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Opinion: B.C. NDP completely changes stance on LNG

The NDP government is pitching the idea of 10,000 construction jobs and almost 1,000 permanent jobs, thanks to LNG
John Horgan
Premier John Horgan.

For an NDP government so bent on driving corporate money out of politics, it's odd to realize how critically important an upcoming financial decision by a multinational corporation is to the B.C. political scene.

The NDP might have banned businesses from making political donations, but a corporate investment decision this year is going to have more impact than the donations ever did.

But it would lower expectations of the NDP lasting the full term with Green support.

That would throw a number of balls even higher up in the air than they already are. It depends entirely on a decision by a group of executives in China, Korea, Japan and Calgary.

(If they take a pass as many others have, then life goes on, with the NDP and Greens a lot more leery of each other than before.)

The executives are so vital that the Green ultimatum was actually delivered directly to them, rather than to the people of B.C.

The Greens wrote to LNG Canada warning that if the carbon-tax break Horgan is offering the firm comes to pass, "our caucus would no longer have confidence in government."

Exempting a project that would hike B.C.'s greenhouse-gas emissions from the upcoming carbon-tax increases is only one of the audacious moves Horgan announced. He also offered relief from the provincial sales tax, elimination of the LNG income tax and a more favourable electricity rate.

It's not that he flip-flopped on LNG.

While railing on for years about the Liberal approach to the new industry, he always preserved the option to support the general concept of compressing and shipping B.C. natural gas to Asia, where prices are higher.

But the core objections during his time in opposition were that the B.C. Liberals were ludicrously optimistic about the chances of snagging a plant, delusional about the prospective benefits, and were bending over too far backward to make it all happen.

It all must look different from the premier's office. Because this week, he announced a new framework that includes an optimistic play for a $40-billion investment, "the biggest single capital investment in B.C.'s history," that would create thousands of new jobs. And he's setting the table for the industry even more solicitously than the Liberals did.

Opposition John once told the legislature that the only person who had a future with LNG was Gordon Wilson (the Liberal LNG advocate his government terminated). Now his government is pitching the idea of 10,000 construction jobs and almost 1,000 permanent jobs.

Opposition John accused the Liberals of letting an LNG proponent write its own tax law. Now he's voiding their income tax completely.

Opposition John said one single plant would hike B.C.'s emissions by eight to 14 per cent. Now he's saying LNG Canada's plant would be "the cleanest in the world."

The Liberal stance on LNG used to drive Green leader Andrew Weaver to distraction. And he looked pretty distracted this week, once his rugby buddy adopted exactly the same view, on a slightly smaller scale.

He said his caucus can't support the NDP enticements. If B.C. wants to meet emission-reduction targets and also have a GHG-emitting gas plant, it means the rest of the economy would have to take an even bigger hit, he said.

So the flags are planted. Horgan will find out later this year whether Greens are bluffing.

Weaver will find out how trying to scare off a multibillion-dollar investment solely on climate-change grounds plays with voters.

And B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson will see if the long march toward another election might be shorter than expected.