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

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

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
WATCH: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

Commercial tenants at the Williams Lake Regional Airport have been granted an additional six-month rent reprieve. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Continuing rent relief for Williams Lake Airport tenants considered

City council discussed the option during a committee of the whole meeting

The Grade 2 class of 150 Mile House Elementary attended Cariboo Memorial Hospital with teacher Kirsty Bowers to deliver “kindness” bags full of small gifts to housekeeping staff. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
150 Mile House students deliver gift bags showing appreciation for hospital staff

Students begin Monday morning with a bus trip to Cariboo Memorial Hospital

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read