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 The “LNG income tax,” brought in by the B.C. Liberals, will be repealed.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

Granite Pointe opens for the season

All 18 holes at the golf course opened Monday

COLUMN: Civic Theatre celebrates the past and targets for the future

See all films in Ingman Bergman’s Trilogy for the price of two

Three Nelson organizations get provincial funding to fight violence against women

The money is part of $6.5 million from the provincial government

COLUMN: Facing the perils of social media

We don’t want to be governed by people with shrinking brains

Nelson to hold open house on cannabis survey results

City staff will review results and present options for regulation

UPDATED: 9 killed, 16 injured after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

Judith Guichon steps down as Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

Election decision didn’t make her best moments from the past six years

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Protesters argue both sides of B.C.’s SOGI curriculum at teachers’ union office

The sexual orientation and gender identity program was launched as a pilot project last year

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

ICBC reform aims to slow rising car insurance costs

‘Pain and suffering’ payouts to be capped, major injury limit to double

Most Read