VICTORIA – I recently sat down with Premier Christy Clark for a year-end interview to talk about her eventful first year back in politics. Here are excerpts from that discussion:
TF: People in general are a bit cynical about the treaty process. You could say that about Sophie Pierre [former Ktunaxa chief and chair of the independent B.C. Treaty Commission]. In her report this year she talked about the mounting debt from 20 years of negotiations and basically gave an ultimatum to fix it or shut it down. Do you see the commission continuing as it is, or do you see some changes ahead?
PCC: We’re not planning any significant changes to it. We are starting to see, just now, the fruits of all the work from the ministry and from the government and from the treaty commission. And that’s all starting to move pretty quickly. The Taku River Tlinglit economic agreement [mining development and protected areas in the Atlin area], there are a number of these agreements that are starting to flow out, and it’s been a long, slow, frustrating process. So now is the wrong time to walk away from the process, because there’s been 20 years of work invested in this, and we’re finally starting to see the fruits of it.
TF: A related subject is the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline. There’s a lot of aboriginal opposition to that. The federal Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, not too long ago called this a “nation building project.” It certainly fits with your jobs strategy. Do you support the concept of the pipeline?
PCC: First of all, we are foursquare behind the concept and soon to be reality of the liquefied natural gas pipelines, which would take B.C. gas and get it to the port at Kitimat. There is pretty much unanimous First Nations support along the way, community support, through the environmental approval process, it’s all working.
The Enbridge proposal is far from that. Being able to get triple the price for Canadian oil would be a big benefit for Canada overall. But the project is one where we have to examine both the costs and benefits. That’s why it’s in the environmental approval process. This is the first of its kind, so I think we have to get a good look at it, and once we have the facts before us, we can have a debate about whether it should go ahead.
TF: The carbon tax. Do you think it’s working, and will we see changes in the years to come?
PCC: I think that it’s probably affecting people’s and businesses’ decisions about their reliance on carbon as a source of energy. I don’t want to overstate that, though. The thing about the carbon tax is that it’s hard to know how much difference it’s made. But I think anecdotally we see that it has made some difference.
We are in the process now of consulting with both the job creator community and citizens about where they’d like us to go next with the carbon tax. We have to keep in mind that the economy is fragile. But we want to remain a leader on the environment, which where we are right now in North America.