British Columbia’s first provincially elected Green Party member wasted little time attacking Premier Christy Clark’s plans to export liquefied natural gas from northern B.C. to Asia after a swearing-in ceremony Thursday at the legislature.
Climate scientist Andrew Weaver said Clark’s plans to sell cheap and plentiful B.C. natural gas at inflated prices in Asia is a dream that will end up costing B.C. taxpayers through subsidies to gas companies.
“It makes no economic sense to go out on this path,” he said.
“The argument that there’s going to be a market for LNG in the future, some future 10 years from now that will reflect the $12 or so differential in price between Asia and British Columbia, is a pipe dream.”
Clark’s Liberals say LNG exports to Asia represent a trillion-dollar economic opportunity that will wipe out the province’s debt — currently at more than $60 billion — within 15 years and drastically cut, if not eliminate, the seven-per cent provincial sales tax.
But Weaver, who will represent one voice in a legislature of 85 members that includes a newly elected Liberal majority, said he believes B.C. faces stiff competition from Russia, Australia, the United States and China, when it comes to cashing in on natural gas.
Clark’s Liberals acknowledge that B.C. must act quickly to secure its place in the world LNG market, while energy experts suggest there is ample room for several energy exporters in Asia, because the continent’s needs are vast.
“It’s a pipe dream to think just because you say it will be so does not mean there will be a market for it,” Weaver said. “Where is this supposed market going to be, because the only way this is going to work is with massive taxpayer subsidies.”
Weaver, 51, defeated long-time Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong in last month’s B.C. election that saw Clark’s Liberals romp to a fourth consecutive mandate. Weaver will represent the Victoria-area riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
He is a University of Victoria professor who was part of the 2007 climate-change team that won the Nobel Prize, alongside former U.S. vice-president Al Gore. Weaver said he will take a leave from his university position to concentrate on politics.
Weaver said a Green presence in B.C.’s legislature will make a difference especially on environmental issues, as Clark’s government embarks on a resource development agenda that involves harnessing the province’s natural gas potential.
Weaver said despite his strong views against the Liberal government’s LNG plans, he will seek to build consensus at the traditionally divided legislature.
“I’ve worked over the years with members of all political parties, so I don’t see why I can’t continue to do so,” he said.
Weaver said several of his priorities as a lone Green MLA include changing B.C.’s fixed election date from the spring to the fall.
He said a fall election date offers more stability for students, as opposed to spring, when many students are moving and don’t vote.
Weaver said he also supports the creation of a legislative budget officer to scrutinize government spending plans.
Weaver, is married, has two children, and is passionate about rugby and coaching soccer. He also has an extensive collection of O-Pee-Chee hockey cards dating back to 1968, of which the most valuable cards are safely locked away.
He said his favourite is from the 1971-72 series, the year Ken Dryden’s rookie card was published.
University of Victoria social policy professor Michael Prince said Weaver represents the Green Party’s transformation to the political mainstream, saying “he represents the transformation from Birkenstocks to the business-suit look.”