What looks like British Columbia’s first minority government since 1952 will evoke plenty of speculation, not the least from miners. As cliff-hanger metaphors competed with seesaw comparisons throughout the night of May 9, the B.C. election came to an inconclusive result by ResourceClips.com press time. While the B.C. Elections website took most of the day and night off, CBC pegged the post-midnight results at 43 Liberals elected, 41 New Democrats elected and three Greens in the upper echelons (two elected and one leading, compared with just one seat last time).
During the campaign all three parties professed support for mining, especially the continuation of flow-through tax credits. But the much more vexatious issue of permitting drew largely euphemistic responses.
Quoted by the Association for Mineral Exploration, NDP leader John Horgan pledged his party would address the uncertainty of permitting by working with Geoscience B.C., the B.C. Geological Survey and First Nations “to develop comprehensive mineral land use plans.”
In the same publication Green leader Andrew Weaver professed his commitment to fix B.C.’s “structurally broken” environmental review process, in which the “professional reliance model” has lost the confidence of First Nations and the general public.
Former mines minister Bill Bennett, who retired as the writ was dropped, reminded AME about his government’s inducements to native support, including royalty sharing and training programs.
But the mining-related issue that unexpectedly gained most prominence was thermal coal and its trans-shipment from the U.S. to Asia via B.C. The stuff “fouls the air. It fouls the oceans. It’s terrible for the environment,” Canadian Press quoted BC Liberal leader Christy Clark.
She spoke in response to the U.S. president’s 20% tariff on softwood lumber imports, most of which come from B.C.
Her proposed $70-a-tonne penalty would not only cripple thermal coal exports from the U.S., but also from Alberta, to the detriment of that province’s mines and this province’s ports. Clark’s comments didn’t acknowledge B.C.’s reliance—notwithstanding its hydro resources—on Alberta’s coal-generated electricity. That’s not to mention B.C.’s dependency on nuclear-generated power from Washington state. B.C . has banned uranium exploration.
Additionally Clark’s proposal would hammer the final nail in the coffin of Quinsam, B.C.’s last thermal coal mine. Hillsborough Resources suspended the Vancouver Island underground operation in January 2016 due to low prices.
A coal mining topic unacknowledged in the campaign was the election’s coincidence with the 25th anniversary of Nova Scotia’s Westray disaster, which killed 26 miners. Down Easterners marked that anniversary as a former director of mine-owner Curragh Inc, 83-year-old BC Liberal Ralph Sultan, swept to his fifth straight victory in the affluent riding of West Vancouver-Capilano.
Meanwhile preliminary results offer the Greens potential power that’s unprecedented for their party in Canada. All three projected Green seats are on southern Vancouver Island, also home to Canada’s sole Green MP, Elizabeth May. Apart from B.C., only New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have Green MLAs, one each in those two provinces.
However B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver stands apart from the other parties’ undistinguished professional politicians. A University of Victoria professor, he shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his participation in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
His influence, with maybe two other Greens, could be formidable. That might be especially true since this election will mark the first new government after the 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam disaster that challenged public support for mining.