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Fossil Dollars Might Explain British Columbia’s Climate Inaction

shannonpatrick17/flickr
shannonpatrick17/flickr

A flood of money from oil, gas, and mineral extraction interests might help explain why British Columbia has gone from leader to laggard in climate policy under its current government, Kai Nagata of the B.C.-based, anti-oil Dogwood Initiative writes in a blog post.

The province is all but unique among democratic jurisdictions, he notes, in allowing “any corporation, union, or numbered company anywhere in the world” to donate to its political parties. Its premier, Christy Clark, has acknowledged that she receives a stipend from her party that is financed by donors, and has so far paid her $300,000 on top of her $195,000-a-year salary as premier.

Citing public records retrieved by IntegrityBC, Nagata finds that “the oil and gas industry has donated at least $3.8 million to the ruling BC Liberals since 2005 (when Elections BC began keeping records), with another $5.1 million from mining and coal companies.”

The largest contribution—$1,162,751—came from TransCanada Pipelines, which hopes to transport compressed natural gas from B.C. gas fields to a terminal that Malaysia’s Petronas wants to build at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. Petronas, a state-owned enterprise, gave the Liberals $117,050. And TransCanada’s co-founder Gwyn Morgan (who advised Clark on the formation of her cabinet and staff after her election, and who continues to counsel the premier) made personal donations of $200,270, Dogwood reports.

“This system leaves B.C. decision-makers wide open to influence by the fossil fuel industry,” Nagata charges, “including state-owned energy companies belonging to other governments in China and Malaysia.”

He accuses fossil fuel companies of using their influence over the B.C. government to put off its response to the climate crisis in order “to liquidate their reserves before they lose value. Hence the current rush to expand coal ports, fracking, and oil pipelines in British Columbia.

“How can our politicians be trusted to make decisions in the best interests of British Columbians when they owe their very political survival to foreign corporations?” Nagata asks. “The answer is they can’t, and the effect on public policy has become deeply corrosive.”