Much has been said over the course of the past four months about B.C. premier Christy Clark’s stance on the Northern Gateway pipeline. The pipeline itself is, and always has been, a contentious issue all its own, but it’s the specific interpretation of Clark’s reaction to the project that I’m referring to here. Let’s focus on one problem at a time.
The Northern Gateway pipeline is, of course, a massive pipeline. One proposed as a means of transporting large quantities of bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands west to the B.C. coast for shipping globally. A lingering concern ever since the project was announced has been just how British Columbians would react to being the middlemen between Alberta’s oil industry and the world market. Spoiler alert: Predictably, not well.
Who can blame them? Not only does the constant threat of a physical spill loom, but also the inevitable emissions damage to our planet’s atmosphere. I digress.
Clark, the Liberal leader of B.C. has been the centre of attention more or less since it was made clear that neither she nor her province would roll over in an attempt to green light the ambitious project. Ever since her rather opposing view has been made public, the perception of her as a politician and as an individual has changed.
Although Clark’s now notorious checklist contained five individual talking points, there’s only been one that’s dominated the tone of the conversation; the fifth:
“5. British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of proposed heavy oil projects that reflect the risk borne by the province.”
Never mind that the first four items have been conveniently overlooked by the media altogether, it’s been the insistence that the fifth be the focal point of any discussion over her stance’s merit that’s reminded us all why following politics is as dispiriting and futile as the people who watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo joke about.
For months, criticisms over Clark’s approach to the situation have written off the hard stance as either ignorance, profiteering or political positioning by an unpopular politician. I’m not saying they’re necessarily wrong, but they do set a disappointing precedent.
This isn’t a defense of Clark’s term as a Canadian politician, nor is it a post intent on advocating for or against the Northern Gateway pipeline itself. Rather, it’s a reminder of the type of conversation we should be having when the topic is as significant as a billion-dollar, time zone-spanning, atmosphere threatening, infrastructural juggernaut.
Christy Clark may not have environmental sanctity at heart, nor even anything more than simply bumping up a dismal approval rating by pandering to a popular attitude, but to say either with certainty undermines an individual reputable enough to be elected to provincial leadership – I’m looking at you, basically any newspaper anywhere. It undermines the rest of us too, those capable enough to make our own decisions based off of accurate information.
If we can’t at least open our minds to the fact that maybe she made five conditions for a reason – and craft our stances either for or against said conditions accordingly – then we’re fighting a losing battle, a disappointing one where nobody actually wins anything. (Just kidding, son, the world is your oyster).
Rather than painting Clark as a desperate politician hell-bent on selling out the environment for the right price, let’s ask that our media finally admit that if an idea is facing this much opposition, it’s probably for a reason.
Anything less is tragic.