LNG Canada appears poised to forge ahead with plans for a massive liquefied natural gas project along the north coast of B.C.
A positive final investment decision by the Shell-led consortium would represent a financial windfall for the province – around $40-billion. The thought of Premier John Horgan cutting the ribbon on such an enterprise is undoubtedly a painful one for the BC Liberals, whose former leader, Christy Clark, laid the groundwork for an LNG industry to take off.
Now it will be Mr. Horgan, and his New Democratic Party government, who will be cutting ribbons and taking full partisan advantage of the funding opportunities LNG royalties will help underwrite.
There is, however, one person for whom a robust LNG business in the province presents a vexing dilemma: Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.
Mr. Weaver is the esteemed climate-scientist-turned-politician who leads a party that has, as its core mission, fighting on behalf of the environment. He has sided with environmentalists who have warned that it will be impossible for B.C. to meet its climate targets if LNG takes off. As it is, the province isn’t even close to meeting the tepid emission benchmarks set by the former Liberal government − a reduction in 2007 levels of 33 per cent by 2020.
The province has a goal of reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions to 13 million tonnes by 2050. Given that releases from the LNG Canada project alone could be 8.6 million tonnes a year, the very idea that the province could still meet its objectives seem far-fetched. To still achieve the previously established targets, and accommodate LNG Canada’s endeavour, would take unimaginable sacrifice in other sectors of the economy.
And Mr. Weaver knows all this.
The quandary he faces is self-evident: How can a party whose very existence is based on the idea the planet is in peril and we must do everything in our power to protect it continue to prop up a government intent on approving an industry that will only contribute to the warming of the globe? This is, in a very real sense, an existential question for the party.
Imagine if there were a small group of Conservatives who were in a power-sharing agreement with a Liberal government. And that Liberal government, in need of cash, decided to bring in the largest tax increase in the province’s history. How could those Conservatives support a Liberal measure that is anathema to everything they stand for and maintain any credibility?
That’s Mr. Weaver’s problem here.
Even if he believes that the NDP, environmental warts and all, is still better than the Liberal alternative, it does him no good. If Green supporters can’t count on their party to take a hard stand against a policy decision that could have such a deleterious impact on the environment, then what good is it? Whom are the Greens keeping honest? If they can’t take a principled stand on such a fundamental issue, then it is fair to ask, what are the Greens exactly? What is the point of their existence? If you can’t count on them to fight for the very principles upon which the party was founded, why would anyone vote for them?
It’s evident that Mr. Weaver is struggling with the challenge an LNG Canada go-ahead represents for him and his party. Early on he talked about bringing down the government over the matter – something his supporters likely expected. Lately, however, he seems to have softened his position. Now he is saying he is willing to wait until the government unveils its clean-growth strategy, which ostensibly will include a plan to accommodate LNG and still meet the province’s climate targets.
Any vote that could potentially topple the NDP government wouldn’t happen until next year. So Mr. Weaver and Mr. Horgan have some time to find some common ground on this issue – terrain that allows an LNG industry to take root but also allows the New Democrats to accommodate their governing partner’s very legitimate concerns around the environment.
There is a lot riding on this for the NDP. But there is certainly more on the line for Mr. Weaver and his party. Their future is at stake.