The double standard is in full swing.
That’s my conclusion based on the first five days of campaign reporting.
Christy Clark is allowed to skate away from all content and glad hand through events with a mouthful of shaky “messages” while Adrian Dix is criticized for not having every policy detail nailed down beyond the usual standards of credibility.
Palmer today neatly sums up the media attitude towards the campaign as we near the end of the first week, attacking Dix for announcing a scientific review of fracking:
“One of the more cunning moves by New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix is his rejection of a moratorium on fracking in the natural gas sector while promising a full-blown scientific review of the process if he wins the election.
Palmer calls Dix’s strategy cunning, because “Dix gets to have it both ways. He placates the environmental wing of his party with the promise of a scientific review. He placates supporters of the development of a liquefied natural gas industry by rejecting a moratorium.”
Except that’s simply not true. A scientific review does not placate environmentalists on this issue. They want a moratorium now and they’ve been very, very clear about that.
On the other side, the oil & gas industry have made it clear that a review is the last thing they want right now.
Fracking in its modern application has changed the face of the entire energy industry, moving the US from a net energy importer to a potential exporter. Here in BC fracking is the basis of the emerging LNG industry. The oil & gas industry doesn’t want anything to mess with it. Hence their opposition to a fracking review.
So Palmer is wrong when he says a review is a way of keeping both sides happy.
But there is more to this than a political strategy. There is the policy debate. What is the right thing to do now – environmentally and economically?
Palmer attacks Dix for substituting a review for a decisive policy statement on a fracking moratorium. But Palmer avoids the real issue – there has never been a comprehensive study of the application of various fracking methods (there’s more than one) to BC’s diverse geography. If there were to be a moratorium, we can’t really say why.
The reverse is also true. We can’t say with any degree of certainty that fracking is a safe, benign practice in BC.
Every province with a gas field potentially accesible through fracking technology is in the same boat. Some have reviews under way. Most don’t. The American EPA has launched its own review, very similar to the one the BC NDP is proposing, because congress is in that same boat as well. It’s a crowded place.
The real policy issue here is that we have two sides in complete opposition to each other and no information upon which to judge what is the right thing to do – a moratorium, a partial moratorium, regional plans, better regulation and stiff penalties or just continue with the current practices etc…
Neither Dix or Clark has the information to answer that because the work hasn’t been done yet. But I think it’s fair to say that Dix’s plan is more like a strategy to keep both sides unhappy while doing the work necessary to develop good policy.
I think Palmer knows that. But like a lot of the campaign media this week in this column he seems more interested in setting Dix up than reporting the real story behind an issue like fracking in BC.
What about Clark?
She wanders around BC claiming this campaign is about debt versus spending, despite a record that shows she has generated more debt in her short two years than any Premier in BC history.
Has she been asked about that? Not so much.
But she should be because there is troubling news on the debt and deficit front.
Yesterday, in an under-reported story Central1 Credit Union downgraded its forecast for GDP growth in BC from 2.2% to 1.5% this year. It also downgraded next year’s forecast. This came on the heels of a Canada wide downgrade from the Bank of Canada.
Why does this matter? Because the Central1’s new forecast is lower than the forecast in the Clark budget, you know the “balanced” budget.
And what does this remind us of?
The 2009 pre-election budget that went from a $495 million deficit to a $2.8 billion deficit over the course of an election campaign – a small detail missed by the media that resulted in the HST.
Now I may be overstating the issue or understating it… But isn’t it worth checking out? Shouldn’t someone ask the debt warrior Clark what impact the GDP downgrade will have on the 2013/14 and 2014/15 budgets and the whole imaginary debt slaying plan?
Or am I just a worrywort?