Government should govern, not be a cheerleader
By Bill Phillips
Poor Jas Johal.
I’m not sure whether his job has been made more difficult or redundant.
Johal, the award-winning former Global TV journalist, is now the communications director for the B.C. LNG Alliance. The Alliance represents all the big players in the liquefied natural gas sector in B.C. – Kitimat LNG, LNG Canada, Pacific Northwest LNG, Prince Rupert LNG, Triton LNG, and d WWC LNG.
Johal’s job, along with the alliance, is to be the “voice of British Columbia’s new LNG export industry.” He was in Prince George at the Premier’s Natural Resource Forum, doing his thing.
All was fine and dandy, but then in stepped Premier Christy Clark.
It’s no secret that she’s pretty high in the LNG industry. Fair enough. But this week she took it too far.
On Monday Clark pledged to fight the “forces of ‘no'” when it comes to LNG. She railed on the Opposition New Democrats, environmentalists, and a group of First Nations who have signed a declaration calling for an environmental protection zone near Pacific Northwest LNG’s proposed LNG project at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.
My question is simply this: Why is it the premier’s job to combat those who oppose the location of this plant? Shouldn’t that be the job of Pacific Northwest LNG or, more likely, Jas Johal and the B.C. LNG Alliance?
I get it that the premier supports the LNG industry. The economic benefits for the province of an LNG plant proceeding are pretty significant.
But, once again, shouldn’t it be the industry’s job to convince British Columbians that the project is worthwhile and prove that it won’t substantially damage the environment? Why is it the premier’s job to do that? Why would the LNG industry hire people like Jas Johal to promote the industry when they have the highest profile spokesperson in the province – the premier?
To make matters even worse, Clark suggested that opposition to the location isn’t about science, but about a fear of change. In other words, all those people who live in the area and who are supported by scientists, are ignorant. The premier knows best. At least the industry spokespeople are respectful.
Yes, government does have a role to play in bringing the LNG industry to fruition. It has to ensure regulations are in place and enforce them. In addition it has to put a tax regime in place to ensure British Columbians reap the benefits. Victoria has done that, however, the tax plan has been criticized for not charging enough.
The government should not be in the business of selling the industry to British Columbians. That job belongs to the industry.
By summarily dismissing those who raise questions about LNG (apparently you only have to question the industry to get in Clark’s sights), Clark forgets one key aspect of governance: She and the government represent all British Columbians. It’s her job to represent those who oppose LNG as much as it is to represent those who support it. Her job isn’t to represent Malaysian-backed Petronas at all.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org