‘Progressive’ politicians enter hazardous territory lobbying the Vancouver Board of Trade behind closed doors
I find it distasteful — and disturbing — when supposedly left-leaning politicians prostrate themselves at the feet of financiers and industrialists. Last Thursday’s keynote addresses by Jim Carr, Rachel Notley and Ian Anderson to the Vancouver Board of Trade’s “Access, Partnerships and Responsible Energy Development” symposium raised a troubling flag: West Coast bound pipeline schemes originally designed by Conservatives to strengthen Western power now drive dangerous wedges between Canada’s progressive politicians.
Let’s start with distasteful. The very same moment the words “time to end the debate and build Trans Mountain” were leaving Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson’s lips, legislation to end the type of corporate influence possibly leveraged by his corrupt parent company to put this project on the table in the first place was becoming law. Ban Big Money laws had finally passed the Legislature of British Columbia — a place where profound debates about our province’s future should occur.
Unfortunately “closed door” was the state of affairs at the invite-only gathering in downtown Vancouver. B.C.’s monied class had been brought together to hear why a premier from outside our province and a cabinet minister whose job it is to represent all Canadians consciously decided to bypass the voting public and attempt to influence the very captains of industry B.C.’s new laws to Ban Big Money are trying to rein in.
One has to think there are consequences for that type of anti-democratic behaviour.
Do the progressive wings of the Liberal and New Democratic parties actually think it’s OK for their key leaders to climb into bed with climate change deniers, bankers and lobbyists, while the very people they pander to during election campaigns are standing outside on Vancouver’s rain-soaked streets?
Whether or not you are the type of person who would be quite happy to extend the fossil fuel age until we are all 100 feet underwater (and therefore support the raison d’etre of the Anderson/Carr/Notley mission), I would hope you would at least feel distinctly uneasy about the precedent-setting tactics this unholy alliance is using to both disregard Indigenous rights and title unique to B.C. and undermine the inherent self-determination provinces retain to protect their economy, territory, water and resources.
A Western Liberal, a New Democrat Premier and Canada’s representative of the Enron-esque energy corporation, Kinder Morgan, join forces to undermine democratic decision-making in B.C.
In my view, the Board of Trade undertaking is the Canadian equivalent of a proxy-war. On one side we have an unlikely, and let’s be honest, unwieldy alliance: Federal Liberals, Texas oilmen and Alberta New Democrats using Harper’s legislation and the National Energy Board to circumvent democratic decision-making processes with the goal of making the wealthiest people richer. On the other hand, everyday British Columbians from Coldwater to North Burnaby have fought for years to lift the veil on decision-making, yet still find themselves completely shuttered from processes that could forever alter their lives.
These private conversations about energy and policy undertaken in the posh confines of the Vancouver Board of Trade are dangerous adventures. They mark disturbing new milestones for the centre-left in Canada who, by choosing Howe Street over Main Street, are mirroring the path well travelled by Clintonites — to ruinous effect.
Instead of combining political capital and winning personalities into a team that can unite Canadians to combat climate change, we find an Alberta premier attempting to leverage federal and corporate power to bring short-term advantage to her economy (witness Canada’s twisted climate strategy) and a willing partner in Minister Carr who represents a government hell-bent on trade with China, a controversy in and of itself.
In the process, our alternative energy future, balanced economy, ‘progressive’ values and principles, plus the opportunity for a truly national public conversation on the most pressing challenges of our time, have been relegated to the sacrifice zone.
Whether it’s the abandonment of movement-building in favour of naked self interest by cornerstone allies (think union bosses fighting for outdated projects like Site C and Trans Mountain) or parties claiming high ground on principles and values during campaigns only to abandon them in favour of gaming our federation’s working relationships, a self-inflicted schism has developed on Canada’s centre-left. Beyond whose ragged edges hostile territory awaits.
I don’t envy our new B.C. government. Overloaded with challenging decisions and on dangerous political territory from the beginning, they must reconcile their place: Will they take the limo to cocktail hour, enjoy those box seats and sit under the warmth of the gas-heated patio at the Vancouver Club? Or will they hoist a plank out across the divide, embrace the cold and windy streets, and stand for change alongside their base of supporters who got them elected?
I can only imagine the fallout should Jim and Rachel’s dangerous adventure succeed.