Appeared in the North Shore News – March 11, 2016
You’d think the local member of Parliament would have an opinion on the Woodfibre LNG project, wouldn’t you? Or am I being naïve again?
I’ve sent several unsuccessful emails to Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, our woman in Ottawa as MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, inviting that opinion. Surely she has one? Any doubt of the issue’s importance?
So what’s our Liberal MP’s stand – on arguably the most important current issue in this awkwardly sprawling and diverse riding wrapped around Howe Sound?
Not that she’s lacked opportunity. Goldsmith-Jones recently chaired three open houses on the matter in Howe Sound communities, one in West Vancouver – boisterously anti-Woodfibre.
She told a meeting last week in Gibsons: “Our government is moving quickly to deliver on our promise to overhaul the federal environmental assessment review process and to restore public trust. … The process will have greater transparency.”
Moving “quickly” – as governments uncannily always do. “Promise” – yes, look for the bank where you can take a promise of Justin Trudeau’s election campaign.
“Transparency” – no word deserves more banishment form the Dictionary of Political Platitudes.
An audience member in Gibsons came fairly close to pinning down Goldsmith-Jones. He asked if she’d heard from anyone favouring Woodfibre LNG. Jacob Roberts in the Coast Reporter quoted her: “There are definitely people in favour. That’s why this is so difficult. To be honest – and depending on where you go – it’s 50/50.”
“The audience,” reporter Roberts drily wrote, “interrupted Goldsmith-Jones with their unanimous disagreement of her numbers.”
Eoin Finn, with deep science and business expertise and exhaustive files on the issue, told me: “Pam’s statement – that community reaction was 50/50 for and against – beggars belief, and is at odds with the 9,000 signatories to the (Save) Howe Sound Declaration, and the public comments on the B.C. Environment Assessment Office process,” which showed more than 90 per cent opposition.
To be fair: Don’t expect candour. Under the party system the prime minister’s henchmen, and those for all party leaders, tell MPs when to breathe in and breathe out. A maverick is whipped and stripped – of perks such as sunny-climate conferences in January – and sentenced to the Siberian backbench. Thus the adage that MPs aren’t sent to Ottawa to represent their constituents’ views; Ottawa sends MPs to their constituents to represent Ottawa’s views.
So can you find it in your heart to sympathize with poor Pam, the most ambitious political animal in West Vancouver of her time, maybe all time? And not to flatter the environment’s more pompous guardians: B.C. has to toil to live, and that means dirty hands and dirty work that upper middle-class urban elites have only heard about.
Add this: Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy, whose West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding also includes the proposed site, supports the facility, partly for its tax benefits. He strongly slams a news story that took on a life of its own – that Woodfibre LNG “hosted” a fundraising dinner for him during the 2013 election campaign. It simply bought a table, he said, like other companies and 200-odd individuals, a tradition for the riding incumbent for 25 years.
The biggest barriers to the project may be that natural gas prices are scraping bottom, with inventories swollen since the U.S. vastly grew its fracking production.
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Michael Smith entered the mayor’s office fighting for thrift. Has he wearily surrendered to the bureaucratic spend brigade?
West Vancouver’s 6.87 per cent property tax rise is easily Metro’s highest, and more than five times the Metro average, the Sun reported. That includes a 5.25 per cent levy – finance director Isabel Gordon wanted 10.5 per cent! – to maintain and repair WV’s $1-billion public assets. The $245 tax increase on a $2.5-million West Van home is stratospherically above all others (second highest is Port Moody’s, $97, with North Vancouver city and district not reported as of a week ago).
Hawk-eyed tax-watcher David Marley quotes the notorious figure that 80 per cent of WV’s operating budget goes to staff salaries and benefits. “Where do we find these people?” asks Marley, with commendable grumpiness. “Clearly, they live in an alternate universe from those of us who have to pay the bills.”
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David Johnston is every inch the representative of the Queen. The Governor General charmed a business-attire crowd on his official visit last week that included a keynote speech to the Sea to Sky Community Foundations at the Kay Meek, where he was easily the most unstuffily relaxed person in the theatre. One of those born aristocrats with the uncondescending common touch.
© Trevor Lautens, 2016