B.C.’s first Green MLA, Andrew Weaver, says he recently experienced the “most bizarre” event of his time in office.
It was watching New Democrats during the second and third readings of Bill 6, the Liquefied Natural Gas Income Tax Act, during this year’s final session of the legislative assembly. Weaver recalled that member after member of the B.C. NDP uttered “vitriolic diatribes against this giveaway” of a tax measure introduced by the governing B.C. Liberals.
“Then they all voted for it,” Weaver told the Straight by phone.
Not only that. New Democrats also joined Liberals to defeat Weaver’s motion to refer the bill to a committee for further study.
“They’re essentially saying, ‘We agree with the Liberals in this generational sellout that we will try to give away a resource just to fulfill an election promise,’ ” Weaver said. “It’s amazing.”
Only Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington supported Weaver’s motion to delay passage of the bill. In the end, though, she also voted in favour of the legislation. That left Weaver casting the sole dissenting vote.
“It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in the house,” Huntington told the Straight, on her support for the bill. “There is a huge infrastructure already existent in the North and thousands of jobs depend upon that infrastructure—and that infrastructure could basically collapse and the jobs with it if we didn’t proceed with the LNG opportunity.”
The legislation provides a 3.5-percent taxation rate on net income from gas liquefaction starting January 1, 2017. It’s lower than the seven percent previously announced by the government. But the 3.5-percent rate will not be in effect while companies are recovering capital investments and net operating losses. During this period, a 1.5-percent rate will be applied.
Vancouver-Fairview NDP MLA George Heyman explained that although the legislation fell short of the B.C. Liberals’ promise of a bonanza, his party backed the bill because there likely will be some LNG projects. “British Columbians deserve some return from that,” Heyman told the Straight in a phone interview.
Heyman also pointed out that the “most important bill in terms of environmental impact” in connection with LNG was the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act, which the B.C. NDP voted against during the last session.
Leila Darwish, regional organizer for the Council of Canadians in B.C. and the Yukon, is disappointed with the NDP’s support. “They made a poor decision,” Darwish told the Straight. “They should not have stood behind the Liberals.”
Eoin Madden, climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, shares some of that disappointment. “Right when the world wants to get off fossil fuels, we’re trying to build an economy around the export of fossil fuels,” Madden said. “It’s insanity.”