B.C. NDP MLAs all voted for LNG incentives—and they only have themselves to blame for the rebellion that's followed

    1 of 7 2 of 7

      (Warning: this article is longer than most commentaries on media websites.)

      Today, CBC News will carry a story about an alternative route for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which was proposed by the Office of the Wet'suwet'en.

      B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church's recent court ruling cited several reasons for the company's decision to reject this, "including inappropriateness for the diameter of the pipeline, increased cost, the desire to avoid urban areas and greater adverse environmental impacts".

      That court order triggered an RCMP enforcement action this month, which led to arrests of Wet'suwet'en people and their invited guests. That was followed by blockades on rail lines, roads, and port infrastructure.

      All of this came nearly six years after B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office gave the green light to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

      According to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, about 400 authorizations are expected and 151 applications have been reviewed.

      In the first phase, the pipeline will transport 2.1 billion cubic feet per day, with a potential expansion to five billion cubic feet per day.

      Green MP Paul Manly has visited Wet'suwet'en territory—and he's not impressed by the route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

      Hereditary chiefs have a say over unceded territory

      A week ago, Nanaimo-Ladysmith Green MP Paul Manly told the Nanaimo Bulletin that the pipeline will travel through "the historic Kweese trail", which is thousands of years old and has ancient burial grounds and archaeological sites.

      “This is where they do their cultural training for their young people,” Manly stated in the interview. “This is where they do their hunting and their trapping and their berry picking. This is where they built a healing centre … which is being attacked today. This is their territory and these blockades they have set up, they are asserting their sovereignty over their territory.”

      This week, the former chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Sen. Murray Sinclair, commented on the company's contracts with elected chiefs and councils.

      In a blog post, the former Manitoba judge wrote that these community-benefits agreements cannot be construed as "proper consent" for a pipeline crossing over unceded traditional Wet'suwet'en territory.

      According to Sinclair, the courts have recognized that Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, not the elected chiefs, "have an overall say over unceded territory".

      Nonetheless, the Environmental Assessment Office disregarded the hereditary chiefs' concerns.

      Meanwhile, B.C. Oil and Gas Commission continues handing out permits for this project, which will deliver fracked natural gas to the LNG Canada plant in Kitimat.

      Former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver has harshly criticized the NDP's LNG-industry incentives.

      Weaver slammed government giveaways

      The B.C. NDP government has sweetened the pot for the LNG industry through its Income Tax Amendment Act, 2019.

      Speaking in the legislature last year, then B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver said that this legislation has three components:

      * it repeals the Liquefied Natural Gas Projects Agreement Act;

      * it repeals the LNG Income Tax Act;

      * and it retains a tax credit.

      Weaver claimed that the B.C NDP government was repealing the income portion of the B.C. Liberals' legislation. That would undermine the generation of revenue.

      But the B.C. NDP kept in place the B.C. Liberals' giveaways. And that's why Weaver said the "sellout" would "continue at staggering levels".

      Moreover, Weaver noted that the LNG Canada plant would add 3.45 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year to the atmosphere.

      According to him, the Income Tax Amendment Act, 2019 was like putting the former B.C. Liberal government's LNG legislation on "steroids" for a plant that wasn't even as clean as the electric-compression technology being used in the U.S. Gulf Coast LNG industry.

      Weaver highlighted exemptions on the carbon and provincial sales tax in the legislation, as well as the role of the Site C dam in supplying electricity.

      He added that the Trudeau government also offered an exemption on import duties for steel—another giveaway to the LNG industry.

      As he closed his speech, Weaver sarcastically asked if the NDP government was going to give LNG Canada their "second babies".

      "Did you offer them to pay your speculation tax, too?" he sneered. "I mean, this clearly was a deal written by LNG Canada for LNG Canada."

      The Site C dam is expected to cost $10.7 billion.

      Site C will boost fossil-fuel production

      But is the $10.7-billion Site C dam truly being built as a hidden subsidy for the LNG industry?

      B.C. Hydro claims that it "would be required with or without an LNG sector", notwithstanding flat demand for electricity in B.C. for more than a decade.

      "However, new LNG facilities are expected to accelerate the need for new electricity-generation resources in B.C., such as Site C," the Crown utility states on its website.

      So there you have it.

      The B.C. NDP government under John Horgan's leadership has given the go-ahead to a colossally expensive hydroelectric dam to supply costly electricity to a heavily subsidized LNG plant.

      It will, in turn, generate more greenhouse gas emissions than any other single project in the country unless Teck's Frontier oilsands mine is approved by the federal government.

      The LNG plant requires the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which has triggered an Indigenous and environmental uprising across the country, crippling critical infrastructure and creating economic uncertainty.

      It's also resulted in costly police enforcement activities and court cases.

      All this has happened as LNG prices have crashed in Asia and more electricity producers around the world are embracing low-cost solar and wind power.

      This renewable energy can be stored thanks to amazing advances in battery technology. It's why author and futurist Jeremy Rifkin has predicted the end of the fossil-fuel civilization by around 2028.

      NDP government officials already knew about the advances in renewable energy when they brought forward the Income Tax Amendment Bill, 2019.

      In fact, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman was talking about the rise of distributed energy generation before the 2017 election.

      In light of this, the Horgan government's level of incompetence is breathtaking.

      Even worse, the LNG industry continues to enjoy the blind support of 83 MLAs in the B.C. Liberal and B.C. NDP caucuses.

      No wonder there's a rebellion underway and people tried blocking the entrances to the B.C. legislature this week. Who can blame them in the face of all of this?

      People are in the streets—and this time it's not because of the B.C. Liberals.
      Charlie Smith

      Subsidies and regulatory capture

      On the subject of corporate giveaways, Weaver cited a letter in his speech in the legislature.

      It was written by a public servant who had resigned after working for four years as a royalty analyst for the B.C. government.

      This letter writer, whose name has not been revealed, also had five years of field experience in upstream oil and gas operations.

      The letter purported that the Crown is giving out $2 in royalty tax rebates to the natural-gas sector for every dollar it takes in to the public treasury.

      That's added up to subsidies of $6 billion since the program was launched in 2003 under then B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell.

      “When the program began, only a small fraction of new wells would qualify for credits," the letter states. "A single deep well produces more gas than many shallower wells. Therefore, fewer total wells needed to be drilled, with less surface equipment and roadbuilding reducing costs and environmental harm.

      “However, in the past four years, 99 percent of all new wells qualify for the program. An industry would drill these types of wells regardless of our policy, due to the inherent cost savings and productivity gains that arise from horizontal fracking versus vertical fracking and profitability achieved by this modern, commonplace type of well construction.

      “Royalty tax reduction programs should be employed to change behaviour and solve specific problems, rather than [serve as] a complex and misleadingly labeled subsidy.”

      That's not all. 

      Last year, the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a report detailing how the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission had been "captured" by the industry.

      Written by resource-industry researcher Ben Parfitt, it cites examples that "indicate regulatory breakdown on a troubling scale and the need for major reforms to better safeguard the public interest".

      Adrian Dix, Mike Farnworth, and John Horgan all had senior positions in the NDP governments of the 1990s.
      Stephen Hui

      Back to the future

      Anyone who reads Parfitt's report and Weaver's speech in the legislature could easily conclude that this B.C. NDP government's oversight of the fossil-fuel sector bears little difference from what was seen during the B.C. Liberal era.

      Yet the membership of the B.C. NDP and the caucus have not made any public moves to rein in Horgan and his cabinet.

      There's certainly no serious initiative underway to oust the oil-and-gas luvin' Horgan as the party leader.

      Some of the most powerful members of this government—Horgan, his chief of staff Geoff Meggs, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth—occupied key positions in the Glen Clark and Dan Miller NDP governments of the late 1990s.

      Horgan was Miller's chief of staff. And as Parfitt has documented, Miller, as energy minister, created the Oil and Gas Commission at the behest of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

      Back in those days, environmentally minded New Democrats abandoned the party, feeling that the government didn't show sufficient concern about rising greenhouse gas emissions and the preservation of farmland.

      The NDP governments of the late 1990s also alienated those who wanted greater regulation by the B.C. Utilities Commission over electricity projects—with the powers to look at social and environmental costs before handing out project certificates.

      As a result, in 2001, the B.C. NDP was nearly decimated in the provincial election. Only two incumbents survived.

      But now, those same people who played key roles leading up to that electoral debacle are back in charge.

      And they're making some of the same mistakes again on energy issues because they haven't learned the real lesson from that era.

      * Traditional NDP voters care about the climate.

      * Traditional NDP voters care about Indigenous rights.

      * Traditional NDP voters are smart enough to know when the interests of union leaders are trumping the public interest when NDP governments back costly and unsustainable energy megaprojects.

      It's why those occupying attorney general David Eby's constituency office this week were chanting "frack off".

      These traditional NDP voters can be fooled once in a general election but they're not going to be fooled again.

      Video: "We Won't Get Fooled Again", as performed by the Who at Live Aid in 1985.