Coal-fired power plant shrouded in smog south of Beijing, November 2016. China’s government cancelled 100 coal-fired projects last year, but is proceeding with another 700. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: Premier John Horgan sees the light on LNG tax incentives

B.C.’s latest climate targets impossible, but that’s nothing new

In January I reminded readers that for all the bluster of the Christy Clark years, with LNG and “debt free B.C.,” John Horgan never actually opposed chilling and exporting northeast B.C.’s abundant shale gas to Asia.

He’s fine with hydraulic fracturing too. He just promised an independent study, like he did with the Site C dam. As NDP opposition leader, it was politically convenient to sound like he detested both of these time-tested industries, the better to calm urban voters raised on a steady diet of environmental scare stories.

Now that he’s premier, the real Horgan emerges. It’s a more abrupt transition than I expected, considering his government hangs by the thinnest of green threads. Horgan seems to have found one of Clark’s old LNG hardhats in the premier’s office, and he likes the fit.

The Shell-led LNG Canada project, $40 billion worth of pipelines, processing and shipping out of Kitimat, is now Horgan’s top priority. The “LNG income tax,” brought in by the B.C. Liberals, will be repealed. Construction will be exempted from sales tax as with manufacturing plants, and LNG Canada will even be exempted from carbon tax increases that start this year.

RELATED: LNG Canada welcomes B.C. tax breaks

B.C. Hydro power will be sold at the industrial rate, as it should be, although the old Horgan used to call that a subsidy from residential ratepayers.

When Clark and the B.C. Liberals were in full flight, summoning the legislature in the summer of 2015 to set conditions for the Petronas-led Pacific Northwest LNG, Horgan took to calling lead minister Rich Coleman “the gas man.”

He railed for years against what we now know are much more modest LNG tax breaks. “Shell does not need handouts from government,” he told a Victoria’s CFAX radio in 2013.

“Christy Clark reassures us that moving India and China away from coal-burning facilities to LNG facilities is the cleanest, greenest answer,” NDP MLA Michelle Mungall told her hometown Nelson Star in 2016. “I can’t believe how ridiculous that is. It’s still a fossil fuel.”

Guess who is now Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources? (Much to her own surprise I suspect.) And guess who’s the new gas man, as LNG policy is directed by the premier’s office?

Horgan made his first visit to China in January, where he experienced the smog-choked air in a vast country that is still building hundreds more coal-fired electricity plants to power its mind-boggling urban development.

“I stood on the bank of the Pearl River and I couldn’t see the other side,” Horgan said.

I toured China two years ago and I agree with him. It has to be seen, and smelled, and tasted, to fully appreciate the scale of the building boom and the pollution crisis.

Green leader Andrew Weaver has been proven right for once. If this deal goes ahead, Site C power will be used to green up B.C. LNG, sold at the same discount industrial rate sawmills get.

Weaver was briefed on the government’s talks with LNG Canada, a rare consortium of Shell, PetroChina, KOGAS of South Korea and Japanese giant Mitsubishi. He insists that B.C.’s 2030 and 2050 targets can’t be met with LNG. They can’t be met without it either, barring some miraculous technological breakthrough.

Weaver will vote against the tax breaks, especially the carbon tax relief, when legislation comes this fall.

For now, that doesn’t matter, because the B.C. Liberals have to support LNG. We’ll see how outraged Weaver is next February, when he is asked to support another NDP budget.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Retired NHL referee Rob Shick heads to BC Sports Hall of Fame

Shick got his first licks at refereeing in small Port Alberni rink

Vancouver Island wife brings husband back to life with CPR, thanks to 911 dispatcher

‘The only reason he was alive was that 10 minutes of CPR before paramedics got there’

Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni hopes to ‘raise the reds’

Lily Diotte of Swale Rock Cafe is fundraising to replace the theatre’s red curtains

Alberni’s development soccer program doubles in size

Development practice had hardly started, but there were already more than 30… Continue reading

Catalyst Paper to sell U.S. mills to Chinese company

Sale will allow company to focus on B.C. interests, says president Ned Dwyer

Trans Mountain pipeline: Is it worth the risk?

Concerns range from the threat of an oil spill to the impact of tanker traffic on wildlife

B.C. to spend $181M to create 200 general practitioner jobs

Jobs will go to new medical school graduates

Federal leaders trade barbs about India trip at press gallery dinner

Justin Trudeau’s infamous trip to India earlier this year was the focus of many of the jabs

B.C. VIEWS: Our poverty reduction plan is already in place

NDP has another promise it needs to appear to keep

WestJet pilot strike averted as parties agree to mediation

Pilots had warned they could go on strike starting May 19

Most Read