After a whirlwind year that started with a come-from-behind election win, Premier Christy Clark sat down with me for the traditional year-end interview in her Victoria office. Here are excerpts from that discussion. A longer version with video can be found under the Opinion tab of this newspaper’s website.
TF: Premier, you surprised a few people this year. What surprised you the most about 2013?
PCC: I guess it was the disconnect between the pollsters and the pundits, and the public. I did have a sense all the time that the citizens were thinking something different in the run-up to the election campaign. I wondered, am I missing something here, or are they missing something? And I guess it turned out that it wasn’t me that was missing something.
TF: The liquefied natural gas export project is going to use a lot of natural gas, especially in the early years. Will B.C.’s greenhouse gas reduction targets [20 per cent reduction by 2020, 80 per cent by 2050] have to be changed?
PCC: I don’t have a clear answer on that yet. We are working with the companies on exactly how we are going to structure their environmental commitments and costs, and their electricity costs versus using gas, the total royalty tax regime. We’re looking at that as one package.
However that turns out, though, this opportunity to export natural gas to Asia is the single biggest opportunity we have ever had as a province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world. In shipping this to China, we are going to help them wean themselves off some of the dirtiest coal anybody’s burning anywhere in the world.
TF: If B.C. is going to get credit for displacing coal use in Asia, shouldn’t B.C.’s coal exports, even though it’s metallurgical coal, count in our greenhouse gas total as well?
PCC: I know that the academics and pundits are going to get all mired in competing sets of numbers and studies. For me, we have a chance to do good for the world, and we’re going to take it.
TF: On oil pipelines, your agreement in November with Alberta Premier Alison Redford involves B.C. supporting her effort for a national energy strategy. What do you see it doing in the future?
PCC: The big idea that she’s trying to pursue with that is a strategy that will connect us east to west in energy. Energy grids are much better connected north to south than they are east to west. So she’s trying to pursue a pan-Canadian strategy for the exchange of energy, whether that’s hydroelectricity or natural gas or whatever it is.
We haven’t been intimately involved with it until recently, so we’ll see where it goes.
TF: There’s a perception out there, fuelled by the opposition, that you campaigned against oil pipelines and now you’re turning the tanker around, as it were, to be in support of them. What do you say to that?
PCC: It’s typical of the other guys to reinterpret and misquote. That’s what they do. They’re in opposition. What I said was, we have five conditions that must be met in order for heavy oil to be considered to go ahead in British Columbia. That has not changed.
The five conditions remain in place. As of today, none of them have been met. The only thing that is different today, from before the election, is that now I no longer stand alone in supporting the five conditions. I have one other premier supporting me, and that’s Alison Redford.
Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. email@example.com