Joanne Monaghan, a model mayor for a small town

Joanne Monaghan’s 35 year political career came to halt (at least for now) Saturday when she came third in Saturday’s municipal mayoralty election, behind Phil Germuth and Trish Parsons.


The best analogy is that of the sports star or coach who stays one season too many. Monaghan had set her sights on 40 years in local politics. But in the 2014 mayor’s race she ran up against a strong sentiment that it was time for a change. She probably allowed that career goal to override any political instincts she may have built up over those years where a small town politician has to keep track of the pulse of events.

Joanne Monaghan
Joanne Monaghan’s poor performance in the all candidates debate hurt her campaign (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Monaghan has an impressive track record: municipal councillor since 1980, mayor since 2009. That means Monaghan was mayor during some of the toughest times that Kitimat has faced after the Eurocan pull out.

She served two terms as the head of the Union of BC Municipalities (the first woman) the third woman to be president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. She was Chair of the Regional District Kitimat Stikine for eight years and Vice Chair for nine. She has served on the British Columbia Heritage Trust, the Northwest Community College Board, the Provincial Tourism Council, and the Provincial Transportation Committee. Monaghan is also a member of the Northern Development Initiative, and is chair of the University of Northern B.C. Advisory Committee.

The Canadian International Development Agency sent her to Ecuador on a “Municipal Government Technology Transfer between a community in Ecuador and Kitimat. She also facilitated workshops in “Women in Politics” in South Africa and Ghana.

Monaghan served on many local committees, both community bodies mandated by council as well as volunteer groups.

Her 35 years in local politics mean that she knows everyone in town. Her 35 years in municipal politics allowed her to build up valuable contacts in other municipalities, provincial and federal politics as well as the media.

Joanne Monaghan was a model mayor for a small town, for 35 years she was always available to members of the Kitimat community, always ready to respond to a phone call or an e-mail from a Kitimat resident, working hard on issues from restoring old sidewalks to bringing new industry to the valley. She was always available to show up at a local event, even if it was just for a few minutes.

So want went wrong with her campaign?

Monaghan was successful in bringing Tim Horton’s to Kitimat, an asset to any community. She worked hard to bring other business small and large to Kitimat.

If nothing much ever happened in Kitimat, if it was a small one industry town expanding into tourism, Monaghan would probably have been re-elected on Saturday.

If Kitimat was a town facing one major issue, Monaghan might still be mayor.

What made Joanne Monaghan a great small town mayor was also her weakness, trying to do too much and thus while trying to handle a growing number of cascading important issues, becoming overwhelmed by them.

Kitimat is facing Northern Gateway, three liquified natural gas projects, Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization, the airshed problems from all those projects, the housing crisis, bettering relations with the Haisla, just to name a few, as well as sorting out normal municipal priorities like maintaining sidewalks.

As early as a year ago, a feeling began to grow in Kitimat that Monaghan wasn’t skeptical enough about some of the companies coming to town bearing gifts. Monaghan tended to avoid the tough questions on Northern Gateway, punting issues (to continue the sports analogy) until the Joint Review Panel reported. Monaghan was not alone among council in burying its head in the sand over the Joint Review Panel but as the leader of a group that is supposed to operate with collegial consensus, Monaghan blocked any real involvement by the District in the JRP.

While Monaghan had helped bring Kitimat from gloom after Eurocan to current fragile boom with the KMP and LNG, there was a feeling that hungry for good news, she was too often willing to accept the assurances from the big corporations dealing with council.

At council, other members began to outshine Monaghan. On different sides of most issues, Phil Germuth and Mario Feldhoff, despite both working full time, always came prepared, files full of documents, facts and figures. Rob Goffinet was always ready to ask a skeptical question. Rookie Edwin Empinado wore his idealism on his sleeve, although he sometimes struggled expressing his focus on issues. Monaghan, on the other hand, often seemed unprepared and inflexible on major issues.

Throughout the summer, there was speculation and conversations around Kitimat, about whether Joanne Monaghan would stand for another term as mayor. In a metropolitan city, polling would have confirmed that there was a growing feeling that it was time for a change. If Monaghan noted the warning signs, and they were noticeable in a small town, she chose to ignore them.

When Monaghan said in her campaign literature that she would “stand up to outside influences and special interest groups” who did she mean by “special interest groups?” If she meant Douglas Channel Watch the most prominent “special interest group” in town or the no vote in the plebiscite in general, she narrowed her options, since Trish Parsons was the “pro-development” candidate.

all candidates debate
Both Trish Parsons and Phil Germuth put forward strong arguments in the all candidates debate while Monaghan appeared to be upnprepared. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

If there was a moment where Monaghan really lost the election, it was her performance in the all candidates debate at Mt. Elizabeth Theatre. Phil Germuth shone in the debate and Trish Parsons was a close second. They were clearly prepared and rehearsed, ready with their statements and with their answers to the questions, winging the questions that were totally out of left field. The generational difference between Monaghan and her rivals was clear on stage. It appeared she hadn’t properly prepared, her answers rambled and she was frequently cut off by the moderator for going over the time limit. A solid debate performance might have brought some of Monaghan’s former supporters back into her camp but that never happened.

Although Parsons performed well in debate, the feeling in the community was that, despite her work with the Chamber of Commerce and community groups, she should have “paid her dues” by at least one term on council before trying for the mayor’s chair. So Parsons was unable to build support beyond her pro-development base.

With Monaghan’s support slipping away and Parsons stalled, the community vote went strongly to Phil to Germuth.

So what is Joanne Monaghan’s legacy? That legacy is that she is the model small town mayor who answered everyone’s phone calls and e-mails, who listened to everyone’s points of view, even those she clearly disagreed with, while also being the model small town mayor who worked hard to tackle district wide issues.

As far as the national media is concerned, Toronto’s notorious Rob Ford created his Ford Nation supporters through a personal touch, by always returning phone calls, making sure Toronto responded to even the most minor complaints. But even before Ford’s personal problems became worldwide media fodder, it was clear that Ford was too often neglecting handling the big picture, the Toronto wide issues, for a constituent’s crack in a sidewalk.

Monaghan was working on that personal touch when Ford was still in high school. Monaghan was smarter than Ford (if Monaghan was a A, Ford was an F), for 35 years she balanced the personal touch with active concern and dogged work for the entire District.

Between 2011 and 2014, Kitimat jumped from the minor leagues to the Premier League, and there was a clear demand for fresh blood to strengthen the political team. The voters decided that the veteran team coach should retire. But Coach Monaghan still does have a shelf full of trophies from those 35 years. If this really was the sporting world, her number should be retired as well and lifted to the rafters.


Corinne Scott reigns from District of Kitimat Council

Corinne Scott
Corinne Scott reads her resignation letter to District of Kitimat Council, Monday, May 12, 2014 (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Corinne Scott resigned from District of Kitimat Council Monday night, effective immediately.

Because Scott’s resignation comes so close to the fall municipal general election there will be no by-election.

Council voted to accept Scott’s resignation “with regret.”

In her letter of resignation Scott said:

Please accept this letter as my resignation from Council effective immediately, for personal reasons. I’ve enjoyed working with all of you and apprectiate the accomplishments we’ve attained over the past three and a half years.

I feel I have accomplished what was asked of me by those individuals in the community that supported me first in the by-election and again in the general election of 2011. I’m grateful for the support received from the residents, businesses, industry and staff of the District of Kitimat and am proud of the road the municipality is on towards bigger and better things.

I want to assure you of my continued support in your endeavors and look forward to the coming years of development.

I ask that you respect by decision is personal and has no bearing on anyone either on staff or on Council.

In her remarks after reading her letter, Scott said Kitimat was facing many challenges in the coming years and she hoped that younger people would consider running for council in the fall election.

Scott’s resignation ends one area of speculation about that municipal election, since it was well known in Kitimat that many people were urging Scott to run for mayor, although Scott had not expressed interest, at least in public, in seeking the mayor’s chair.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan paid tribute to Scott, thanked her for her service to Kitimat and presented her with a gift.

Why BC should watch the Australian election: LNG and natural gas are suddenly a top issue

Could the future of northwestern British Columbia’s hoped for natural gas boom depend on the outcome of this weekend’s Australian general election?

While the mainstream media in North America has mostly been following the personal feud between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott or speculating whether or not Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s party will make a ripple or a splish, a natural gas crisis has rocketed high on to the Australian election agenda.

I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about Aussie politics, but I couldn’t ignore all the LNG and natural gas Australian election related stories that suddenly started showing up in my alerts.

LNG train “on ice”

This morning came the alert that Chevron has put the development of another train at its giant Gorgon LNG facility “on ice” (as a pun enabled headline writer in the Western Australian put it)

Chevron and its partners in the Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island are expected to postpone work on detailed design and engineering of a fourth processing line at the mega project until at least next year as they battle to contain the soaring cost of the foundation development.
As reported by WestBusiness at the weekend, Chevron’s latest internal cost review is understood to have placed a final cost on Gorgon’s three-train venture of up to $US59 billion ($65.6 billion), or 13 per cent above the last confirmed budget revision of $US52 billion.
Chevron is refusing to discuss the status of the cost review and is understood to have told its Gorgon team to “value engineer” in the hope of substantially reducing the latest overrun on a project that was originally supposed to cost $US37 billion to complete.


Raw logs all over again

For a resident of northwestern BC, one thought comes to mind from the media reports on the LNG situation in the Australian election, it’s raw logs all over again.

It appears from those media reports that while Australia has huge reserves of shale-based natural gas, the way the country has structured its LNG boom, major industries and consumers are becoming alarmed that domestic natural gas prices for both will soon skyrocket. There are calls for whatever party wins the election to pass legislation that would create “domestic gas reservation” so that Australians won’t see the gas exported while they pay higher prices for what’s left over.

Most of the shale gas reserves are in Western Australia, while the population—and industry– are concentrated far away on the east coast.

That is leading to another controversy, demands that eastern Australia develop its coal gas reserves, which, of course, brings to mind Shell’s decision to forgo development of coal gas deposits in the Sacred Headwaters and the ongoing fight by the Tahltan First Nation to stop Fortune Minerals’ open pit coal mine in the Sacred Headwaters at Klappan.

Then there’s another vexing issue that northwestern BC is facing and soon have to deal with. In the election, some Australian politicians and unions are calling for curbs on the use for temporary (and not so temporary) foreign workers.

Another factor is the growing cost of natural gas extraction and LNG export, which has, in the midst of the election campaign, pitted Chevron against Australian unions, with Chevron executives (as they did in other contexts before the election call) pointing to Canada—that means Kitimat, folks — as the cheaper alternative.

Rising prices

The Australian has reported that a poll, commissioned by the nation’s manufacturers, so it is somewhat suspect, that:

Manufacturers  will today claim that most Australians want a policy of domestic gas reservation and that this would sway voter intentions, a move set to renew the acrimonious debate over rising gas prices.
Manufacturing Australia will release a survey it commissioned where 35 per cent of people said it was “quite likely” and 13 per cent “extremely likely” that it would sway their decision at the election if a party made a policy pledge on the issue.Those uncertain stood at 21 per cent.

In one Australian riding, a local candidate wants one per cent of Australia’s gas be reserved just for the State of Queensland.

Bob Katter flew through Gladstone as fast as the wind whistled through Spinnaker Park on Monday, where he told local media he wanted to reserve a domestic gas supply for Australia and scrap the 457 visas that bring foreign workers into the country….

Mr Katter said mineral processing was under enormous pressure in Australia with copper processing wiped out in northern Queensland and to counter that, the Katter Australia Party would reserve 1% of the gas supply for Queensland.
“Because of the escalating skyrocketing cost of coal, gas and electricity in the past eight years, one per cent of the gas will be reserved for the benefit of the people in Queensland if not Australia,” he said.

“That gas will be used to produce electricity at prices our retirees can afford, and young families can afford, and most importantly that our mineral processing plants have prices for processing they can afford.”


Coal gas

Another story in The Australian quotes James Baulderstone of the Australian energy company Santos:

THE NSW gas industry has warned of higher gas prices, job cuts and a significant risk to the state’s energy security if the coal-seam gas sector is not developed.
James Baulderstone, vice-president of eastern Australia at Santos, said without indigenous gas of its own, NSW had no ability to control its energy supply security.
“NSW faces prospective gas shortages as long-term contracts underpinning the state’s gas supply expire over the next two to three years, the very time in which the commencement of LNG exports from Queensland will see annual gas demand in eastern Australia triple,” he said.
“Looming natural gas shortages in NSW could be avoided by the timely and balanced development of the state’s already discovered reserves of natural gas.”

The Australian Liberal Party (which like BC’s is actually conservative) supports coal gas projects. But it also wants to force energy companies to develop gas reserves they have leased.

Chevron and the unions

Also embroiling the election is the growing dispute between Chevron and the Australian unions.
As the Australian Financial Review reported, Chevron is claiming that high costs are slowing the LNG projects and blaming the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The federal government has rejected claims from Chevron that Australia’s high-cost economy is threatening the nation’s biggest energy project, Gorgon, even as the Maritime Union of Australia demands a 26 per cent pay rise and more than 100 other benefits for its members, including Qantas Club memberships and iTunes store credits.

As Chevron’s $52 billion Gorgon project became embroiled in the ­election campaign, trade union officials accused Chevron of seeking to dodge responsibility for poor labour productivity and high costs.

The union’s demands for employees working for 19 offshore oil and gas contractors around Australia include a 26 per cent raise over four years, no foreign labour without consultation, union control of hiring and four weeks holiday for every four weeks work.

(Note there are accusations of biased reporting during this election, especially from the media owned by Rupert Murdoch. I could find no independent confirmation of union demands for airline memberships and iTunes credits) 

The Australian Labour minister, Gary Gray, who is from Western Australia, and according to reports, in a tough re-election fight, is blaming Chevron and the other energy companies for “failing to control the costs of their staff and contractors.”

“We do need our companies to get better in managing their productivity issues,” he said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he had studied China’s latest five-year economic plan and concluded Australia’s industrial relations system wasn’t hurting the industry.

Boom or bust?

The Australian Financial Review quotes Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski as saying Australia has a two-year window to get ­policy settings right and fix industrial relations and productivity or risk losing out on billions of further investment in liquefied natural gas projects.

It goes on to make a reference to Shell and operations in Canada—again that’s Kitimat folks.

after the unprecedented rush of LNG investment in the past four years, Australia has become the most costly place worldwide for new plants, while new competition is emerging in North America and east Africa.

Shell, which has slowed its $20 billion-plus Arrow LNG project in Queensland, said construction costs in Australia are now up to 30 per cent higher than in the US and Canada.

Mr Krzywosinski said LNG projects are “long-term projects that transcend governments” and Chevron would work with all sides of politics to get policy settings right.

This Australian blogger warns:

The investment surge in LNG – often favourably compared with the Apollo moon program in its magnitude – is in some ways a bubble. Firms have rushed in, extrapolated an endless supply/demand imbalance for their product, ignored global competition, over-paid for assets and developed with little thought to what others were doing, grossly inflating input costs in the process.

The blogger goes on to say

This fallout is typical of the “built it and they will come” attitude that seized energy and mining executives in the final stages of the “commodity super cycle” boom. A similar story, with different dynamics, is playing out in coal and next year in iron ore.
The unions are largely not to blame for the cost blowouts even if they are a party to them. They are, after all, unions. What does capital think will happen if it hands them such a card to play?

Sound familiar?
Australia a mirror of the BC election?

Again it appears from this far off shore, that the Australian election is somewhat mirroring the recent BC provincial election and not only because of the issue of LNG. The Labour PM Kevin Rudd returned to power after three years on the back benches,  coming back after the party dumped PM Julia Gillard.

Like BC, the Australian Liberal Party is really conservative. The Liberal Leader Tony Abbott, wants to abolish Australia’s carbon tax but Abbott is also threatening to fine companies that don’t lower prices if (or when) the carbon tax is abolished.

The polls show that the Liberal Party is leading, but that Kevin Rudd is more popular than Tony Abbott. Rudd is running an attack campaign against Abbott, warning of the consequences of an (conservative) Liberal victory. Sounds a bit like Christy Clark.

Given the split in the polls, with the leader of one party more popular than the leader of the party that is leading the polls, this video of the editors of The Australian which accompanies this story  shows their senior editors are awfully confident, perhaps over confident, about the polls. I know given what happened in BC, Alberta and even Israel, I’d be a lot more skeptical.

We’ll know the outcome of the Australian election by this time next week. As for LNG, given the volatility of the market, who knows?


(Editor’s Note: Tony Abbott and the Australian Liberal Party won a landslide victory in the weekend vote)

 (Note some of the Australian media sites appear to be metered and allow only one viewing)

From the Orange Coast: The pollsters lost big in the BC election–but not for the reason everyone is talking about

Updated with clarification

The pollsters were the biggest losers in the British Columbia provincial election on May 14—but not in the way everyone is talking about.

It’s clear to the Wednesday morning quarterbacks that the big issue in BC was the economy, and voters chose that economy over the environment.

That’s where the pollsters failed and have failed time and time again for the past decade. As long as the pollsters keep asking the stupid question “What’s more important the environment or the economy?” a majority of voters, especially in uncertain times, will choose the economy. Politicians will campaign, as Christy Clark did brilliantly, by promising that there are better economic days ahead, putting the environment far down the priority  list.

By the time Canadians and all human beings realize that a viable economy is based on a sustainable environment it may be too late to save either.

The Liberal majority under Christy Clark was a big surprise; the polling data indicated, at first, that there would be a big NDP majority and in the final days that the Adrian Dix and the NDP would sneak into the Legislature still in majority territory.

Instead, Christy Clark, who until (if) she finds a seat, will be running the province as premier from the legislature galleries.

The BC free-enterprise coalition is satisfied, for the moment. The usual cabal of University of Calgary economic pundits are cheering for their sponsors in the oil patch, with the National Post,  Globe and Mail  and Sunmedia acting as their echo chamber. (Why the eastern media insist on always having Calgary academics write about BC is rather mind boggling. If they want ultra conservative BC point of view, there’s always the Fraser Institute, but even the Fraser Institute is junior to Alberta it seems)

The trouble is that the eastern establishment mainstream media are as out of touch as the pollsters.  The Globe and Mail editorial, like most of the eastern media, once again sees British Columbia as nothing more than a junior partner in Confederation, existing to serve the interests of Alberta, with the concerns about our future secondary.

 It now falls to Ms. Clark, who was cagey about her position on the Trans Mountain project, to take an objective look at the proposal, let go of her populist, B.C.-first rhetoric, and ensure that her government is an open-minded partner with Alberta in its bid to get its oil to tidewaters for export. Any reviews of the pipeline project must be done quickly and with a deadline.

It’s just plain unmitigated arrogance, but rather typical,  to tell a premier who just won  a majority in the legislature and the popular vote to “let go of her populist BC-first rhetoric.”


Christy Clark
Christy Clark laughs at a joke at the Kitimat Valley Institute, April 4, 2013, where she announced her plan to eliminate the provincial debt in 15 years via taxes and other payments from LNG (Robin Rowland)

The liquifaction factor

There’s one big problem, a very big problem, with Clark’s promises. She opened her campaign in Kitimat by promising that the liquified natural gas developments will not only slay the deficit but pay down the BC provincial debt in 15 years.

I asked Clark in the media scrum after her announcement how she could make such a prediction when the LNG market is so volatile. She replied that her predictions were based on very conservative estimates. That was spin.

Clark based her election campaign on a promise that not only hopes to foretell the future for the next fifteen years but on liquifaction.

Now liquifaction has two meanings. First is the freezing of natural gas to LNG. Second is the problem that occurs during an earthquake when water saturated ground turns into a liquid, bringing about the collapse of countless buildings with the death and injury that follows.
Clark based her campaign on the hope that the LNG market will not liquify—as in the second meaning.

The LNG market looked so simple two years ago. Buy natural gas at low North American prices, pipeline it to the west coast, load it on tankers and sell it in Asia at the higher natural gas price there which is based on the price of oil. But, wait, the free market doesn’t work that way (sorry free enterprise coalition). Customers in Asia don’t want to pay the full oil-based price for natural gas if they can get it via the US Gulf ports at a cost plus North American price. If the export price of LNG falls, even if the BC projects proceed, the price will be a lot lower than Clark and the energy cheerleaders expect and there will be no new golden age for the BC economy.

Changes in the LNG market are happening at warp speed and it is hard to keep up (And many people in Kitimat are trying to keep up with the daily volatility since the future of the town may depend on LNG). Unfortunately, the dying mainstream media failed to explain, even in the simplest terms, that Christy Clark’s LNG promises might be as empty as a mothballed tanker. This is one case where concentrating on the horse race—and the grossly inaccurate polls—was a blunder, when there should have been reality checks on the LNG promise. The conservative cheerleaders in the media actually didn’t do their readers much good when they failed as  reporters to check out the real state of the energy industry or predicted economic catastrophe if there was an NDP victory.

The NDP failure

The NDP campaign under Adrian Dix was not up to its appointed task of explaining the need for both a viable economy and a sustainable environment.  Most pundits point to Dix’s  mid-campaign switch to opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion as the beginning of the NDP decline.

More telling, for me, was Dix’s failure to explain the proposed two-year moratorium on fracking. There are lots of moratoriums and holds on fracking in North America and around the world. The Canadian media, however, failed miserably (if it even bothered to check) that fracking moratoriums are becoming a standard, although controversial, practice worldwide. A moratorium on fracking today is prudent given the uncertainty over current practices.

Yes, fracking has been used for 50 years but on a much smaller scale. There are two new factors. First is the sheer volume of operations, with no idea what the massive increase in fracking will do to the environment, especially the ground water. Second is the stubborn refusal of companies to release proprietary information on the chemicals they use—the same “public be damned”  attitude toward environmental concerns that has got pipeline companies in trouble as well.

Christy Clark and the conservative commentators successfully painted the fracking moratorium as stopping all economic development in the province. Dix and the NDP completely failed to emphasize that their platform was that the party wanted industrial development in the province, but didn’t want to rush into development that will cost the province and its taxpayers down the road. (And taxpayers will eventually have to pay to clean up unfettered development long after the companies that profited have left town, something deficit and debt hawks always conveniently ignore.)

The Orange Coast

The Orange coast
BC election map shows the coastal areas where tankers and pipelines are the biggest issue went solidly for the NDP

As Tyler Noble (formerly with CFTK News and now with the District of Kitimat) pointed out in a Facebook post, the electoral map shows perhaps the real story of the election. The British Columbia coast is entirely NDP orange. The Interior of BC went Liberal. The fight over tankers and pipelines is not going to go away with the result of this election, it’s going to get louder and a lot nastier.

So the University of Calgary pundits, the conservative columnists and editorialists from Calgary to Toronto and the Globe and Mail editorial board will soon have to forget their cheers and go back to complaining about the BC peasants who have to be “educated” about how good pipelines are for the economy.

The polls

The pollsters are now trying to find out what went wrong, and beginning to ask how to find out who will actually turn up at the voting booth?

Even with the problems pollsters face with call display refusals, fewer landlines and the possible unreliability of internet panel polling, even with the flawed polling data some things are clear.

The turnout, as currently reported, was 52 per cent. The student vote (an actual vote) went heavily to the NDP and the Greens. Part of the student vote result is traditionally, younger people generally tend to vote “progressive” parties. Young people, increasingly disillusioned by partisan politics, are not turning out to actually vote. With high unemployment among millennials and teenagers, these potential voters want jobs, but they’re also worried about the future of the planet. They’re not turning out to vote because many say they have no one to vote for (despite the appeals of the NDP and the Greens.)

Many older people, both on the left and the right are trapped in an obsolete world view of progressive views versus big business or the dreaded socialism versus free enterprise. Older people, worried about their economic future do vote and are often more small c conservative.

Clark campaigned on that paradigm and she won.

Be careful for what you wish for.

The failure of the economy vs environment question

It may be that by the next federal election in 2015 and by the next BC election in 2017, there might be, it is hoped, a profound change in the political narrative. If the pollsters hadn’t asked that obsolete and stupid question about the environment verus the economy, business versus socialism, they might actually have had some good data in this election.

The times, as Bob Dylan sang, they are a changing. The paradigm is shifting. In just the past few months there are hints of the rise of a growing “green conservative” movement.

Preston Manning, the founder and first leader of the Reform Party is now promoting the “green conservative”

In the United States, green conservatives are adding to the ruptures in the Republican Party. There is even a branch of the Christian Coalition, that is splintering because it too supports the idea of green values because it sees green as supporting family values, helping the poor and the idea of stewardship.

We see lots of green conservatives here in northwest BC among the hunters, fishers and fishing guides and those who work in the industrial sector who like hunting, fishing, hiking and boating. Did they vote for the NDP or the Liberals?  Usually the sample size in northwest BC is too small, but drilling down might indicate that there were  enough green conservatives who voted for what should now be called the Orange Coast.

If Adrian Dix and the NDP had campaigned effectively with an eye on the green conservatives, there might actually be an NDP majority. If Christy Clark actually keeps her hints of a possible tilt toward green conservatism and moves away from the free enterprise at any cost faction of the Liberals (including that 801 coalition that died at 802), she might actually be in for a long run as BC premier.

If, on the other hand, as the Globe and Mail advocates this morning, if Clark does move,  bowing to Alberta’s demands, toward more unfettered development, as environmentalists fear and the aging free entrerprisers would love, the next provincial election will be one to watch, perhaps with the Greens filling a vacuum created by the Liberals and the NDP.

As for the pollsters, there have been two major failures in Canada, the BC and Alberta elections. The pollsters were wrong about the Israeli election as well, which means polling failure is not confined to Canadian politics. It’s time for the pollsters to stand down, go back to the beginning, and take a look at all their practices, including the basic questions they are asking and to wonder if the questions reflect an unconscious bias in favour of the party paying for the poll (good professional pollsters do usually try to avoid open bias question sequences).

If the polling companies don’t change, they too will soon follow the dying mainstream media into oblivion, so neither will be around to see a possible future where the concerns for the environment are a given and the debate is over the real solution to stave off catastrophe.


This post has been updated to clarify that those who I call Conservative cheerleaders failed to be clear about the energy industry, not the overall campaign.







Coastal First Nations launch election commercial with Exxon Valdez radio call

Coastal First Nations have launched a commercial aimed at the British Columbia electorate, using the call from the Exxon Valedez to US Coast Guard Valdez traffic control saying that the tanker had run aground.


The commercial makes the connection between the Exxon Valdez disaster and the possibility of a tanker disaster on the British Columbia coast if the Enbridge Northern Gateway project goes ahead.

According to the Vancouver Sun, Paul Simon personally approved the use of the song Sounds of Silence in the commercial.

The BC New Democrats, who are leading the polls have said they oppose Northern Gateway. The ruling BC Liberals have set out five conditions that must be met if the project is to go ahead.

Romney endorses Harper’s environmental fast track policy–if oil goes to the United States

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president of the United States today issued his “white paper” on energy policy. It calls for an integrated energy market with Canada, the United States and Mexico. Romney also endorses Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s environmental fast track “one project one review” policy.

The PDF version of The Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class Energy Independence is posted on his campaign site.

In the Executive Summary Romney says:

A crucial component of Mitt Romney’s Plan for a Stronger Middle Class is to dramatically increase domestic energy production and partner closely with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020. While resident Obama has described his own energy policy as a “hodgepodge,” sent billions of taxpayer dollars to green energy projects run by political cronies, rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline as not in “the national interest,” and sought repeatedly to stall development of America’s domestic resources, Romney’s path forward would establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st century.

It’s key recommendations are:

• Approve the Keystone XL pipeline;

• Establish a regional agreement to facilitate cross-border energy investment,
infrastructure, and sales;

• Promote and expand regulatory cooperation between governments to encourage
responsible energy production, including the creation of a forum for sharing best
practices and technologies; and

• Institute fast-track regulatory approval processes for cross-border pipelines and other infrastructure.

While the white paper is supposed to be the foundation of Republican energy policy, it is itself a “hodgepdge,” mostly a cut and paste job of various reports in the US and Canadian media. While the paper does cite those many sources, it is the kind of compiliation that would get a university freshman a fail, for lack of original content. It also get the name of Canada’s finance minister wrong in one reference, calling him correctly Jim Flaherty in the headline but “Jay Flaherty” in the story credit.

Romney’s paper also seems to be worried that the fact from the prime minister, many economists and policy analysts are saying that it is imperative that Canada diversify its market away from the United States.

Some key highlights of Romney’s white paper of quotes includes:

Obama’s Rejection Of Keystone Will Force Canada To Ship Its Vast Supplies Of Oil To China. “Ronald Liepert, the energy minister in Alberta, said that while Canada would prefer to sell its oil to the United States, ‘this commodity will go someplace.’ In particular, he said, China is already a major consumer of other Canadian natural resources and a small investor in the oil sands. ‘I can predict confidently that at some point China will take every drop of oil Canada can produce.’” (Ian Austen, “Oil Sands Project in Canada Will Go On If Pipeline Is Blocked,” The New York Times, 6/6/11)

Romney then quotes SunMedia:

Canadian PM Harper: “Look, the very fact that a ‘no’ could even be said underscores to our country that we must diversify our energy export markets…We cannot be, as a country, in a situation where our one and, in many cases, only energy partner could say no to our energy products. We just cannot be in that position.” (Bryn Weese, “Harper Determined To Get Canadian Oil To Asia,” Sun News, 4/3/12)

So while Romney wants to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, there is no mention of the Northern Gateway project, but it is clear they don’t want bitumen oil going outside of the continent.

However, the Republicans seem to like quoting Harper’s fast track approach which has caused an uproar here in Canada, quoting the Wall Street Journal:

Compare The Canadian Approach: “One Project, One Review.” “The budget also treats Canada’s energy resources as national assets to be exploited—with as few delays as possible. Thus the budget proposes to eliminate overlapping federal and provincial environmental reviews for major projects. It proposes firm review timelines, including for projects that are already underway, such as the Northern Gateway pipeline from northern Alberta to the Pacific coast. Mr. Flaherty’s catch phrase is ‘one project, one review.’” (Editorial, “Canada Beats America,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/3/12)

and also appearing to endorse downloading to the provinces (or in the case of the US, the states), while warning Americans about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s statement in the Commons about diversifying Canada’s markets.

Compare The Canadian Approach: “Respect Provincial Jurisdiction … Streamline The
Review Process.” CANADIAN FINANCE MINISTER JIM FLAHERTY: “Canada’s resource industries offer huge potential to create even more jobs and growth, now and over the next generation. This potential exists in every region of the country–natural gas in British Columbia, oil and minerals on the Prairies, the Ring of Fire in Ontario, Plan Nord in Quebec, hydro power in Atlantic Canada, and mining in Canada’s North. Recently it has become clear that we must develop new export markets for
Canada’s energy and natural resources, to reduce our dependence on markets in the United States.
The booming economies of the Asia- Pacific region are a huge and increasing source of demand, but Canada is not the only country to which they can turn. If we fail to act now, this historic window of opportunity will close. We will implement responsible resource development and smart regulation for major economic projects, respecting provincial jurisdiction and maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection. We will streamline the review process for such projects, according to the following principle: one project, one review, completed in a clearly defined time period. We will ensure that Canada has the infrastructure we need to move our exports to new markets.” (Canadian Finance Minister Jay Flaherty, The House Of Commons, Remarks, 3/29/12)

One has to wonder if Mitt Romney’s other policies are also cut and paste jobs and, if elected, how often he will be calling Stephen Harper for advice.

Wildrose tweet brings anti-Kitimat “birther” argument to Alberta election

In an example of how nasty American politics is infecting the Alberta provincial election, an anonymous Twitter account that apparently promotes the Wildrose party has brought the American “birther” argument into the campaign.

The badly written, poorly spelled,Tweet showed up on this morning’s Kitimat Twitter search feed. It implies that Alison Redford will not be a good premier for the province because she was born in Kitimat.


Twitter comment on Wildrose and KitimatWhile the @wild_rose_MLA account, at this point, has only 20 followers and 20 following, it seems to be adopting the right-wing argument from the United States that President Barack Obama is not eligible to president because, despite conclusive proof that he was born in Hawaii, Obama the “birthers” believe he wasn’t born in the US.

Earlier there was a nasty incident in the election campaign. The controversy began when Amanda Wilkie, an assistant to the executive-director of Premier Redford’s Calgary office, Tweeted about Wildrose leader Danielle Smith:

“If @ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn’t she have children of her own?”

@wild_rose_mla  tweetsThe following day, Smith issued a statement. “In the last day the question has been raised about why I don’t have children,” and then told how Danielle Smithand her husband David had wanted children, had tried fertility treatments, but were unsuccessful. Wilkie later resigned from Smith’s office.

The irony, of course,is that in her role as premier of Alberta and as a prime promoter of the bitumen sands and the Northern Gateway and other pipelines, Redford has shown no indication that a Kitimat point of view actually has any influence on her policies and platform. Her family left Kitimat when she was a toddler.

This Twitter account is likely the efforts one highly-partisan individual who favours Wildrose, or, because it is so strident, perhaps even a disinformation campaign by an opponent. One reader has suggested it is a parody account.

On a wider picture, however, this tweet is typical of the thousands of tweets seen over the past couple of years that shows a general ignorance about Kitimat, if not outright contempt, that seems to prevalent in Alberta political circles.  For those Albertans, Kitimat is simply the predestined outlet for the bitumen sands and nothing more.


Monaghan re-elected Kitimat mayor, anti-pipeline rival Halyk well back


Updated with official results
Joanne  Monaghan has been re-elected at  mayor of Kitimat. Her chief rival, Councillor Randy Halyk was far behind.

During the campaign, Halyk announced his opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Mongahan maintained her  official position of neutrality on the pipeline,  although there were repeated allegations during the campaign that she supports the pipeline. Monaghan has been vocal in her support of other projects like liquified natural gas and the modernization of the Rio Tinto Alcan plant.

Official results

  • Joanne Monaghan 1356
  • Randy Halyk 619
  • Jim Thom 304
  • Danny Nunes 85

There will be a couple of new faces on District of Kitimat Council, with newcomer Edwin Empinado gaining the most votes at 1403,  followed by Mario Feldhoff, 1320, Phil Germuth, 1294, Mary Murphy, 1247, Rob Goffinet, 1167,  and Corrine Scott, 1099.

Voter turnout in Kitimat was  55 per cent.

Although incumbents were generally acclaimed or returned across the northwest, in Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, who has voiced opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline was elected mayor, defeating incumbent Cress Farrow.  Bachrach promised a more  collaborative style of leadership  (an issue also in the Kitimat election.   Bachrach also supports the  Wet’suwet’en First Nation;s opposition to the pipeline. At least four of the successful Smithers council candidates also oppose the pipeline.

In Terrace, mayor Dave Pernarowski  was re-elected and he too has voiced opposition to the Northern Gateway as do most of the Terrace council. 

Non disclosure demands from new energy industries raise tensions at Kitimat Council


Members of the District of Kitimat council vote on Nov. 7, 2011, in favour of releasing three internal consultants reports that had been commissioned to ease the council’s dysfunction and improve relationships among members.  (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Apparent demands for confidentiality from the companies that plan to locate in Kitimat, or may locate in Kitimat, have thrown gasoline on the flames of long existing tensions that exist on District of Kitimat council.

Those tensions, which have not  been that apparent in recent meetings, but have been reported in the past three years, flared up Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, when Councillor Randy Halyk, a candidate for mayor in the municipal election two weeks from now,  introduced a motion to publicly release three consultants reports on internal dysfunction and personality conflicts in the council.

619-randyhalyk.jpgHalyk then accused the current mayor, Joanne Monaghan of  withholding information from the rest of
council “on numerous occasions.”

As Monaghan sat by stoically, Halyk listed his grievances against the current mayor: “Meeting with industry people or government on the sly, signing
letters of intent without council’s blessing or even their knowledge,
discussing in camera topics with non governmental groups, yet not
communicating with council on important matters…A mayor, as part of council, should promote teamwork and yet… it has not happened in the last three years.”

Retiring councillor Gerd Gottschling joined Haylk, accusing Monaghan of not following the usual collegial practices among  municipal councils, keeping council members out of the decision making process. “I believe this is a team effort, we are a team and you are our leader, and when we have to make decisions, we need information to make those decisions.”

620-monaghancouncil.jpgMonaghan  replied by simply saying that she had had conversations with various industry representatives visiting Kitimat and that often those people visiting Kitimat had requested confidentiality. She emphasized that she had never signed a letter of intent without disclosing information to District Council.

Between 2009 and 2010, the council hired three different consulting firms to help facilitate the operations of the council, help members to overcome their differences.  Previous attempts to release all or part of the reports failed in the past.

Much of the debate went over old grievances, including a time a BC cabinet minister had requested a meeting with Monaghan where council members were excluded. A couple of councillors pointed out that the three consultants reports could have been released at any time between 2009 and 2011 and that two weeks prior to an election was not perhaps the best time.

Halyk said that the council had “run by the seat of its pants for the previous three years,” pointing out that the council had to scramble to deal with the closure of the Eurocan paper plant and didn’t deal with it very well and said that was one reason he was standing for mayor.

Council then voted to release redacted copies of the reports, with one member, Mario Feldhoff, voting against, the rest, including Mayor Monaghan, voted in favour.

It was not the first time that demands for confidentiality have been raised in Kitimat.  During the June National Energy Board hearings on the Kitimat LNG project, counsel for the KM LNG partners, Gordon Nettleton, requested that the project be exempt from certain NEB disclosure requirements to satisfy the stricter confidentiality demands from Asian natural gas customers, a request that the NEB granted in its decision.

So, in effect, when the Asian LNG rush began last spring after the Japanese earthquake, Monaghan, whose practices and personality did sometimes cause tensions with the rest of the council, was getting demands from potential industries that could locate in Kitimat, to follow Asian, not North American customs for non disclosure of information prior to the announcement of any final deal. Members of council were excluded when standard practice meant they should have been in the loop.

Two of the many reasons for are:

  • One is that Asian companies generally have to disclose less information to the public than North American companies, unless they are publicly listed in the United States and thus subject to Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
  • The second is the long time custom of not disclosing a potential deal in case if fails and the parties loose face.

The longer term problem, beyond the personality conflicts on the District of Kitimat Council, which may or may not be solved by the upcoming election, is whose transparency practices Kitimat should follow, North American or East Asian, the seller (Kitimat and its port) or the buyer (China and Japan)? 

For legal reasons, it may be that Kitimat will have to follow Canadian transparency rules in future dealings.

 At very least, if there is any money left in the consulting budget, the new council should probably hire yet another consultant, one who can advise the members on business practices in China, Japan and the rest of East Asia, a subject they didn’t need to know much about a year ago, but is now vital to Kitimat’s future.