Don’t count B.C. Conservatives out

Tom Fletcher inspects the platform of the B.C. Conservatives.

VICTORIA – As the B.C. NDP launched its election campaign last week with a package of income tax hikes, higher than those in the B.C. Liberals’ election budget of February, a third party leader toured the province with plans to get rid of the carbon tax.

It’s not readily apparent from his recently released “fiscal framework” document, but B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins told me his plan to phase out B.C.’s carbon tax does not include raising income tax rates that were lowered to make the carbon tax “revenue neutral.” He predicts revenue growth.

I reached Cummins in Prince George, where he was continuing his aggressive courtship of northern B.C. with an announcement that federal gas tax revenues would be redirected to a new fund for locally determined road improvements. Earlier he vowed to study the deplorable state of northern ambulance service.

Cummins has more good news for the north: that’s where a regionally phased elimination of the carbon tax would begin. It’s also the area of thinnest population, meaning the impact on the B.C. treasury would be less. This is, after all, a tax budgeted to bring in $1.2 billion in the current year.

The B.C. Conservatives continually remind people that the carbon tax falls disproportionately on rural, remote and particularly northern folks who face long distances, long winters, and public transit options ranging from slim to none. This has ceased to be much of an issue for the urban B.C. majority, who are focused on bridge tolls, ferry fares and the like.

The B.C. Conservatives decry the population decline of rural B.C., with international immigration almost exclusively going to big cities, while temporary foreign workers increasingly fill agricultural and industrial jobs in the Interior. The party’s still-evolving platform echoes the NDP’s call for more skills training and increased completion rates for trade apprentices.

Cummins is in favour of the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline and the massive buildup of infrastructure needed to add liquefied natural gas to B.C.’s energy export mix. He sees that enormous industrial expansion as the path to shift population growth beyond the south of the province.

Cummins is surprisingly cool to one industrial project, the proposed Site C dam on the Peace River, calling himself undecided. He also sounds skeptical about the B.C. Liberal plan to extend B.C.’s electricity grid and use that to develop further independent power.

This sounds to me like political positioning rather than economic analysis. An anti-Site C independent candidate has significant support in Peace River North, creating a three-way struggle for a key B.C. Conservative target.

The B.C. Conservative platform also totals up the billions in long-term electricity contracts with private power producers and suggests the price for this clean energy has been set too high. This is another echo of the NDP’s vague position.

So if the B.C. Conservatives are gung-ho on oil and gas and think the carbon tax is a mistake, do they think there should be any effort to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions?

Cummins sidestepped that question, preferring to talk about conventional air pollution, whether it’s in the Fraser Valley or as a byproduct of a northern industrial boom.

As a long-time former Reform and Conservative MP, Cummins is acutely aware that the urban media will leap with extra vigour on any perceived gaffe of the right wing. Should a Conservative let slip that he’s skeptical about global warming, or worse, express a rustic view on social issues, all Hell would break loose.

The B.C. Conservatives have started with the most detailed, costed platform of any party. Don’t count them out.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press. tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

Just Posted

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Blueprints for the seniors housing project in Port Hardy. (North Island Seniors Housing Foundation photo)
BC Housing declines North Island Seniors Housing Foundation’s proposal to build units

BC Housing will be explaining why exactly the project was declined at a June 18 meeting

An aerial view of the marine oil-spill near Bligh Island in Nootka sound that the Canadian Coast Guard posted in a live social media feed in December. ( Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Oil from vessel that sank in 1968 off Vancouver Island to be removed

DFO hires Florida firm to carefully remove oil from MV Schiedyk in Nootka Sound starting in mid-June

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read