With British Columbia five days away from a provincial election October 24, and mail-in voting already well under way, Premier John Horgan’s New Democrats are taking fire for doubling down on the subsidies the previous Liberal government had extended to the province’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.
“Right now, B.C. hands over a billion tax dollars a year to the oil and gas industry—that’s twice as much as we spend fighting climate change, and five times as much as we get back in royalties,” Dogwood B.C. states, in a sign-on asking supporters to contact their MLAs about fossil subsidies. “We’re paying rich companies to pollute, we’re getting ripped off in the process, and it’s got to stop.”
Dogwood adds that “the next B.C. government will guide our province through half of the remaining eight years we have left to avoid the most terrifying impacts of climate change. Step one for any MLA serious about climate action is to stop taxpayer handouts to fracking and pipeline companies, and invest that money in B.C.’s clean energy revolution.”
In its coverage of the Dogwood release, Vancouver radio outlet News 1130 cites a 2019 report by Environmental Defence Canada that found B.C. handing out C$830 million in fossil subsidies the previous year, and allowing fossils to bank $3.1 billion in royalty credits that they can claim in the future. “This is foregone revenue that is being borrowed from future generations which could otherwise be invested in clean energy, health care, education, or other priorities,” the report stated.
The province’s various fossil megaprojects “wouldn’t make economic sense to exploit if they actually had to pay the full cost,” Dogwood spokesperson Kai Nagata told the station.
In a blog post earlier this month, Nagata singled out Murray Rankin, Nathan Cullen, and Fin Donnelly as former federal New Democrat MPs who were prepared to grill Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his own government’s record on fossil subsidies. “All three are now running for the B.C. NDP,” Nagata writes. “But since defeating former premier Christy Clark, Horgan has increased oil and gas subsidies by 79%.”
“What about jobs?” Nagata asks. “Drive past the man camps and motels along the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipeline routes. Most of the trucks have Alberta licence plates. Only 8,300 British Columbians work in oil and gas. But we give their bosses a billion dollars a year—over $120,000 per worker.”
Which means that “we could pay oilpatch salaries to B.C. workers to build the infrastructure our communities need to survive the climate crisis,” he writes. “We could pay people to go back to school, retrain, or transition into any job they like. Instead, the government gives it to foreign corporations like Encana and Petronas.”
And while the NDP platform promises a review of the royalty credit scheme, “the party’s MLAs didn’t need a review to know that giving public money to oil and gas companies is wrong” before they came to power in 2017.
The Tyee points to a series of climate items in the NDP platform, including incentives for building retrofits and heat pumps and converting more of the province’s industry from fossil gas to electricity. In an interview with the publication, Horgan described his government’s CleanBC climate plan as the best in North America.
Although some climate analysts and provincial Green leader Sonia Furstenau say the province’s continuing bid for an LNG boom will undercut its emissions reduction plan, Horgan claimed B.C. can have both, while pointing to the jobs the LNG Canada megaproject will create for small construction companies, many of them in Indigenous communities.
“LNG Canada fits within the plan. That’s why we agreed to it,” he told The Tyee, adding that emissions from the project can be offset by reductions elsewhere in the province. “Electrifying the gas fields, for example, takes pressure off the emissions that would come from the liquefaction process.”
The coverage contains no mention of the largely uncounted methane emissions in B.C.’s northeastern shale fields that will be enabled or accelerated by the LNG projects Horgan is buying with taxpayers’ money. Methane is 84 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over the 20-year span when humanity will be scrambling to get the climate crisis under control.