A fall election in British Columbia is likely to produce a New Democrat majority government that will cause the province's miners to fear for their future - just as they're on the verge of opening up at least a dozen new projects that could become operational in the next ten years. The majority of those projects are in the Northwest, although some are elsewhere - such as the coal-rich Northeast. Realistically, British Columbia would see a four percent increase in GDP if they become operational mines. Along with that increase, there would also be a boost in high-paying blue collars jobs and government revenues.
But those projects could be put at risk if the New Democratic Party defeated the Liberals. The NDP has been in government twice before. Both times there has been a serious chill in the mining sector.
In fairness, the New Democrats weren't entirely to blame for the 1990s downturn in mineral exploration. But their presence in government meant British Columbia's mineral that shortfall was more dramatic than elsewhere in the world. And it's unlikely think things will be different if the party takes the reigns of power a third time.
Some New Democrat supporters speak of introducing an Australia-style super profits tax on miners. Others say the province's environmental assessment process is too weak and needs to be strengthened. Either measure would stop all the mining projects in the province and drop exploration to a shadow of where it has been for the last few years.
Bernard von Schulmann is a policy and land use consultant. In 1999, he predicted "the New Democratic Party is looking at four safe seats" in the 2001 election. "A complete shutout is not an impossibility." In 2005, he was the campaign coordinator for Yes for BC-STV. Mr. Schulmann blogs at BC Iconoclast. He is presently a member of the provincial Liberals and the federal Conservatives, as well as being a pacifist Quaker.