OP/ED: The Northern Oil Pipeline is 2013′s BIG Election issue

Harvey Oberfeld
By Harvey Oberfeld
August 3rd, 2012

The battle lines are being drawn–maybe even purposefully manipulated–to give the Liberals at least some hope of retaining power in  BC’s next provincial election.

It would have seemed implausible and statistically impossible only a few weeks ago for the Liberals to have a chance, given every poll over the past year. However the war of words, the snarls and even the caustic refusal of Alberta Premier Alison Redford to look Christy Clark in the eye at the recent Premiers’ meeting is just what BC Liberal strategists might have hoped for to bolster Clark’s image at home.

Their goal: a new reworked version of Clark: the BC hero, standing up for her province against Alberta, Enbridge and even Ottawa and Stephen Harper! (Take that, Gordon Campbell!)

Makes you want to heave?  Well, go ahead–stamp your feet and tear your hair out also if you want to, but if you want to keep it real, don’t think this couldn’t breath new life into the virtually deflated Liberal election campaign balloon with many voters.

Just look at the numbers:

  • An Angus Reid poll reported on Global TV Wednesday revealed that despite all the critical studies, pronunciations, denunciations, loud shouting and even hinted threats of violence by anti-Enbridge forces only 35 per cent of British Columbian respondents say they strongly oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline

And that’s WITHOUT any proposed new deal or campaign by the government to promote the project as a source of thousands of direct jobs, tens of thousands of indirect jobs, MANY billions more than the puny amount promised to BC right now, maybe even a different route and state-of-the-art environmental changes, improvements and protection, with perhaps even a different company than Enbridge carrying it out.

Many in that original 35 per cent would likely still oppose the pipeline: in fact, many probably oppose the oil sands in general, opposed the Keystone 1 and Keystone 2 projects and are against a new Kinder Morgan pipeline as well.

But, in any case, they are not the ones the Liberals would be after to turn their faded fortunes around.

Instead, take a look at other findings in the Angus Reid poll:

Despite all the negative press and activist condemnations of the northern pipeline and Enbridge’s recent terrible environmental record, an amazing 34 per cent of British Columbians still said they support the project STRONGLY or MODERATELY.

And even more importantly, another 24 per cent said they are only “somewhat” opposed: in other words, they are still open to be convinced it could be good for BC.

They are the key, and don’t think the Liberals aren’t very well aware of that.

After all, NDP Leader Adrian Dix has already said “No” to the Northern Gateway pipeline. But would the NDP say no to any other pipeline route to the coast?

No, the Liberals will say, to tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs? No to many billions in revenues for BC if a new deal with Enbridge and the federal government (leaving Alberta royalties out of it) could be worked out? No to huge new funding  for BC health care, hospitals, schools, seniors, housing etc. etc.?

Do anyone really believe IF A DEAL WITH ENBRIDGE AND OTTAWA CAN BE WORKED OUT the Liberals will NOT play it that way?

And if it works, and those 24 per cent of soft opponents can be won over, it would give the next provincial a whole new context:

A referendum as much as an election allowing the Liberals to urge voters to look forward rather than behind.

Don’t you just love BC politics!

Harv Oberfeld is a blogger and retired broadcaster and journalist. This column originally appeared in his blog, Keeping It Real. Reprinted with permission.

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