B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
Credits: Carmine Marinelle/QMI AGENCY
In a business dominated by hucksters, charlatans and snake oil sellers, Christy Clark stands apart. In a field populated by hypocrites and phonies, the erstwhile BC premier takes duplicity - and recklessness - to an entirely new level.
Meet Christy Clark, nation-wrecker.
She's a Liberal, but she pretended to be a conservative. Nobody in BC believed it. She ran for the BC Liberal leadership claiming to be an "outsider," even though she had previously been deputy premier. Nobody believed that, either. She promised to lead the BC Liberals back to government, but she instead piloted the party into last, or nearly last, place. Nobody thinks she's going to win the next election.
But now, finally, Clark - consistently rated by pollsters as one of the most unpopular premiers in the country - has seized upon an issue that may resuscitate a political career that for the past year or so had been deader than disco. Now, Clark has seen the path to political salvation.
And if it rewrites the rules of Confederation, if it sets off an inter-provincial trade war, costs jobs and destabilizes the country - well, that's apparently fine with Christy Clark.
The issue, as most know by now, is the Northern Gateway pipeline. The pipeline, proposed by Enbridge, would see bitumen carried from a terminal north of Edmonton to Kitimat, BC From there, it would be shipped abroad, principally to Asia. Alberta would take in an estimated $32 billion in revenue from the pipeline, while BC could receive up to $10 billion.
Clark and her ministers have said that isn't enough. They want untold billions more because they believe BC is taking all the risk, and Alberta is taking all the reward. Alberta Premier Alison Redford has said no to Clark's demand for a share of royalties.
Approval of the pipeline is a federal matter. Legally, BC has no say in the matter. However, Clark and her minions have broadly hinted that they will deny permits required for the pipeline to go ahead. They've even suggested they'll turn off the electrical power to the pipeline.
If that sounds like inter-provincial piracy to you - or even the sort of tactic favoured by the anti-democratic thugs who run OPEC - you wouldn't be alone. Outside of BC, plenty of folks have reacted with astonishment at Clark's foolish stunt.
Inside BC, however, it's had the desired effect. It's popular. The BC New Democrats, the BC Conservatives and various aboriginal leaders have all more or less taken the same position. Some pundits think Clark may have finally figured out a way to resuscitate the corpse of the BC Liberal Party.
Maybe. Perhaps. But at what cost?
What Clark is demanding, say many, will actually hurt Canada. If she gets her way, "it would be so destructive to Canadian federalism," says Michael Percy, an energy policy economist. For the country, Clark's approach is "dangerous," says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, and it's a "troubling precedent." It would "fundamentally" change the way in which Confederation works, says Redford.
Here's why. Lots of other occasionally controversial products are transported across BC to market. Saskatchewan uranium. Quebec mining resources. Ontario lumber. Will Clark demand now a share of the royalties for those products, too? Will she threaten to keep those provinces out of BC if she doesn't get her way? Why not, if not?
Canada was built, quite literally, on the notion that free and fair trade is a good thing. Our borders were defined by those who sought to get products to market, from west to east, and east to west.
What Christy Clark is doing, with a desperate bid to get re-elected, isn't just against Alberta - it's against Canada itself. It is no better than what the separatists do when they periodically seize power in Quebec.
It is dishonest, it is reckless, it is destructive. Whether you support the pipeline or not, you have to agree: When one part of a country holds another part of the country hostage, it's bad for the country itself.