The BC Green Party, which holds the balance of power in the provincial legislature, has softened its threat to topple the NDP government over its pursuit of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects for British Columbia.
As Premier John Horgan, on Thursday, announced sales tax concessions and other measures to attract LNG investment, Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he would give the NDP until the fall to say how it would balance that policy with efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
“If it doesn’t come in the fall, we no longer have confidence in this government,” Mr. Weaver told reporters in Victoria, hours after Mr. Horgan laid out the program.
However, Mr. Weaver said it was too soon to say exactly what his party would do to express that lack of confidence. “There are many options we could take that would maybe happen in the fall or not. We’re not there yet.”
It was a shift from Mr. Weaver’s pointed threats earlier this year when, in a tweet, he wrote that the “NDP government will fall in non confidence if after all that has happened it continues to pursue LNG folly.”
in this article https://t.co/s2O0fx7CSx Lest there be any doubt, let me be perfectly clear: NDP government will fall in non confidence if after all that has happened it continues to pursue LNG folly #bcpoli #lineinthesand— Andrew Weaver (@AJWVictoriaBC) January 18, 2018
On Thursday, he said he was willing to give the NDP time to reconcile its climate-change goals with attracting LNG investment.
“This is not about toppling the government at this juncture,” Mr. Weaver said. “Our confidence in government is predicated with them coming up with a climate plan.”
He rejected the idea that the Greens are holding off on the issue, pending a planned referendum on electoral reform that might eventually improve the Greens’ political prospects.
With the support of the three Green MLAs in the legislature, the NDP has been able to govern the province for the first time since 2001.
On Thursday, Mr. Horgan announced various concessions ahead of an investment decision by LNG Canada on a $40-billion project that would include a natural gas pipeline built from northeast B.C. to a new terminal in Kitimat.
Although he said he was mindful of the opportunities and risks of such a project, Mr. Horgan told reporters in Victoria, “I believe it’s the responsibility of the government to make sure we are working to develop those opportunities for all British Columbians.”
As a result, the Premier announced a program that would relieve LNG projects from provincial sales taxes subject to repayment in the form of an equivalent operation payment. He also promised new greenhouse gas emission standards among other measures.
B.C.’s long-term greenhouse gas-reduction goal is to cut emissions to 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050.
The Premier, who has been critical of the former BC Liberal government’s enthusiasm for LNG, said the province will review LNG projects using four conditions. They should guarantee a fair return for B.C.’s natural resources, guarantee jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians, respect and partner with First Nations, and meet the province’s climate commitments.
Mr. Horgan acknowledged the Greens may have concerns about the announcement, but said he has had many discussions with Mr. Weaver about the issue and welcomes his position.
“I don’t want to deny his passion and commitment and expertise in this area, but we need that expertise as we develop our climate action plan,” Mr. Horgan said.
Since early 2017, companies have pulled the plug on five LNG projects proposed in B.C., including the $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project. No project is under construction in the province.
LNG Canada said in a statement that it “looks forward to working with government, and the many provincial stakeholders and First Nations that continue to strongly support our project.”
Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell and three Asian co-owners of LNG Canada expect to receive details by the end of May on the project’s economics, and could make a final investment decision by the end of 2018.
With a file from Brent Jang in Vancouver