Week One: the campaign double standard

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?

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17 Responses to Week One: the campaign double standard

  1. Tony Martinson says:

    Yeah, Ms. Say Anything outrageous told the Prince George media that Adrian Dix thinks that resource extraction is “a disease”. No verification of that. She can say whatever and her friends in the media will print it.

    It is to weep.

  2. Lesli Boldt says:

    To be fair to at least some media (I mean, who reads Palmer anyhow, except guys like you – don’t tell him I said that :), CBC nailed it when they cried foul on Clark’s claim that BC is number one in Canada on job creation (it’s actually number nine):

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/04/16/bc-reality-check-jobs-plan.html?cmp=rss&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

  3. Ian Bateson says:

    Christy Clark has a similar approach to Harper when asked difficult questions. She doesn’t answer them for fear of the truth. Good article Ian and I agree with Tony the media in this Province is very cosy with the wrong party.

  4. Veteran political observer and University of Victoria professor emeritus Norman Ruff said he believes Dix is not so much hiding as executing a strategy that will help him both win the election and govern afterwards. “It reflects his overall stance, and that’s to dampen the overall expectations, on both sides.”
    “Christy Clark is taking refuge in what might happen 15 years down the road. She’s promising pie in the sky,” he said. “I guess he (Dix) is offering us a cookbook.”

    At least someone with experience really knows what’s going on. (including you Ian)

  5. Ian says:

    Very true, Leslie. I guess I’m trying to look at a bit of a pattern – and I see hard questions and a bit of entrapment planning for Dix, and a lot of free passes for Clark. One of the problems is that so much of her program – the Prosperity Fund – is based on pipedreams, it’s almost hard to criticize. It’s as if the basis of her campaign is a lottery win. What can you say about something so thin and crazy.

  6. John's Aghast says:

    For goodness sakes Christie, give it a rest! The best (and only )use for LNG is Ferry fuel. IF liquifying natural gas took place, it wouldn’t happen until the rest of the world (Russia, China, Australia was already in fu(e)ll production. BC LNG is nothing but a pipe dream. Ditto for Site C.
    And until Black i) finds a suitable supply, ii) comes up with a customer for his product and/or iii) relocates his refinery to the shores of Slave Lake, his Kitimat Refinery is pie in the sky. So, now what becomes of Christie’s balanced budget? Her Prosperity Fund?

    Its really too bad these to leadership proponents couldn’t read off the same page. Maybe it will happen when we get a debate? Not holding my breath though!

    Oh, & Dawson Creek is providing sewage effluent for a Fracking medium! Wow! A pissup at a Canucks game would be more productive.

  7. cfvua says:

    Hydraulic fracturing is just a risk remover for producers. Plenty of gas reserves exist that could be produced without “fracking”. But that would mean work and some risk taking. Shales are prevalent and with horizontal drilling, holes punched and “fracked” are a sure thing, barring technical or office style glitches, most of which can be dealt with by adding a bit more time on site. Sweet, cheap to process, condensate bearing shale gas(with generous $$$incentives) is making the industry lazy. Hence their high level defence of the process. Some local employment I created, however as producers perfect contractor “management” many BC based business owners and their employees get to watch outsiders do the work. Many prolific conventional sour wells that were subject to early royalty credit plans are being shut in as the abundance of shale gas floods processing facilities. Therefore producing no royalties to the province.
    A study as suggested won’t hurt, as many who work in the industry and live in the affected areas want to know what is going into the ground and where it could end up.

  8. unbeliever says:

    It is ridiculous to even consider fracking and destroying ground water sources. Our neighbours to the south, in Idaho, Washington, and other Midwestern states, relate horror stories in their media, with regards to this.

    The political reality, from Blacks refinery, to LNG, to site C, and IPP’s is the same, sell the sizzle, get re_elected and then it will all fall apart. A paradigm shift has to take place both environmentally and politically, move on from hydrocarbon based resources, to more benign technologies.

    The past Liberal governments have used “bait and switch” techniques, for the HST and BC Rail in the past, and we know happened with them…
    Simply put, when the smoke clears on May 15th, and the “truth” about the Liberal governance of the past 12 years is revealed…be prepared, it won’t be pretty….

  9. rosesandthorns says:

    The media also lets the Green Party say whatever they want without having to cost anything out. They want to be a credible party, yet said they won’t put out an alternative budget.
    They are never questioned about how implementing any of their ideas would work and how it would affect jobs and low income families.

  10. Persey says:

    “she has generated more debt in her short two years than any Premier in BC history.”

    The irony of this statement was slammed home when I saw a picture of her campaign bus on the evening news: Large red letters proclaiming a debt-free BC!

    That this is the strongest plank in her platform speaks for itself.

    Great work as usual, Ian.

  11. Norm Farrell says:

    “Debt free B.C.”

    Is it believable?

    No!.

    Is it reportable?

    Yes!

    Today though, Global’s Keith Baldrey talked about the current reality, saying the BC Liberal government has almost $90 billion in UNFUNDED liabilities. (Mostly within BC Hydro, but in almost every department. This is a scandal that everyone knows but chooses to ignore.)

    Corporate media has previously ignored that important fact. Baldrey demonstrates courage to bring it up. Thanks Keith.

  12. rosesandthorns says:

    Norman, I tried to explain this massive taxpayer debt within BC Hydro to one of my right wing neighbours and he decided to not talk to me any longer because I was to ’emotional’. Clearly those that rely on BC MSM for information are not ready for the truth. You can give a small ‘atta boy’ to Baldrey but as far as I’m concerned he is one of the reasons we are where we are today because of journalists like him.

  13. G. Barry Stewart says:

    Norm, I don’t watch a lot of Global — though I tune in for Satellite Debris by Squire at about 6:50 on Friday night. Otherwise, there’s too much debris.

    Does Baldrey write down those debt allegations anywhere else? I think he is syndicated in some papers but he’s not in the Province, Sun or G&M online, as far as I’ve seen — and all I get in Chilliwack is Tom Fletcher… who’s more of a, “What debt? Christy? Naw…” kind of writer.

  14. None of the Above says:

    Baldley’s a strange case…he makes a lot of astute and intelligent observations on Twitter, but then doesn’t report them on his MSM syndicates, and then trashes cyberspace and the Blogosphere.

  15. Norm Farrell says:

    In my blog, I raised the issue of conflicts of interest involving BC journalists. A few media “stars” are collecting significant dollars from outside interests. Palmer, for example, gains rewards from people affected by what he writes in the Vancouver Sun or speaks about on TV or radio. One media professional told me recently there are not enough ways to say WRONG when it comes to this behaviour. However, that person cannot openly talk about the issue without being punished. In researching the issue, I found numerous people willing to comment but not if I identified them as the source of remarks.

    So, the question is whether or not political commentary is the result of thoughtful, unbiased opinion, or is it dependent on rewards from people writing cheques.

  16. islandpa says:

    where are all my favorite bloggers gone?…norm, ian, bob m et all seem to be down, at least on my connection

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