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The low road

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Climate-driven wildfires and massive atmospheric carbon plumes notwithstanding, this week's news cycle was a good one for B.C. Beginning locally, Vail Resorts (VR) announced its Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint. Taking a page directly from the Whistler Blackcomb playbook, VR plans to aggressively pursue comprehensive sustainability with zero net emissions by 2030, zero landfill waste by 2030, and zero net impact to forests and other habitat. Despite the unnecessarily fanciful label, it's an ambitious, forward-looking undertaking, and though seemingly at odds with (or perhaps because of) the company's reputation of funding climate-denying conservative politicians, also of political import. Implemented across the company's broad holdings, Zero Footprint is something to be lauded and built upon, an exemplar to other companies of similar scope and influence.

More broadly across B.C., the headline-grabber was the cancellation of the Pacific Northwest LNG project near Prince Rupert (PNLNG). The combined $18 billion pipeline-liquefaction terminal was part of a proposed $36 billion investment in B.C. natural gas by Malaysian energy giant Petronas.

By the federal government's own environmental reckoning, the massive project would have become the largest single source of climate pollution in Canada, making its demise a huge victory for the majority of B.C. citizens who opposed it, for Skeena River salmon (currently much healthier than the Fraser's plummeting stocks) and for the Indigenous groups it would have directly impacted. It also speaks volumes about world energy markets and the rapidity of the transition off fossil fuels.

As expected, Conservative bottom-feeders like Jason Kenney painted it as a disaster. Fair enough given their industry-shilling ideology, but Kenney didn't even have the guts to accept the obvious-to-all financial realities, dishonestly blaming the prospect of a new NDP government — despite the Petronas CEO's public contretemps. In an excellent summary in Maclean's, Andrew Leach outlines how market forces played a far bigger role in the decision than many Canadians are willing to acknowledge. It's worth a read not only for its firm grasp of the global LNG trajectory, but for the scathing indictment it represents of how a bull-headed B.C. government pushed its LNG hallucination despite the rapidly closing viability window. Only a year after PNLNG was announced, already there were indications it wouldn't fly without significant subsidies when a Petronas chief executive told The Financial Times it was considering pulling the plug due to B.C.'s new LNG tax and a "lack of appropriate incentives" (interestingly, energy subsidies were suspended in Malaysia itself after the 2014/15 oil shock). Immediately thereafter, the government shamelessly halved its proposed tax from seven to 3.5 per cent and froze future royalties to keep Petronas on board. These whiffs of desperation, however, were soon overshadowed by other controversies and scandals surrounding the government. Which brings us to the last piece of welcome news: Christy Clark's surprise resignation as BC Liberal leader effective Aug. 4, 2017.

As with the Harper Conservatives after whom they seem modelled, it can't be emphasized enough how low Clark's Liberals stooped in compromising this province's education system, social services and environment. That so many voters gave her a pass for what are truly heinous acts of both complicity and duplicity is testament to the influence of big money and bought spin. Ongoing malfeasance of concern to Whistler residents includes: the Mount Polley mine debacle; the grizzly hunt; 10,000+ lobbies by the oil and gas industry; virtual rape of the province's remaining old-growth forest; disease-spreading salmon farms; a climate policy ripped apart by their own experts; rule changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve and provincial parks in order to accommodate resource projects; ramming through Site C with no provincial oversight; and a sham-dance with Alberta and the feds over Kinder Morgan's Trans-Mountain Pipeline.

With Clark's heavily tainted reputation and the scandals she has left swirling around the party — including RCMP investigations into indirect political contributions by corporate lobbyists — her resignation was inevitable. Ever-imaginative pundits have also suggested connections to PNLNG: first, that the company's decision was made a while ago but the announcement held pending settling of the election dust (i.e., Clark's amusing about-face gambit to cling to power); and second, that with finance reform inevitable under an NDP/Green coalition, fleeing out-of-province and out-of-country corporate support leaves Clark zero cachet as an energy pipe-dreamer — or effective leader.

Whatever. There will be no hagiography for the combative, prevaricating Wicked Witch of the West. She always took the low road in politics, and slinks away on it as well.

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