Vol. 18, No. 20 Week of May 19, 2013
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Win stuns BC pollsters

Click here to go directly to this story within the full PDF version of this issue, with any maps, photos or other artwork that appears in some of the articles.

Email it to an associate.

Government of Premier Clark re-elected; industry has unresolved questions

Gary Park

For Petroleum News

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and the voters of her province sent the political pollsters and pundits packing May 14 in an election that has variously been called the Comeback of the Century or the Turnaround of the Ages.

Those who might have anticipated waking up on May 15 to a new government got their wish. It just wasn’t the one they expected.

Faced with 18 months of polls that had her lagging by as much as 22 percentage points, the pugnacious Clark faced up to the electorate with a relentless grin and an upbeat message that only her Liberal party could be trusted to manage the economy, eliminate the debt and create jobs.

During the month-long campaign she dragged the polling margin against the socialist New Democratic Party back to single figures, but she was still largely being written off.

When the ballots were counted, Clark had extended Liberal rule from 2001 to the next election in 2017, apparently winning over voters with her message of a strong economy to create jobs, while portraying the NDP as a “tax and spend” party.

Liberals claim winning margin

Although recounts were still likely in several constituencies the Liberals were elected or leading in 50 seats in the provincial assembly (three more than entering the campaign), the NDP had 33 seats and the Green Party had elected its first MLA (member of the legislative assembly). And the Liberals had claimed winning margin of 5 percentage points.

“Well, that was easy!” an ecstatic Clark told party supporters. But for her the campaign is not over.

She was defeated in her Vancouver constituency (an area that embraces the University of British Columbia and a large enclave of the city’s wealthiest) and, although she can continue as premier, Clark now depends on one of her own MLAs resigning to force a by-election in what would be seen as a “safe” Liberal seat.

Whether any seat could be viewed as “safe” in the more-than-usually volatile political environment of British Columbia could be an open question.

For the petroleum industry, despite unanswered questions, the unstated preference has been re-election of the pro-business Liberals and the opportunity that presents to seek solutions to the obstacles Clark has placed in the path of oil sands bitumen pipelines and LNG projects that hold the key to Canada’s hopes of opening export markets outside North America.

The NDP, under Adrian Dix, had pledged itself to blocking plans by Enbridge and Kinder Morgan for their Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain expansion and a host of measures that could jeopardize the LNG plans.

Dix was ready to order an indefinite review of hydraulic fracturing methods to exploit British Columbia’s vast shale gas deposits to use as LNG feedstock, raising the province’s carbon tax and expanding it to include greenhouse gas venting from oil and gas operations and scrapping plans for a large hydro dam that might have been used to support LNG projects.

Clark has not shifted from her position on Northern Gateway, demanding a share of oil sands royalties and more stringent regulations covering the movement of crude oil tankers in Pacific waters, but she has been less clear about her Trans Mountain concerns.

However, she has eagerly seized on LNG as a job creator and a source of revenue to build a C$100 billion B.C. Prosperity Fund by 2030 to eliminate the province’s debt, currently at C$58 billion, and fund government programs, although she has talked about independent science-based review of fracking.

Clark has also opened discussions with gas producers and LNG companies on her plans to introduce a new LNG tax and royalty regime.

In her victory speech, she said British Columbians made clear during the campaign that they want to “balance economic and environmental issues ... and we will heed their concerns.”

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which shies away from partisan debate, said it is prepared to “work constructively with the government elected to continue delivering energy and economic benefits to B.C. while protecting the B.C. environment.”

Geoff Morrison, B.C. manager of operations with CAPP, said the association is confident gas developers will not be faced with a government review of fracking methods.

He acknowledged that Clark has laid out five “pretty clear” conditions for pipelines traversing B.C. from Alberta.

“They set the stage for discussions on how projects can go forward and present a window of opportunity to work with,” Morrison said.

Gerry Goobie, an energy consultant with Calgary-based Gas Processing Management, said the petroleum industry is now looking for clarity from the Clark government on major energy issues.

He said investors are uneasy “when they hear rhetoric about imposing new taxes ... or opposing development. Companies don’t like making decisions with a lot of uncertainty hanging over them, particularly for money of that magnitude.”

Did you find this article interesting?
Tweet it
Digg it

Submit it to another favorite Social Site or Article Directory. Facebook Furl Mixx NewsVine Reddit StumbleUpon YahooMyWeb Google LinkedIn Live MySpace Sphinn Technorati Yahoo! Buzz
Print this story | Email it to an associate.

Petroleum News - Phone: 1-907 522-9469 - Fax: 1-907 522-9583
[email protected] --- ---

Copyright Petroleum Newspapers of Alaska, LLC (Petroleum News)(PNA)©2013 All rights reserved. The content of this article and web site may not be copied, replaced, distributed, published, displayed or transferred in any form or by any means except with the prior written permission of Petroleum Newspapers of Alaska, LLC (Petroleum News)(PNA). Copyright infringement is a violation of federal law subject to criminal and civil penalties.

This story has 74 lines. and it is 2418 pixels high.