Endless dithering is not an option

How deliciously fitting that some of the best advice Premier Christy Clark has received comes from the pollster she has maligned...

How deliciously fitting that some of the best advice Premier Christy Clark has received this spring comes from Angus Reid, the pollster she has maligned repeatedly for telling it like it is.

The most recent Angus Reid poll shows the premier continuing a popularity free fall that began almost as soon as she took office. Today, Clark’s positive performance rating stands at just 30 per cent, making her the second most unpopular premier in the nation, just three points ahead of Nova Scotia’s Darrell Dexter.

Correspondingly, her disapproval rating continues to climb with 63 per cent of survey respondents saying they’re unhappy with her performance. By comparison, the NDP’s Adrian Dix is now the second most popular opposition leader in the country with an approval rating of 53 per cent.

With the popularity gap between Clark and Dix at a staggering 23 points, Angus Reid spokesman Mario Canseco comes to the obvious conclusion: “The enemy’s not anybody else but Adrian Dix for the Liberals and the sooner that they get into the mindset of what it might take to win the next election, their numbers might actually start to trend upwards again.”

Canseco’s warning is simple and his advice is the stuff of Politics 101. Premier Clark and the Liberals have to actually do something to re-energize the free enterprise vote. They have to draw a line in the sand between Clark and Dix that defines the choices ahead. They have to wave a flag that stops free enterprisers from wavering.

Nothing illustrates the pressing need for action better than the premier’s dithering over the proposed Enbridge pipeline.

Surely the Liberal brain trust realizes that this issue is too important and too prominent for Clark to continue to sit on the fence with both ears on the ground. She insists it is still too soon to determine if the pipeline risks are too high. “We should recognize those concerns as legitimate, but let’s see what comes out of the process.”

Frankly, this is political cowardice. The government has not even participated in the pipeline hearings even though it is currently in possession of all the information it needs to make an informed contribution regarding the merits and risks attached to the controversial project. A thick technical report on the project is currently gathering dust in the office of Environment Minister Terry Lake.

The Enbridge pipeline project represents a critical provincial and national energy policy issue. During next year’s election it will most certainly be a wedge issue that helps shape debate and define voter choices. The NDP — the party of “No” — has made it clear where it stands.

Both the NDP and the Liberals have observed that the project leaves B.C. with few economic benefits and substantial environmental risk. Herein lies the Liberals’ opportunity to engage and show leadership.

Clark needs to wake up. If she takes forever to take her place in this crucial debate only to eventually join the NDP in opposition then what shreds of free enterprise support she still enjoys will abandon her and her government.

What she needs to do for her “Canada Starts Here” constituency is support the project, fully engage her government in the hearing process and begin a tough political fight for a major revenue-sharing agreement with Alberta and a nationally-endorsed environmental risk mitigation strategy.

Endless dithering is not an option. M

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