The election “results” are not yet final, but there is a lot to learn from the process. Strong Liberal support in the past has weakened. “Green” has expanded substantially. Not a lot of change with the NDP, but significant. Issues of housing affordability, infrastructure (hospitals, schools), climate change and fossil fuel use, First Nations rights, jobs and the economy were clearly answered by electors and the “new government,” whoever that turns out to be.
Implicit is the need to seek economic efficiency in B.C.’s spending. The provincial debt is high, and revenues are not what the Liberals had hoped. The LNG “dream” has not materialized and is highly unlikely to, oil prices are lacklustre, forest revenues have dropped and mill closures continue, mining revenues are suffering: the period of “resource extraction” has probably peaked and B.C. needs a new “future.” We simply cannot afford to waste money on luxury projects or unnecessary projects, like BC Hydro’s Site C dam and powerplant. Firstly, we do not need the power and will not 10 years from now if it is completed. Conservation, wasting less, is far cheaper and creates three times the number of jobs. If we were to need it, we could follow Alberta which recently built a gas-fired plant for $1.4 Billion, one-sixth the cost of Site C at $10 Billion.
Some of that extra $8.6 Billion invested in essential infrastructure, education, research, and business incubation can become B.C.’s future, based upon intellectual property instead of environmentally damaging resource extraction. Governments don’t seem to realize this yet, but the voters have. And some of the unions, with Iron and Earth, and Working Forest already moving into leadership roles in renewable and sustainable energy systems.
Next? Stop wasting money on Site C. Re-direct it into an International Centre of Excellence for Low-Energy Buildings and Innovative Energy Development, a Centre for Advanced Concrete Structural Design, and a High-Latitude Agricultural Research facility, jointly located at the “temporary workers camp,” the $470 million luxury lodge for Site C workers. Save and develop the Peace River Valley’s unique agricultural potential; don’t flood and destroy it.
Move further from antiquated “resource extraction” into climate imperative, “sustainability” frameworks. Reduce fossil fuel use individually and collectively, do not permit new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, reduce or stop fracking, no subsidies for LNG or other extraction industries, ensure meaningful engagement and approval by First Nations, build the needed hospitals and schools across B.C., public housing and public transit, create long-term skilled jobs and a workforce by investing in education and research, today!
These are the imperatives, whether NDP, Liberal or Greens hold the power. Forward, not backward.
Roger Bryenton, P. Eng. (former), MBA
Suzuki and SPEC Elder
Energy Systems Consultant, Vancouver