Who benefits politically from the B.C. NDP government's love of LNG? Elizabeth May, of course

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      In the last federal NDP leadership race, a bevy of B.C. NDP MLAs, including several cabinet ministers, publicly backed the candidacy of Jagmeet Singh.

      On a single day in the summer of 2017, eight of them came out in favour of the eventual winner—a then little-known Ontario politician to many B.C. residents.

      The imprimatur from B.C. cabinet ministers Bruce Ralston, Lana Popham, Harry Bains, Rob Fleming, and Judy Darcy provided Singh with tremendous momentum at a critical time in the campaign.

      Singh also received endorsements from B.C. NDP MLAs Anne Kang, Ravi Kahlon, and Rachna Singh, as well as former B.C. NDP MLA Jane Shin and former B.C. NDP candidates Amandeep Singh and Bobby Deepak.

      B.C. traditionally had the most members of the federal NDP—and Singh had never lived in B.C.—so the political significance of this tidal wave of support can't be underestimated.

      To drive home Singh's progressive credentials on the environment, his campaign included a quote from B.C. agriculture minister Lana Popham in a news release.

      "I have dedicated most of my political career to food sovereignty in relation to climate change and I know Jagmeet shares those values," Popham said.

      It's unfortunate for Singh that the B.C. NDP government has decided to undermine his environmental brand just as his party is gearing up for a crucial by-election in the spring.

      Yesterday, Finance Minister Carole James introduced Bill 10, which would reduce the corporate income tax by 25 percent for LNG producers.

      The prime beneficiary of the drop in corporate income tax from 12 percent to 9 percent is LNG Canada, a consortium of international energy companies led by Shell. 

      It wants to develop what B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver has called the single largest point source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canadian history.

      Weaver has called Bill 10 a "generational sellout".

      James defends the legislation as necessary to eliminate "barriers for investment in B.C.'s natural gas sector".

      On this issue, the B.C. NDP is on the same side as the federal Liberals.

      Singh has also publicly supported the LNG Canada project. And he can be certain that the timing of the B.C. NDP government's Bill 10 will make this a larger campaign issue in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, where voters go to the polls on May 6.

      NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will discover on May 6 if his support for an LNG plant in B.C. will spark a backlash from voters in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
      Jagmeet Singh

      According to some estimates, the LNG Canada plant near Kitimat, related infrastructure, and the necessary fracking of natural gas will account for more than 10 percent of all B.C. greenhouse gas emissions.

      LNG Canada, on the other hand, says it will produce about four megatonnes of greenhouse gases per year when it's fully built out, which is about six percent of the provincial total in 2015.

      Meanwhile, the B.C. NDP government's legislated climate targets won't kick in until 2030—likely long after Premier John Horgan and most of his cabinet have left office.

      The long lag time before imposing legislated targets led political commentator Martyn Brown to describe the B.C. NDP government's new climate targets as "so much hot air".

      It's stupefying that NGOs that profess to care about climate change have been largely silent about the free ride that Horgan has given his own government.

      But the leader of the federal Greens, Elizabeth May, won't be muzzled about this.

      She can criss-cross Nanaimo-Ladysmith and claim, with legitimacy, that Singh and his party support a large tax break for a plant that will produce a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases on an annual basis.

      May can point out that this type of tax cut is not available to ordinary residents on Vancouver Island who might want a break on such things as music lessons for their kids, sports programs, shoes for their grandchildren, or ferry fares for low-income residents.

      On doorsteps, she can also say that Singh and his provincial counterparts sided with the fossil-fuel industry over the wishes of young Canadians worried about Climate Armageddon in their lifetimes.

      "Singh, Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, and Max Bernier are on the wrong side of history when it comes to climate change," May could declare on the hustings. "The only way to send these dinosaurs a message is by voting Green."

      It's a statement that could resonate on Vancouver Island in the by-election campaign and in communities like Vancouver, Victoria, Nelson, North Vancouver, Sidney, and Saanich in the general election in October.

      The Green candidate in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election is Paul Manly. He's a former New Democrat and the son of a popular and progressive former MP on Vancouver Island.

      If Manly pulls off a giant upset and wins in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, it will deal a body blow to the federal NDP's ability to raise money going into the general election.

      Elizabeth May's party would be seen to have momentum.

      It could then become the default choice for many other British Columbians who are fed up with the provincial NDP's willingness to support the LNG industry.

      Horgan could have delayed introducing this legislation until after the by-election. The legislature is still in session through the month of May.

      But the powers-that-be in the B.C. NDP don't appear to be too concerned about the fate of the federal party in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

      So they introduced Bill 10 yesterday, providing the federal Greens with a potent campaign issue for voters who care about the climate.

      Sometimes in politics, timing is everything.