BC’s fight against climate change, explained

In 2007, Gordon Campbell decided the province would lead the world and slash emissions. What happened?
By Tom Barrett

Editor’s note: With voting day just over two weeks away, we look back on big issues that have driven debate in our province during the last 12 years of BC Liberal governance. What did B.C.’s leaders and opposition parties say and do on these major files? What are they saying now? What are the facts? Humbly offered here, a cure for political amnesia among candidates and media alike. Today, we walk you through B.C.’s record on climate policy.

Photo by kvdl http://www.flickr.com/photos/kvdl/ in Your BC: The Tyee's Photo Pool. http://www.flickr.com/groups/thetyee/
Photo by kvdl in Your BC: The Tyee’s Photo Pool

It’s hard to believe today, but back in January 2007 a lot of people cared a lot about climate change.

It had been a weird, warm winter in much of Canada. Al Gore was showing his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Newscasts talked about endangered polar bears.

A Decima poll suggested that Canadian voters thought the environment was at least as important as the economy, which, we should remember, appeared to be steaming along merrily. Even Prime Minster Stephen Harper was trying to look green.

In B.C., premier Gordon Campbell had done some reading about climate change and decided that B.C. would be a world leader when it came to cutting planet-warming greenhouse gases. As was his wont, he threw all the resources of the government into his new enthusiasm.

Word leaked to environmentalists, who speculated that Campbell would commit the province to the kind of GHG reduction targets that California had recently adopted. They weren’t disappointed.

In February, Campbell announced that B.C. would cut its emissions by at least one-third by 2020. Alternative energy sources would be encouraged. Ninety per cent of the province’s electricity would have to come from clean, renewable sources.

Not everything fit into this new green world, however. The 2007 provincial budget talked about expanding the oil and gas industry, including offshore drilling. Environmentalists were not so happy about that. Continue reading

POLL: British Columbians prefer spending on health and education over debt paydown

By Tom Barrett

A new poll suggests that British Columbians are more interested in spending on health and education than paying down the province’s debt or cutting taxes.

The online Ipsos poll, for Global TV, asked the following question:

“On which one of the following three items would you like to see the provincial government place the greatest priority over the next few years?”

Forty-six per cent of respondents replied “increasing funding for services such as health and education”; 35 per cent replied “reducing the provincial debt” and 15 per cent said “lowering taxes.” A further four per cent said they didn’t know.

The poll also asked: “If elected, how well do you think each of the parties would do at balancing resource development and environmental protection”?

Thirty-nine per cent said Adrian Dix and the BC NDP would strike about the right balance between development and the environment, while 29 per cent said the party would put too much focus on the environment.

Thirty per cent said Christy Clark and the Liberals would strike the right balance, while 49 per cent said they would put too much focus on resource development.

Fifteen per cent said John Cummins and the BC Conservatives would strike the right balance, while 35 per cent said they would put too much focus on resource development; 47 per cent said they didn’t know.

Twelve per cent said Jane Sterk and the Green party would strike the right balance, while 61 per cent said the Greens would put too much focus on the environment.

The poll was conducted Monday, April 22 and April 23, among 455 adult British Columbians drawn from a panel assembled by Ipsos. The company states a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20. For more on polling methodology and controversies, see this story.

Find Tyee election reporting team member and contributing editor Tom Barrett’s previous Tyee articles here. Find him on Twitter or email him.