NDP energy critic John Horgan toured the Cariboo this week, including a stop at Gibraltar Mine.
“It’s a massive undertaking. Seven hundred high paying jobs, significant investments, and the mine has been in business through NDP, Social Credit and Liberal governments,” Horgan told media Tuesday.
One of the things Horgan wanted to “debunk” is the mythology that somehow the NDP controls commodity prices and international markets, and is responsible for the downturn of copper prices in the 1990s.
“It was largely out of our hands. The slow down in mining was a result of price. Sixty-five cents a pound in 1997 and $3.50 a pound today and as high as $4.50 over the last few years.”
Cariboo North NDP candidate Duncan Barnett said on people’s doorsteps he’s been hearing concerns about what the NDP will do with mining.
“Will you shut down mining like you did in the 90s is what people are asking.”
Election campaigns should, rather than perpetuate mythology, be about putting forward what you’re going to do in the next four years, Horgan added.
“The notion that you somehow own votes for your tenure as a politician is an outdated concept and you have to earn those votes every election. We tend to earn more votes not by denigrating the other guy at every turn but by telling the public what we will do with the time available to us.”
Provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix has been talking about change, but change for the better, not just because it sounds good on a bumper sticker.
“I think the public is yearning for a different set of eyes to look at the challenges of our time.”
In conversation with the chief and council from Nazko, they told Horgan they’ve been working with BC Hydro and the government for five years to get energy to their community so they can build and develop economic potential.
“They’ve been unsuccessful,” Horgan said.
“Another person bringing for their case and advocating on their behalf could be the trick that turns the deal for them. I think that’s why in mature democracies governments are supposed to change.”
Horgan said the NDP plans to share its plan during the next seven weeks, and anticipates hearing smears against their plans.
He said the U.S. style of spending thousands of dollars in campaign funding for parties to hurl insults at one another is not productive.
He added the uptake in prices is good news for the forest industry and for bio-energy.
“In my role as energy critic that’s been one of my focuses, how do we use waste wood to greater advantage and how do we extract more benefit to the owner of the resource, the people of B.C.”
Tenure owners have their piece of the pie and make their revenues, but ultimately it’s a Crown asset, he said.
“Ultimately, massive slash piles sitting idle when there are economic opportunities, like the Nazko proposal for bio-energy, to create more wealth, are the types of things we need to focus on.”
High prices for dimensional lumbers is a good starting point, but investing in the land base for future generations is crucial too.
“Forest health has to be a higher priority than it’s been in the last four years,” he said.
With respect to New Prosperity, Horgan said he’ll see how the environmental review unfolds.
“Meeting with Taseko representatives today at Gibraltar they said they recognize they have an uphill battle with New Prosperity, but also recognize they have a 25-year life left in the Gibraltar operation and that’s good news for the region.”
Horgan said Prosperity was rejected the first time and Mount Milligan was approved.
“Mount Milligan was approved because they did their ground work on environmental remediation and on First Nations consultation, so I think Taseko has learned from that and one hopes the New Prosperity application will learn from the last failed effort,” Horgan said.
Duncan Barnett suggested it’s not productive to have all the focus on the example that isn’t moving forward and forget about the benefits and success that Gibraltar and Mount Polley are having.
“There is one application that has some issues, but there are others that are moving forward and the mining sector is doing well in this region,” he said.
“The level of activity and construction are an important contribution to our local economy.”
All natural resources have cycles but relying on one sector to be the “goose that lays the golden egg” or the “silver bullet” for our deficit issues is not realistic, he added.
“A more realistic approach is to recognize all of our sectors,” Barnett said.