It’s still easy being Green

Tom Fletcher begins a series examining the political parties ahead of the B.C. elections.

VICTORIA –This is the first of a series of policy commentaries on the four main parties contesting the 2013 B.C. election.

I’m starting with the B.C. Green Party, which has higher than usual hopes for the 2013 election. It was also the first to put out a substantial policy document, albeit one that is still being debated and altered.

Green Book 2013 continues the Utopian positions that only a party with no chance of forming a government has the luxury to put forward. For example, they would double the area of parks in B.C., but take 100 years to do it.

Immediately, they would almost double the carbon tax, taking it from seven to 12 cents on a litre of gasoline.

Greens would extend this steeply increased carbon tax to industries such as natural gas and cement production. Leader Jane Sterk told me she expects cement producers and the like to adapt, rather than shut down as their competitive position erodes.

And what about the extra billions in carbon tax revenues? Sterk says most should continue to go to income tax reductions, as is now the case, because the purpose is to change consumption patterns, not to increase overall tax revenue. Most, but not all.

“We think there is an argument to be made for putting, for a period of time, the increased revenue from the carbon tax into creating the infrastructure that allows people to benefit from a carbon tax,” Sterk said.

That means transit, and potentially retrofits of homes and other buildings as well. Tax increase aside, this is essentially the NDP position too.

The Greens emphasize wind and geothermal power. Sterk faces the awkward task of arguing against hydroelectric expansion.

A Green government would cancel the Site C dam project on the Peace River. Sterk says it would only serve as a subsidy to liquefied natural gas exports, which she doesn’t believe materialize as international competitors develop.

The Greens’ star candidate, University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, agrees. Both point to vast reserves of Russian gas that may well get to Asia more quickly and cheaply.

Sterk said the 35,000 existing gas wells in northern B.C. “are not going to be shut down.” Actually, in the absence of LNG exports, that is exactly what would happen to many of them. The U.S. has its own shale gas supplies, and is B.C.’s only current export customer. Converting transport trucks and BC Ferries to LNG fuel isn’t going to maintain the vast industry blooming in northern B.C.

The official Green Party position is to place a moratorium on B.C. gas drilling while a comprehensive water use policy is developed. Current innovations such as reusing municipal wastewater are ignored.

The Green platform also demands disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, which the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has already done.

If one were to design a self-fulfilling prophecy that B.C.’s LNG project is doomed to fail, the Green Party platform would be a good place to start.

Reading through Green Book 2013, I’m left with the impression that much of it remains calculated as a soothing message for urban voters who have been convinced it’s courageous to drive their cars down to an anti-tanker protest.

If Weaver, Sterk or any other Greens get elected, it will be surfing a wave of protest votes from people weary of the B.C. Liberals and the NDP. It will not be due to the practicality or even internal consistency of their polices.

It’s still pretty easy being Green.

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

 

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