Saturday 22nd October 2016

Resource Clips

The B.C. election

An astonishing BC Liberal win brings relief to the mining and exploration sector

by Greg Klein

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Updated results:

  • BC Liberals 50 seats, 44.4% of the vote
  • NDP 33 seats, 39.5%
  • Greens 1 seat, 8%
  • Independent 1 seat, 3.3%

If British Columbia’s mining and exploration sector needed a massive jolt of reassuring news, they got it May 14. The pollsters were wrong, the pundits were wrong and the winners might be as surprised as the losers are disappointed. Although the popular vote was close, the BC Liberal party won an historic fourth term, handily defeating the New Democratic Party.

Christy Clark’s campaign emphasized the economy with appearances at work sites

Christy Clark’s campaign emphasized the economy with appearances
at work sites throughout the province. (Photo: BC Liberals)

Or did the NDP defeat themselves? Adrian Dix, the party’s choice for new leader 13 months ago, was widely considered an NDP hardliner. He played a prominent role in B.C.’s last NDP government, which is blamed for the “dismal decade” of 1991 to 2001, when the province’s economy tanked despite robust performance in other parts of the country. For possibly the first time in its history, B.C. saw a significant exodus of job-seekers. In addition to low metal prices and Bre-X, exploration and mining were hammered by NDP policies. As the BC Liberals like to say, when the NDP governed “two mines closed for every one that opened.”

More recently, Dix tried to soften his image. But he remained vague about his intentions even though—or because—he leads arguably the most extreme left-wing party in mainstream North American politics. In several conversations with ResourceClips prior to the election, exploration and mining company executives spoke with dread of another NDP government.

Now, it turns out, they needn’t have worried. But apart from removing a widely perceived threat, what exactly does a BC Liberal victory mean to the sector?

That’s not easy to say. Mining didn’t play a prominent role in the election, despite the efforts of four industry organizations behind the Vote Mining campaign.

If you look at the debacle with HD Mining, no one even thought of employing first nations people.—Stephen Hunt,
western Canada director of the
United Steelworkers union

Moreover, under Christy Clark’s leadership the once business-friendly party has shown policy confusion and a lack of conviction. Her government never explained its rejection last October of Pacific Booker Minerals’ TSXV:BKM proposed Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine, which received a favourable environmental assessment report. The company launched a lawsuit in April after spending about $30 million on the project, including over $10 million on the decade-long environmental process.

When news broke that HD Mining plans to staff its proposed Murray River coal mine exclusively with Chinese underground workers, the BC Liberals couldn’t say enough good words about the scheme. The government knew that Chinese interests had similar plans for other B.C. coal projects since at least 2007.

Even under Clark’s more capable predecessor, policy wonk Gordon Campbell, the BC Liberals could sow uncertainty. A sudden ban on uranium and thorium exploration in 2009 led to a $30-million out-of-court settlement for Boss Power TSXV:BPU.

By the BC Liberals’ first 10 years in office, BC Hydro built up at least $2.2 billion in deferred debt that’s expected to reach $5 billion by 2017. The burden calls into question the public utility’s ability to build infrastructure and provide inexpensive electricity to homes, businesses and industry.

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