Transparent decision making and promises of public engagements have been common in British Columbia. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell’s 2001 platform undertook to:
Hold open Cabinet meetings at least once a month that are televised and broadcast live on the Internet.
Like Campbell’s pledge to not sell or privatize BC Rail, the promise of open government was soon forgotten.
However, declarations of public engagement remain popular. In recent years, BC has had formal consultation processes on:
- Caribou recovery,
- Poverty reduction,
- Ticket scalping,
- Oil spill responses,
- Moose ticks,
- Recreational trail building,
- Vaping, and
- more than two dozen other subjects.
One topic not open for public discussion is the disappearance of oil and gas payments once worth billions of dollars to the British Columbia treasury.
Rest assured, these public revenues didn’t vanish by accident.
More than a decade ago, natural gas producers decided they would no longer tolerate paying vast sums to the provincial treasury. However, the industry would pay to grease revolving doors through which regulators could move between public and private employment. Additionally, they budgeted millions to gain silent loyalties of political parties, lobbyists and cooperating influencers, including journalists.
The strategy worked. Royalties essentially disappeared through revised calculation schemes and credit programs. Rights payments became immaterial after competitive bidding was largely replaced by administrators awards awarding lands in private.
The process began under Campbell, accelerated under Clark and is being completed by Horgan.
Lands offered by tenders in the last twelve months were less than 4% of amounts that were common in the early 2000s.
Public consultation is a public relations gesture, used when government doesn’t expect it to alter the courses of action they favour.
If interests of favoured parties are at risk, the public will not be invited to play more than a ceremonial role.
Categories: Natural Gas