Take a deep breath

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Whether you are fan or foe of Christy Clark’s government, you are going to have an increasingly difficult time being vocal about it. The air quality in this province, we are learning, is about to get a lot worse before it gets better.

When Clark made her usual flamboyant and used car salesman-sincere announcement about her government’s environmental plans recently, my eyebrows shot so high they nearly got tangled in my steadily receding hairline. “Climate Leadership Plan”, the signs read, which might have been amusing if John Cleese and the Monty Python crew were standing by her side.

But if the plan and the name are not intended to be ironic, it is about as offensive a piece of work as Team Clark could have dreamed up. “Climate?” Well the word is kind of, at least peripherally, the issue, in a “We have no interest or intention about doing anything about climate change” sort of way. “Leadership”, by definition infers some sort of action and is not generally intended to refer to third parties as in “We will just stand by with our thumbs a-twiddle while an unspecified someone in an unspecified jurisdiction steps forward.” And “Plan”? Only if by planning one means planning to not act on a plan that is in place and, by the way, spelled out in legislation.

In anyone’s wildest dreams, would it have seemed likely that the erstwhile disinterested-in-climate change Gordon Campbell, Clark’s predecessor, would have had an epiphany late in this tenure as premier? But he did, as the always excellent columnist Paul Willcocks pointed out in The Tyee this week. Willcocks reminds readers that Campbell spoke of having read some enlightening books (hint, hint, Premier Clark) and being influenced by what he saw in a trade visit to China in 2006.

Campbell’s revelations led to specified emissions target reductions, and to the introduction of a carbon tax. Those actions were widely proclaimed to be climate leadership plans, even if Campbell didn’t use those precise words. And they most certainly fit the definition of the words.

The jury is out on just how effective the tax and legislated targets were—Canada suffered a recession and most regions saw some drop in carbon pollution. But BC, for whatever reason, was on target not so many years ago. I recall attending school board and town council meetings where these very issues were discussed, and plans were implemented to fall in line with the provincial government’s commitments. I wouldn’t say that everyone at both tables was thrilled, but I didn’t hear much in the way of denial. Even the most jaded cynics tended to think that even if man’s activities aren’t actually causing climate change, at least we were going in the direction of creating cleaner air and, therefore, a cleaner and more sustainable planet.

It isn’t difficult to picture Christy Clark with her head in the sand or, at the very least, covering her ears while shouting “La-la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you,” when it comes to climate change. It’s a subject she has never had any enthusiasm for, primarily because she has cast herself in the role as shill for the energy sector, and particularly the would-be producers and exporters of liquefied natural gas in Northern BC. Prices have dropped precipitously? Competition has increased around the globe?  There are countless arguments against such development. No worries, says Clark, dam the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

There comes a time when political leaders have to face realities, even the unpleasant ones, and Clark’s time is coming. And I don’t necessarily mean that the John Horgan-led NDP is a slam-dunk to defeat her government next spring. More ominously, I think, she will wake up one morning with her own Campbell-like revelation that real action on climate change should not have been an option, and that her own child or, eventually, her grandchildren, are gasping away, trying to get a breath of clean air. I have a son and grandchild whose breathing is compromised and it’s no fun watching them reach for inhalers or nebulizers to ease their distress. I would not wish the experience on anyone, even Premier Clark.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.