Sunday, July 29, 2012

Politics in the Pipeline

One thing I like about Twitter is the way that it's democratized communication, person-to-person and citizen-to-government. Once it achieved critical mass with people signing up left and right, politicians started creating their own accounts so they could have a new way to spew talking points at the people. Yesterday BC's embattled Premier Christy Clark--or some government functionary responsible for impersonating her on Twitter--used it to signalboost an op-ed in the Globe and Mail about the ongoing Northern Gateway Pipeline back-and-forth, and the five points that would be necessary to get British Columbia behind the project.

The only natural thing to do was to call her out. Of course I didn't get any reply. That, at least, hasn't changed since the pre-Twitter days. It's still just as necessary. The one thing politicians must not be allowed to do is believe that the average person agrees with them unless demonstrated otherwise. We need to register our opposition, again and again, whenever the opportunity rises--because this is all just the preshow to the BC Liberals' spectacular annihilation next year.

Back to Premier Clark, though--what's she saying? Whatever it is, it includes a lot of buzzwords. Her fifth point, about British Columbia getting "its fare share of the fiscal an economic benefits" resulting from the pipeline, has gotten the most traction in media so far, but what I was most interested in was her second and third points. Namely, the institution of "world-leading marine oil-spill prevention and response systems" and "enhancement of our on-land spill response to world-leading standards."

That's great, when it comes to irrelevant puff. Still, in keeping with all the finest traditions of political discourse, it doesn't actually mean anything.

Pictured: a world-leading decision-making tool for politicians everywhere.

Can you define what "world-leading" means here? That was the question I put to Christy Clark over Twitter, and I doubt if she'll answer me or anyone on that subject without a fight. It's nebulous and stripped of context, but it has "world" in it so you know it's good, just like how a "world-class city" is something to aspire to even though everyone defines it differently. This is a big problem.

Why? Because it gives the appearance that Clark and the BC government are holding out for the strongest assurances that there are, but in reality, it provides an out to take the economically expedient course and call that "world-leading" after the fact. The Liberals hardly have any motivation to do otherwise. If the Northern Gateway Pipeline is built, they will already have been turfed out of office by the time construction starts, and once the Northern Gateway Pipeline starts leaking it won't be the Liberals' problem--politically speaking, that is. But then, how many politicians in a position of power do you know who give a shit about anything else?

Lest you think I'm drawing long conclusions, keep in mind that Clark is the same premier who, just last month, announced that natural gas would be classified as a "clean" energy source because otherwise BC wouldn't be able to meet its clean energy targets once the liquified natural gas industry really starts going. Not that I'm saying expanding LNG trade to Asia would necessarily be a bad thing; I'd rather have China powered by natural gas than coal, if that was the choice, and cheaper natural gas would make that choie a hell of a lot easier for China.

The point here is that Clark has already demonstrated that she's more than willing to switch around definitions if she considers it advantageous to do so. Who's to say that, left vague and undefined, these "world-leading" prevention and response systems would be anything of the kind? What do you think is more likely--a government, especially this British Columbia government, doing the legwork and in-depth evaluations to ensure that the methods used are of the highest quality as per a carefully crafted, publicly transparent list of requirements to ensure the highest standard of pipeline safety... or for money or favors to change hands, so that whatever methods that end up being used end up being called "world-leading" because, well, who says what "world-leading" is anyway?

Three guesses as to what I think is more likely to happen. First two don't count.

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