20 years ago yesterday came the Supreme Court’s Delgamuukw ruling, ensuring that this “Canada” recognizes pre-existing aboriginal sovereignty, especially in BC where virtually none of the land was ever ceded to the British Crown.
This is a pathetic day for dignity, after yesterday the BC NDP marked the anniversary of Delgamuukw by approving the dam that Christy Clark promised to get past the point of no return.
Surely she and her people are smiling today, with their great accomplishment, despite having lost the election.
Site C Does Indeed Suck
There has been much analysis in recent weeks regarding the likelihood and value of whether to proceed or not proceed with this horrible dam, even beyond its sick, sordid history. Issues affected include:
- reconciliation potential, with “free prior and informed consent,” which indeed includes a veto
- food security in the Peace region
- consent from not only the First Nations, but also the voters of BC
- independent government oversight in the BC Utilities Commission
- addressing climate change
- collaborative green energy development, which cannot happen when you impede collaboration
- endorsing contempt for process and voters by approving a dam that was initiated in deeply bad faith by a morally corrupt government
- the sunk cost fallacy [Wise folks in the future will possibly see that the BC NDP was victimized by the framing effect of legacy BC Liberal civil servants.]…[Also note, New Coke and Crystal Pepsi were also abandoned.]
- whipped governments versus independent thought, along with cabinet secrecy twitch
- the necessity of electoral reform to ensure more effective representation
- authentic engagement with authentic people
The BC NDP failed on all of these, and more.
But what is most galling to me today is that the last time the BC NDP was in power, we saw the completion of the Nisga’a treaty, and the Delgamuukw decision, see above.
In Delgamuukw, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that “Aboriginal sovereignty, i.e., exclusive jurisdiction and sole possession, is the supreme law of the land pending treaty.”
This establishes that since most of BC is traditional, unceded First Nations land occupied by European/Canadian settlers, there ought to be recognition of the rights of First Nations. Indeed, the new BC NDP government said as much in its election platform when asserting its stance on reconciliation, by recognizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and by noting that, “Aboriginal Title and Rights are a matter of law and justice. John Horgan’s BC NDP will make reconciliation a cross-government priority.”
We know they set this aside this month.
We know that minutes after the Horgan dam announcement came the announcement of an injunction lawsuit: West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations to Seek Injunction, Launch Site C Infringement Action.
Then Horgan doubled down. First, endorsing Christy Clark’s dam. Then, after trying to wash his hands of it by saying Christy Clark pushed it past the point of no return [remember, civil service bureaucrats are often on the side of pushing/falling for the sunk cost fallacy], he said this, which is frankly embarrassing to all British Columbians:
Horgan asked about reconciliation & #SiteC “When it comes to reconciliation and working with Indigenous leadership, look there has been over 150 years of disappointment in British Columbia. I’m not the first person to stand before you and disappoint Indigenous people…” #bcpoli
— ChantelleBellrichard (@pieglue) December 11, 2017
He lined himself up behind some of the deepest racists in BC and Canadian history. As if Christy Clark’s dam weren’t bad enough.
We deserve better. HE deserves to be better.
So here’s what we know.
The cabinet was unanimous in approving Christy Clark’s dam. They were unanimous because cabinet deliberations are secret and all decisions are unanimous, regardless of debate, discussion or voting. We know how toxic this is because we’ve seen the Westminster Parliamentary System demonstrate how vile it is for centuries.
It’s also why the brilliant Sean Holman made Whipped: “which exposes the secretive system of party discipline that transforms Canadian politicians into ‘trained seals.’ During the documentary, past and present elected officials talk for the first time about the backroom forces that caused them to vote against their conscience and their constituents.”
Doesn’t that feel like we just went through a multi-billion-dollar version of this grueling nightmare?
It’s also why the BC NDP and the BC Green Party are pushing so hard for proportional representation, and why the BC Liberals are trying to convince voters that first-past-the-post [absolute power with around 40% of the vote] is better for us all. And I’ll just leave this here: how many BC NDP influencers are against proportional representation and for Christy Clark’s dam? If they were silent in Twitter yesterday, they may be on that list.
But here’s the skinny: the BC NDP just blew their chance to enhance their political and moral legitimacy by rejecting her dam, and embracing a greater depth of reconciliation, by entrenching Peace region food security, by pledging to spend the inflating Site C black hole of cash on building retrofits, upgrading our existing dam infrastructure [which the BC NDP called “Maximize existing hydroelectric dams” in their pre-election literature, thereby fooling people into thinking they were against Christy Clark’s dam], and exploring solar, tidal, wind and geothermal energy.
And since solar energy costs will continue to plummet, the Site C sunk cost fallacy becomes ever-more tragic.
If you’ve read any science fiction, you’ve probably heard that if we build the technology to travel to a nearby planet of another star in 50 years, we don’t necessarily go right away. What if in that 50 years we can make the trip in a much faster time? Of course we can’t know that for sure, but it would suck to be on that first ship when the second one passes you after 37 years.
The cost of the Site C will continue to increase, as it’s already gone up billions since Gordon Campbell started this whole nightmare. And the cost to cancel it now will cost money, but the billions we won’t spend will be worth more as, for instance, solar technology continues to become cheaper. And as solar roadways, solar roofs and similar technologies become more widespread.
Where do we go from here?
This is the end of the BC NDP as we know it. They’ve just become as useless as the tarsands-addicted Alberta NDP. Regressive, insulting and with no vision for a clean energy future with dignity. We need to end them.
Going back to cabinet secrecy, we can infer a few things:
- Backbenchers aren’t in cabinet; they weren’t part of the vote even they’re a huge group of the government caucus. Thanks, Westminster Parliamentary System. Some or many of them oppose Christy Clark’s dam, regardless of how much information they received, that cabinet got. They all have constituents with particular views, many of whom have been unsubscribing from party email lists for the last day.
- At least 12 of the 23 MLAs in cabinet voted for Christy Clark’s dam. Or, you can think of it like this: as few as a dozen of the BC NDP were convinced to approve this other person’s dam.
- The NDP MLAs [cabinet and caucus] who oppose the dam can form their own party. They can create their own agreement with the BC NDP to support the government under whatever conditions they agree upon. If they choose to vote against Christy Clark’s dam it won’t matter because her Liberal MLAs will help the NDP pass the dam, barring successful legal challenges. But a new party will campaign strongly for proportional representation along with the Greens and NDP to ensure their voices rule BC going forward. The new party will be one that asserts a vision for a collaborative green energy future that actually implements the UNDRIP.
- As an element of the dam decision, the BC NDP cabinet did some electoral calculus and decided that the number of members/supporters/stakeholders who would leave the party is tolerable. This is where it gets crafty and unpleasant, but that’s part of how they make the sausage. If you don’t believe me, ask any other political scientist.
- Sometimes the cabinet of a “progressive” party tries to get away with bad decisions by hoping its supporters will continue supporting them as the lesser of two demons. Let’s get Hillary Clinton in here to share her feelings about that.
Many NDP supporters will quit the party, not vote for them or the federal NDP in the future, join the Greens or look for something else to do with their time. Like home solar kits and recreational wind turbines.
Or they may support the new party that emerges out of the Delgamuukw-insulting BC NDP.
Who knows, it’s still early hours. And court is not yet in session on the injunction.
But one thing I know as we pivot to a new world, we need to leave a few things behind:
- Functionally negating reconciliation with First Nations, the UNDRIP, and collaborative green energy projects.
- Saying racists in the past have demeaned First Nations, but our new premier is just going to use them for cover and do the same. Nope.
- Ignore that what we’re dealing with here is international relations, but we seem to lack respect, protocol and a willingness to not be so cynical that we can’t take it seriously. It means actual consent and collaboration to avoid receiving their punishing veto.
- Making an election promise to send Christy Clark’s dam to the BC Utilities Commission for review [finally], but then when the BCUC slams her dam, the cabinet approves it anyway.
This is where the Leap Manifesto [surprisingly, so hated by so many in provincial and federal NDPs, but maybe now not so surprisingly] gets it: effectively addressing climate change, income inequality and settler colonialism. Because systems theory!
So keep your eyes widely opened.
Watch how people posture themselves.
Talk to your MLAs to see if they’re spinning the cabinet rhetoric.
Find the people with principle.
Embrace those who live their principles.
Support MLAs who oppose the dam, support those who demand reconciliation that is more than empty vapour. And be prepared to build a new future that looks so much different from the past–or yesterday, even–because if you want a new world, we need a new paradigm.
If we want to pivot to a world with energy, nation-to-nation, economic, and climate dignity, virtually everything from our current socio-economic/political system needs to expire. With prejudice.
Be hopeful. Be vigilant. Be smart.
Don’t be fooled again.