Opinion Column

'Semantics' an omnibus excuse for Christy Clark


Creative semantics is the key to contemporary government; it consists of talking in strange tongues lest the public learn the inevitable inconveniently early.

- George Will, U.S. columnist

Dirty is clean.

Bonuses are salary.

Welcome to B.C. Premier Christy Clark's brave new world of political problem solving!

Clark turned the meaning of several words upside down last week to her government's advantage - if voters believe it - and dismissed objections as mere "semantics."

Bonuses for Community Living B.C. executives and managers were allegedly cancelled in October after a public uproar over how people with developmental disabilities were being mistreated. Social Development Minister Harry Bloy and CEO Rick Mowles were turfed as a result.

Last week, a new controversy broke out after it was revealed the bonuses were still being paid and simply redefined as part of their base salary, leading one advocacy group to call it "disgusting."

Clark immediately cleared that up by stating criticism of the government decision to reward the same executives who had been rightly pilloried was just "semantics."

But she wasn't finished yet.

Next Clark declared that energy from fossil fuel natural gas that had been previously declared "dirty" by the B.C. Liberals' own Clean Energy Act would henceforth be called "clean" - if it was used to power multi-billion dollar plants to liquefy natural gas for export to Asia.

That means two proposed, power-hungry LNG plants with export licences and four more under consideration - which would use five times the energy consumed by Vancouver - can now burn natural gas for electricity to liquefy their product for shipping overseas.

The announcement came at a Business Council of B.C. energy conference - the same group that previously criticized the government for "penalizing" natural gas use.

Dirty becomes clean with the stroke of a pen. And calling such picky little details "semantics" simply solves any problems.

Given this clear trend, a similar announcement from Clark may be coming soon.

May 2013: Premier Christy Clark declared a B.C. Liberal "election victory," despite her party winning less than a dozen seats, as the New Democrats swept to a crushing majority government.

"We clearly won the election because we had the best campaign, the best record and the best leader," Clark boasted. "To say otherwise is just ... semantics."