By Frank Moher
Perhaps Alison, the regular blogger in this space, will disagree, but it seems to me the Conservatives have actually done two things right in the last two days. That’s two things in a row. Significantly, both are liable to prove unpopular with their business base in the West, which may mean that the Conservatives are actually ready to govern, as opposed to playing to the ideological fringers they’re usually intent on satisfying.
First, on Monday, they turned down the Taseko Mines’ proposal to turn Fish Lake in central BC into a (talk about bad timing) tailings pond. The local Tsilhqot’in first nation had lobbied against the proposal to create an alternative, artificial lake — restocked, presumably, with the 90,000 trout that would have been killed — and refused Taseko’s revenue-sharing proposals. The provincial government had already approved the project, and Gordon Campbell recently extolled it (which has to make you wonder if its rejection wasn’t just one more thing leading to his resignation).
Of course, the horrid optics involved in creating a tailings pond at a time when the ones in northern Alberta have just killed another few hundred ducks may have had something to do with the Cons’ newfound environmental sensitivity. And it may be that the phrase “artificial lake” still has a certain chilling effect in government circles. Still, they made the right choice.
Then, today, the Feds ruled against the takeover of Saskatchewan Potash by Australian mining behemoth BHP Billiton. This time, the provincial government was onside; Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall had railed against the deal and threatened legal action if it went through. Regardless, the rejection is certain to anger the “Canada is open for business” crowd in Saskatchewan and elsewhere. (Here’s Kevin “All I Care About is Cash Flow” O’Leary having a conniption about it today on the CBC.)
In both cases, the applicants are entitled to return with revised proposals (unlikely in the first instance, not at all in the second). Having been seen to do the right thing, the Conservatives may yet find a way to undo it. But for those who’d rather business-as-usual didn’t always mean placating-business-as-usual, the week has started well.