Sorting out federal election issues

Where do Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau stand on Canada's petroleum industry? Watch their actions

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau

The first, and perhaps the only complete English-language debate in this long federal election campaign has helped define the issues, and the non-issues.

I’m not going to try to tell you who “won” or “came out swinging,” because this is not a sporting event. If you’re paying attention in August, bless you, and you probably have a favourite already.

First, let’s deal with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s diabolical scheme to extend the length of the formal election period. This, according to national pundits, is an extension of his evil plot to attract more financial supporters than the other parties, and spend the money. In other words, it’s a non-issue and any opponent who dwells on it looks like a whiner.

This is the first election in modern Canadian history to follow a four-year schedule. National pundits spent months telling us Harper was going to use a loophole in his own election law to call a spring vote before the economy tanked. Didn’t happen, and now the Conservatives are rightly under scrutiny about their economic management. Incumbent manipulation of election timing is over, and that’s good.

Scheduled elections by their nature create longer campaigns, as demonstrated in B.C. and the United States. So they should be conducted under formal campaign rules, which limit the noise of public sector unions and other special interests.

Another non-issue is the non-existent deficit and recession that supposedly grips Canada. On actual results, there is a slim surplus, and if – a big if – Saudi Arabia continues to depress world oil prices, there may be a modest deficit by next spring.

The Bank of Canada’s recent move to devalue the dollar has already produced a rebound in exports and tourism, which any government would appreciate. Have you tried to find parking at the mall lately?

Of particular interest to B.C. voters is the contest between NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Green Party leader Elizabeth May. May used what may be her only national debate appearance to press Mulcair to oppose the TransMountain pipeline expansion project before hearings are complete.

Mindful of Adrian Dix’s disastrous 2013 decision to do the same in B.C., Mulcair insisted he would wait for the federal review, even though he considers it to be inadequate.

This is, of course, all theatre. Based on their actions, the NDP, Green Party and Liberals are all opposed not just to oil pipelines but export gas pipelines as well. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau wants to cancel capital cost allowances for liquefied natural gas investment that have been granted by B.C. and Ottawa, which could be a deal-breaker for LNG.

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan formalized his opposition to the TransMountain expansion last week, in a letter filed with the National Energy Board. But we’re expected to believe that Mulcair has a different position, for now.

Harper was forced to admit that his long effort to persuade U.S. President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline has failed, and the project will have to wait until Obama leaves office next year.

The debate also confirmed positions on Canada’s modest role in bombing Islamic State terrorist positions in Iraq and Syria. The Conservatives are for it, and the Liberals, NDP and Greens are against it.

Trudeau set the stage for the contest in Quebec, which B.C. voters can only watch from afar to see if it once again decides the shape of their federal government. Trudeau pushed Mulcair on his cynical bid to court the separatist voters who suddenly swung to Jack Layton’s NDP in 2011.

Like petroleum prices, it’s beyond our control.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Nearly $500,000 available for internships with First Nations government

Funds announced through partnership with Northern Development and Government of Canada

O’Reilly trial scheduled to start January 15 for Anahim Lake murders

O’Reilly is charged with first-degree murder

School District 49 to re-open Nusatsum Elementary in September 2018

SD49 says increasing enrollment is driving its decision to re-open the school

Red Cross funding available to local residents of Bella Coola and Hagensborg

The Red Cross is administering up to $900 in initial funding to help assist Bella Coola Valley residents

Solitary-confinement veto a chance to address mental health: advocate

B.C. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling Wednesday

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

B.C. coast loggers celebrate history, hope for improvement

Truck Loggers Association awaits B.C. NDP government’s new direction

Global Affairs aware of report of two Canadians kidnapped in Nigeria

The foreigners were heading south from Kafanchan to Abuja when they were ambushed around Kagarko

Whistler role in potential Calgary Olympic bid would be welcome: IOC

Calgary is mulling whether to vie for the 2026 Games, and could look to facilities in B.C.

Most Read