Almost every year when I get a new calendar I sit down to ponder what’s likely to happen in the coming year. I don’t use a crystal ball or tea leaves – generally I just take a few moments to ponder the economic and political trends and imagine how they may extend into the future. It’s not an exact science, but my record of predictions is pretty good.
- More civil disobedience.
- Tankers will get political.
- Vancouver’s role in exporting global warming pollution will get attention.
- Rise of B.C. Conservatives will kneecap provincial Liberals.
- Calls for governance reform in the CRD will gain momentum.
Throughout the world people are getting increasingly frustrated by their political leaders’ lack of progress on the big challenges facing humanity. With the global climate and economy in jeopardy, many feel that traditional means of dialogue and decision-making are broken and corrupted by the influence of corporate interests. The solution: take it to the street. While British Columbia is not Cairo, or New York, tangible disconnects do exist between what people want and what our political leaders are delivering.
the meltdown that is coming if we don’t dramatically reduce our heat-trapping pollution is becoming clearer every week. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays strongman for the oil and gas industry and B.C. Premier Christy Clark promotes virtually any polluting industrial project she can get a photo op from, people are desperately searching for a way to break the paralysis. For people deeply concerned about the liveability of the world their children will inherit, there are few paths forward other than active civil resistance (civil disobedience occurs when people consciously refuse to obey certain laws, customs or commands of a government with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or policies).
In British Columbia this means that large infrastructure projects that will tie our province into selling fossil fuels for generations are likely to become targets for civil disobedience. Enbridge’s proposed oil tanker and pipeline project in northern B.C., Kinder Morgan’s plan to quadruple the number of oil tankers passing through Burrard Inlet and Port Metro Vancouver’s expansive coal export facilities are likely targets. Another trend fuelling potential boots in the streets is the growing perception that the one per cent and their political supporters are rigging the rules in their favour. While the Occupy movement is in transition, I expect it will reconstitute and focus more narrowly on some of the one per cent corporate fat cats benefiting from rigged tax and environments laws. Potential targets are: Jimmy Pattison because of his massive investment in exporting B.C. resources (coal, salmon, timber), Warren Buffet’s Burlington Northern & Sant Fe’s trains importing U.S thermal coal to export for coal-fired power plants in China, as well as coal giant Teck, the largest donor to the governing provincial Liberals.
Also, First Nations are likely to increasingly blockade logging, mining and oil and gas projects to both bring attention to the poverty in their communities and the enormous amount of wealth being generated from the territories. Increasingly I’m hearing First Nations leaders say that the only way to get Ottawa and Victoria to pay attention is to create “uncertainty.” Getting between corporations and their money is the best way to get governments to commit to change.
Premier Clark continues to sit on the fence on Enbridge’s proposal to bisect British Columbia with two pipelines that will bring 225 oil tankers to the north coast each year. The premier says she will await the recommendations of the regulatory process that has just started.
While she may want to avoid a decision, Premier Clark won’t have that luxury (especial now that Prime Minister Harper and Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver have put their thumb on the scale with their incendiary remarks about foreign radicals highjacking the regulatory process).
By the end of next year, between 200,000 and 250,000 British Columbians will have joined the growing movement to ban tankers. More than 20,000 have already going the movement in first half of January.
These No Tankers supporters aren’t randomly distributed across the province – they are strategically located in many of the battleground ridings that will determine who forms the next provincial government. People in battleground ridings – Oak Bay-Gordon Head, North Saanich, Comox Valley, Burnaby North, Burnaby Lougheed, Maple Ridge-Mission, Vancouver-Fraserview, Vancouver-Fairview, and Vancouver-Point Grey – are organizing and the numbers are growing fast.
The last federal election proved that oil tankers can be a voting issue. What many people don’t know is that in seven of nine B.C. ridings where oil tankers were an election issue last May the pro-oil tanker candidates lost. Conservative candidates Troy de Souza, Gary Lunn, and Deborah Meredith lost by narrow margins in part because of their support for oil tankers.
The same will be true in the upcoming provincial election.
The battle lines over West Coast tankers will also intensify now that Kinder Morgan is planning to quadruple the number of oil tankers setting sail from its facility in Burnaby. Municipal opposition is already solid with the mayors of Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria already calling on the federal government for extra consultation. The Islands Trust and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) are also taking action.
Outreach efforts began a few months ago to expand the No Tankers support base throughout the Port Metro Vancouver municipalities and battleground ridings. This will have political consequences beginning in 2012, especially if Clark tries to remain on the fence.
Vancouver has set the ambitious goal of becoming the greenest city in the world during the next eight years.
These efforts could be sabotaged by the rapidly expanding exports of coal and oil coming from its ports. Vancouverites will be appalled to discover that Jimmy Pattison’s Westshore coal export facility near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal is actually the largest single source of global warming pollution in North America. That’s right folks, the largest source of pollution on the continent.
While the port is not under the city’s jurisdiction, they do have a seat on the “port cities committee” of Port Metro Vancouver. As civil resistance increases the notoriety of Vancouver’s climate unfriendly exports, city officials will have no other option but to begin flexing their muscles with provincial and federal authorities.
The juxtaposition of the city’s green aspirations and the polluting reality will get interesting in 2012.
Recently enshrined B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins will be the political game changer in 2012.
If Cummins continues to rise in the polls, Clark and the B.C. Liberals can kiss goodbye any chance of being re-elected. Even if the B.C. Conservatives fall from 20 per cent to 10 per cent Clark’s chances to form government will be slim.
Elections in B.C. are generally two-horse races. When third parties in B.C. garner around 10 per cent in an election, strange things happen.
- In the 1972 election – the last time provincial Conservatives pulled more tha
n 10 per cent of the vote – the three-way split vaulted the NDP to a landslide over W.A.C. Bennett’s Social Credit Party.
- In 1991, the rise of Gordon Wilson’s Liberals (or the demise of Rita’s Johnson’s SoCreds) led to a NDP landslide.
- In 1996 the Reform Party attracted almost 10 per cent (and the Progressive Democratic Alliance got almost six per cent) and the NDP formed government despite coming second in the popular vote.
- In 2001 the Green Party pulled almost 12 per cent and the B.C. Liberals won a landslide.
While Adrian Dix and the NDP’s strengthening polling numbers must concern the B.C. Liberals, if the B.C. Conservatives solidify their vote at around 10 per cent it will be fatal to Clark’s election chances and probably her leadership.
Clark’s team seems to be counting on right-leaning voters to return to her party once the election is called. Likely some will, but I think she is underestimating the betrayal many of these voters feel towards her party and Gordon Campbell because of the HST and Campbell’s policies on First Nations and the environment. This underlies Clark’s obsession with distancing herself from Campbell and his legacy, although she would love to have some of Campbell’s undervalued success in keeping right-leaning voters in one big tent.
Only two things could potentially save Clark and the Liberals:
- 1.If the provincial Tories are unable to build an efficient “Get Out The Vote” machine and cannot convert their polling numbers into votes; and
- If the mercurial Conservative leader Cummins implodes before the election.
Given the high-profile federal Conservative insiders rumoured to be joining up with Cummins, the latter is more likely.
So far the former MP Cummins, who holds controversial views on both First Nations and women, has avoided major mistakes, but there are 17 months until the election an eternity for a loose cannon like Cummins.
We will soon be able to tell which way the winds are blowing for the B.C. Conservatives. Now there are two by-elections that have to be held this spring: Port Moody-Coquitlam (to replace Liberal Ian Black) and Chilliwack-Hope (to replace Liberal Barry Penner).
If the B.C. Conservatives maintain their position in the polls I predict more incumbent Liberal MLAs will retire. I expect at least four by-elections in 2012 and perhaps more.
Cities everywhere are facing enormous challenges. The combination of an increasingly unstable global economy and climate, growing inequality, the rising cost of fuel and food and downsizing of provincial and federal governments, means our local governments are going to have to quickly restructure how they make decisions about the big challenges we collectively face to feed ourselves, house ourselves and transport ourselves. Unfortunately, our regional decision-making structures are not up to these challenges and need to be modernized. The voting structure at BC Transit and the Capital Regional District are ill-equipped to deal with these larger problems that no one municipal government can resolve by itself.
Despite years of effort, little progress has been made in developing a top-notch regional public transportation system, in solving the growing homelessness problem, in protecting and expanding local food production or in managing growth and protecting green spaces from reckless development.
Given the controversy surrounding sewage, light rail transit and the land-use decisions in Juan de Fuca and Central Saanich, some critics – particularly developers and their political supporters – are calling for the 13 municipalities in the CRD to be amalgamated into one body like Ottawa or Toronto.
This won’t work on southern Vancouver Island. Many of the communities in the CRD have distinct cultures, and the makeup of the CRD is too diverse for a one-size-fits-all solution. The challenges facing Sooke are different from those of downtown Victoria. The character of Saanich is unlike that of the Juan de Fuca area.
That said, there is need for modern decision-making rules and structures that facilitate co-operative decision-making on the enormous collective challenges facing our region. We must consider how together we can create and implement a plan to make our region the most liveable in the world.
Many influential people in the region are searching for a path forward on these issues. I predict a conversation about developing a “made in the region” solution will begin to percolate in 2012, and a solution will coalesce in 2013 just in time for the next round of municipal elections.
“Politics is not predictions and politics is not observations. Politics is what we do. Politics is what we do, politics is what we create, by what we work for, by what we hope for and what we dare to imagine.” – Paul Wellstone, Former U.S. Senator
- “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson (1874-1956), Chairman of IBM, 1943
- “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895
- “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899
- “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
- “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.
- “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
- “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” — A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
- “All attempts at artificial aviation are not only dangerous to life but doomed to failure from an engineering standpoint.” — editor of ‘The Times’ of London, 1905
- “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” — Bill Gates (1955-), in 1981.
- “Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction”. — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872
- “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962
- “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” — Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
- “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre
- “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon”. — Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon- Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873
- “You would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck…I have no time for such nonsense.” — Napoleon, commenting on Fulton’s Steamship
- “Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.” — Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the Audion tube and a father of radio, 25 February, 1967.
- “The aeroplane will never fly.” — Lord Haldane, Minister of War, Britain, 1907
< li>”But what … is it good for?” — Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
Image courtesy of Bolstin on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.