Premier Christy Clark applauds Finance Minister Mike de Jong's budget speech

BC VIEWS: A bitter election year begins

NDP will focus on corporate donations and environment, B.C. Liberals play economy card that worked in 2013

There is a nasty edge to proceedings as the B.C. legislature session winds down this week, with the 2017 election campaign already effectively underway.

Premier Christy Clark and B.C. Liberal ministers have been under attack over their links to big corporate donors, which will be a major theme for the NDP in the next year. You’ll hear more about forest companies West Fraser and Canfor, which escaped without fines after a 2014 audit found they over-cut their northern timber licences by close to one million cubic metres.

Much of this was during salvage logging for pine beetle damage, where healthy trees were taken as well, at a time when forest companies were consolidating, trading Crown timber rights and closing sawmills.

NDP MLA David Eby, who knocked Clark out of her Vancouver-Point Grey seat even as she was winning a fourth straight B.C. Liberal majority in 2013, has put the media focus on her posh private fundraisers.

“Was this decision made at a dinner party?” Eby asked of the leniency to forest companies, prompting a rare “out of order” ruling from Speaker Linda Reid.

Even before the last election and the later Mount Polley tailings dam collapse, the NDP was on the attack about Clark’s support from the chief executive of mine owner Imperial Metals, who also has major Alberta oilsands holdings and has been one of the B.C. Liberals’ biggest donors.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett was as indignant as Forests Minister Steve Thomson at the suggestion these corporations were getting lenient treatment in exchange for political cash.

Bennett points out that the Mount Polley dam was inspected and permitted in the mid-1990s under an NDP government, with a design flaw that went undetected. And it remains to be seen what if any charges or fines result against the company, which is already paying a steep price with a long shutdown and expensive environmental repairs.

It also remains to be seen if Bennett, Thomson and other cabinet veterans will run for another term, after what will be 16 years in government.

Bennett is adept at needling the NDP, reminding them that mining giant Teck Resources managed to find almost $60,000 to donate to them. He referred to John Horgan as the “ceremonial leader of the NDP,” implying that Horgan has lost an internal struggle in a party that has turned away from its industrial worker roots.

Horgan was a reluctant replacement after Adrian Dix flamed out in 2013 with the sudden Earth Day declaration to oppose the TransMountain oil pipeline expansion. This may have won Eby his upset in leafy Point Grey, but the decision and a wordless weather-vane ad lost Dix the province.

One of the traditional highlights of the spring session is the premier’s spending estimates, where the opposition gets several hours to grill the premier on political staff, private jets and anything else they want.

Horgan kicked this off last week with his familiar list of criticisms on increased BC Hydro and medical services premiums, soaring house prices in Metro Vancouver and the state of seniors’ care, plus a lengthy examination of Clark’s recent trip to Haida Gwaii.

Clark treated the exercise mainly as an extension of question period, firing back at Horgan on his apparent inability to lead his own caucus in support of major construction projects.

Horgan abruptly threw in the towel at the end of the first of what had been scheduled to be two days, and fled to Whistler for meetings that were suddenly more important than his legislature duties.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Selkirk College students protest proposed tuition increases

Sudents’ union says this year’s 2 per cent increase puts education out of reach for some

Castlegar business owners report highest optimism in 3 years

Two-thirds of survey participants report business security or growth

Former ski champ and MLA’s son hope to open Castlegar cannabis store next month

Felix Belczyk and Ben Conroy are in the approval process for local Spiritleaf outlet

Born 1 pound, 11 ounces, Winlaw premature baby comes home

Indra Greaves was born at the Nelson hospital after just 24 weeks of gestation

Rebels beef up blueline as trade deadline closes

Tyson Soobotin, 18, was playing for the Nelson Leafs, and Elijah Havers, 17, joins the team from the Coyotes in Osooyoos

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

China demands US drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng

9 brains, 3 hearts: Some wild facts about octopuses

Things to know about the giant Pacific octopus, which is naturally found in the waters of the U.S. West coast, the Aleutian Islands and Japan

Hollywood announces 2019 Oscar nominations

Netflix has scored its first best picture nomination, something the streaming giant has dearly sought

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

Most Read