powerful groups, of course, would like nothing better than to keep the masses in ignorance.
Such system would be an exercise in True democracy rather than the money dominated system which the powers that be have created to ensure that their interests always have a leg up on the interests of others in society.
Re: if elected premier, when would you stop approving new oil and gas projects in British Columbia? Good luck getting David Eby, or any elected member of the BC NDP, to answer.
No so. Anjali Appadurai, if elected, I believe would stop these devastating projects.
Am I right in thinking that some of the NDP MPs have claimed that the province needs the oil and gas revenues to enable a “painless” conversion to a greener future?