Minority partner: B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver sits with NDP Energy Minister Michelle Mungall, Environment Minister George Heyman and Premier John Horgan at announcement of CleanBC plan, Vancouver, Dec. 5, 2018. (B.C. government)

LNG pressure builds on B.C.’s minority government in 2019

Greenhouse gases, Nanaimo by-election add to tension in B.C. legislature

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver wasted no time in attacking his minority government partner when B.C.’s first major liquefied natural gas export deal was announced in early October, 2018.

The biggest rifts between the B.C. NDP and Greens since Weaver agreed to support Premier John Horgan a year and a half ago have been over the environment, particularly on LNG exports and the completion of the Site C dam on the Peace River, both of which the Greens bitterly oppose.

Without proportional representation to boost the Greens in a 2021 election, and a looming by-election in Nanaimo where the daughter of a popular former mayor is running for the Greens, the NDP government is facing a delicate balance. With the Nanaimo seat vacant until a January by-election, current standings in the B.C. legislature are 42 B.C. Liberals, 40 NDP, three Greens and one independent, Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas, who as Speaker is bound to support the government in tie votes.

Add to that the scandal that has rocked the legislature, where Plecas has promised to resign as Speaker if his allegations against two senior administrators don’t support his bid to suspend them, and a sudden election could be in the cards for 2019.

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The day Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined LNG Canada in celebrating the Shell-led group’s LNG project in northern B.C., they congratulated each other on a $40 billion investment, the biggest in Canadian history.

In the B.C. legislature that day, Weaver read from a 2016 letter sent by NDP critics condemning a similar project sought by the B.C. Liberal government for Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.

“The unacceptably high emissions cited by the letter are, in fact, lower than the emissions anticipated from the LNG Canada project,” Weaver said in question period at the B.C. legislature. “Do you not see the grand hypocrisy of what is unfolding before us today?”

Weaver later accused Horgan of overstating the investment as $40 billion, when LNG Canada’s environmental assessment documents referred to only a first phase, with two processing trains to chill and compress gas for shipment from Kitimat to consortium members in Korea, Japan, China and India. LNG Canada, like the previous Petronas-led project for Lelu Island, will import components from Asia to build the plant and drive the process by burning gas.

Since then, Weaver has endorsed the NDP government’s “CleanBC” plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His official response when CleanBC was released mildly praised it as “a vital first step” and didn’t mention LNG processing or export.

VIDEO: Horgan commits to cut greenhouse gas emissions

The CleanBC program depends on long-term projects such as phasing out the sale of all but zero-emission vehicles by 2040, and replacing natural gas for B.C. home heating with electric heat pumps. The plan acknowledges that its proposed measures don’t get B.C. all the way to its latest 2030 emission reduction targets, hammered out earlier as part of the NDP-Green minority support agreement.

Despite their enthusiasm for electrifying the B.C. economy, the Greens fought against Site C every step of the way. Weaver continues to argue that the now half-completed third dam on the Peace River should not be built, and distributed small renewable energy projects should be added to the B.C. Hydro grid instead.


@tomfletcherbc
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