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The B.C. election was proceeding along fairly uneventfully until NDP Leader Adrian Dix decided to make it interesting.
Mr. Dix used Earth Day to reverse his previously held position on the proposed $5.4-billion Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. As recently as two weeks ago, Mr. Dix was saying that – as a matter of principle – he would not prejudge the pipeline builder’s plans until they’d been filed as part of the federal environmental review process later this year. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait any longer.
Now Mr. Dix is against the project, saying he doesn’t believe Vancouver should become a major oil exporting port. Kinder Morgan wants to triple its current pipeline capacity, from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000 – a move that would significantly increase tanker traffic in the port of Vancouver.
While surprising, the NDP Leader’s position isn’t the roll of the dice it might seem. There are plenty of people in the province who agree with his position, and not just those who make up the enviro brigade. Support for the expanded pipeline is particularly low in the Vancouver area. Many First Nations groups don’t want it, either. That said, it’s widely accepted that Mr. Dix jumped off his earlier stand because of the threat an ascendant Green Party poses for him.
There’s no doubt the NDP weighed the benefits of coming out against the pipeline proposal with the downside risks. For instance, Mr. Dix is sure to lose some support for flip-flopping on a matter of principle for crass political purposes. But he must also deal with the possible instability he has created in the province’s investment climate.
As fate would have it, this meshes nicely with the election theme that the Liberals have been hammering home: that they are the party of economic development and jobs, while the NDP represents higher taxes and financial Armageddon. Against the backdrop of Mr. Dix’s Kinder Morgan disclosure, the Liberals’ overarching campaign narrative has found new resonance.
“I believe in getting to yes with economic development and Adrian Dix starts from no,” Premier Christy Clark said at a campaign stop in Sicamous this week. “He’s not talking about growing economic development, he’s talking about growing government.”
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