VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The BC NDP’s professed commitment to fighting climate change is at odds with its decision to continue providing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, according to some critics.
Dogwood BC, an environmental advocacy group, and the BC Green Party have both slammed the incumbent party during the provincial election for giving tax breaks, royalty reductions and investments of public money enjoyed to the oil and gas sector – including the liquefied natural gas industry.
Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said NDP Leader John Horgan’s recent commitment to legislate net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was meaningless because his party does not have an adequate plan to meet that target.
“We shouldn’t be squandering our chance to be leaders by subsidizing the worst contributors to climate change,” Furstenau, who called for an end to such subsidies, said in a statement.
B.C. subsidized oil and gas with $830M: report
A 2019 report from Environmental Defence Canada found the province “handed out” $830 million to the fossil fuel industry in the previous fiscal year. The report counts government investments in road and electricity infrastructure, carbon tax exemptions, construction loans and electricity discounts in its total.
Oil and gas companies have also collectively stockpiled $3.1 billion in royalty credits, which they can later claim back, according to the report.
“This is foregone revenue that is being borrowed from future generations which could otherwise be invested in clean energy, healthcare, education, or other priorities,” the report says.
NDP, Liberals should commit to subsidy phase-out: Dogwood
Without help from the government, oil and gas producers would see marginal costs rise for potential projects, which “wouldn’t make economic sense to exploit if they actually have to pay the full cost,” Dogwood spokesperson Kai Nagata said.
He said B.C. could invest the money it saves in retraining or directly employing laid off oil-and-gas workers to build green infrastructure such as geothermal energy projects or retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency.
Nagata pointed out that three former NDP MPs currently running for their party’s provincial wing – Nathan Cullen, Murray Rankin and Finn Donnelly – were all highly critical of similar federal subsidies when they served in Parliament.
These BC NDP candidates fought for years against taxpayer subsidies for fracking and pipelines. Where do they stand now? @nathancullen @FinDonnelly @MurrayRankinNDP #climate #bcpoli #bcelxn2020 pic.twitter.com/xqX3D6RHMC
— Dogwood (@dogwoodbc) October 8, 2020
The NDP’s platform promise to review royalty credits is “better than nothing,” Nagata said, but he would prefer to see them set a date for their elimination, similar to the Trudeau government’s plan to phase federal subsidies out by 2025.
Nagata said he hoped to see the same commitment from the BC Liberals.
“Part of [the BC Liberal] coalition includes conservative voters and fiscal conservatives are not supposed to be in favour of corporate welfare,” he said. “So I think there’s a conservative argument for removing oil and gas subsidies and putting our energy industries on a level playing field.”
Liberals profess support for LNG industry
The BC Liberals did not respond to a request for comment. The party, which has yet to release its full platform, does not mention fossil fuel subsidies on a webpage committing to “real, practical action to protect our environment.”
The BC Liberals do, however, criticize a planned increase to the province’s carbon tax.
“Our natural resources like [liquefied natural gas] are part of the solution – not the problem. That’s what the NDP and Greens don’t understand,” the party says on its website.
NDP commits to net-zero emissions, subsidy review
George Heyman, the incumbent NDP candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview who served as the minister of environment and climate change, said his party is committed to meeting all of the emissions targets set out in its CleanBC plan.
“We have a range of measures that we’re applying to reduce emissions in industry and transportation in homes and buildings,” he said.
Asked if the promised review of royalty credits would result in their reduction or elimination, he said, “there’s no point doing a review if I can guarantee the outcome.”
Heyman acknowledged his government did not follow through with a commitment it made in the 2017 confidence and supply agreement signed with the Greens to apply the province’s carbon tax to “fugitive” methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
Instead, they chose to regulate methane emissions with reduction goals in line with federal targets, he said.
“There’s a number of ways you can achieve a result, one of them is by putting a price on it and another one is simply to regulate and say very clearly what you expect, and we’ve chosen that route,” Heyman said, adding he wouldn’t rule out taxing fugitive emissions in the future.
The NDP candidate said he didn’t think it was hypocritical for Cullen, Donnelly and Rankin to run under the banner of a party that has upheld the provincial equivalent of subsidies they had previously slammed.
“We don’t encourage people to run for us simply because they all agree with exactly everything we’re doing. We expect and have robust debate in caucus and that will continue and there will be strong voices,” Heyman said. “We’ll work together to build an even better plan.”