The activist opposition NDP has long called for B.C. Ferries to be made “part of the highway system” rather than a Crown corporation. That’s been ruled out, and there are more changes coming. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: In 2018, ideology meets reality

Site C only the start of hard choices for Premier John Horgan

In Premier John Horgan’s long series of year-end media interviews, one comment stood out for me. Horgan said his minority NDP government is going to have to “set aside our activism and start being better administrators.”

He got that right. The activist wing of the NDP has already had to absorb the defeat of its all-out effort to stop the Site C dam on the Peace River. In that case, green-left ideology, outside-funded activism and bad science ran head-on into reality, and collapsed.

There are more collisions ahead. In what was widely viewed as a consolation prize for Environment Minister George Heyman and his urban activist base, the province refused a permit for the Ajax mine outside Kamloops. This is a long-time mining town with two working copper mines nearby, and lots of jobs to show for it. But this one was too close to town, or too dusty, so goodbye to a $1 billion investment and 500 permanent jobs.

“The anti-Ajax people, they’re highly organized, with a lot of money,” said Kamloops Coun. Patricia Wallace, who cast the lone vote in favour of the mine, on a motion forced by opponents.

Do city councils have jurisdiction over mines, or dams, or pipelines? Only in NDP-Green fantasy-land, where municipal politicians continuously posture against coal, nuclear power, cell towers, minimum wage rates and many other issues far above their pay grade.

Heyman and Energy and Mines Minister Michelle Mungall have now put the weight of the provincial Crown behind Kamloops city council, and taxpayer-funded lawyers are standing by to defend this and other potentially indefensible decisions.

Speaking of lawyers, the City of Burnaby and its activist network have been harassing Kinder Morgan Canada for its federally-approved Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. NDP activists, including at least one Victoria city councillor, have trained in Greenpeace boats for direct-action protest against this project to upgrade a line that has delivered Canadian oil to the B.C. coast since the 1950s.

Among those lining up to sue B.C. over this is the Province of Alberta, where NDP Premier Rachel Notley made it clear in her year-end interviews that she is prepared to go to court if necessary. The horrifying prospect of two western NDP governments suing each other over killing yet another job-creating project cannot be lost on Horgan, or his former chief of staff John Heaney, who worked for Notley until last fall.

And then there’s Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, who is promising to impose a 100-mile diet on the province’s hospitals, with local produce being peeled and prepared to deliver to the bedsides of long-suffering patients. The gears are grinding at the Ministry of Health to cost out that exercise, and the results will not be appetizing.

Speaking of farming, 2017 ended with a crushing court judgment ordering protesters to stop harassing and squatting on salmon farms off the north end of Vancouver Island or face arrest. The judgment exposed in detail the threats, intimidation and belligerent “eviction orders” issued by people with no standing to do so.

Horgan now faces a decision to step up that fight, with 18 provincial tenures coming up for renewal to sustain an industry that has provided hundreds of jobs in remote coastal villages for decades. He has to decide what to do with an agriculture minister who has been a cheerleader for these protests for years, and has lost credibility with the industry and Ottawa, which actually regulates offshore aquaculture.

Whether it’s ICBC, B.C. Ferries or other activist targets, the NDP government is now forced to look reality straight in the eye.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


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