Premier-designate David Eby has promised to block new infrastructure for British Columbia’s oil and gas sector as part of his first 100 days in office.
“We cannot continue to subsidize fossil fuels and expect clean energy to manifest somehow. We cannot continue to expand fossil-fuel infrastructure and hit our climate goals,” said Mr. Eby, outlining his agenda once he is B.C.’s 37th premier while two-dozen supporters and seven NDP MLAs cheered behind him.
Mr. Eby was acclaimed leader of the NDP on Friday, after a fractious leadership contest was cut short when his sole rival was disqualified from the race. In lieu of a leadership platform, he briefly sketched out a string of policies he intends to implement, including protecting existing affordable housing, improving access to health care and ways he will promote public safety.
No date has been set for his formal swearing-in as premier, but it is expected in the coming weeks.
On Friday, Mr. Eby promised a strong focus on climate action as he reached out to supporters of Anjali Appadurai, a climate activist who has rallied supporters unhappy with the NDP’s track record on environmental policy. He did not say whether Ms. Appadurai would be offered a role in his government, but said he was thrilled that his former rival was remaining a member of the provincial New Democrats and he hoped that supporters she signed up to the party would do the same.
“I am very much looking forward to continuing conversation with Anjali. … I am very committed to working with those folks and delivering, not just for them, but for all British Columbians,” said Mr. Eby, who added that he first realized climate change was an existential threat nearly a decade ago when he caught an aerial glimpse of the devastation wrought by pine beetles.
Mr. Eby’s commitments on climate change, although light on details, could have an impact on expansion projects currently under consideration in B.C.
FortisBC wants to expand production of liquefied natural gas at its Tilbury LNG plant in the Vancouver suburb of Delta. And a consortium of five energy companies is proposing to double LNG Canada’s export capacity at the Shell PLC-led megaproject in Kitimat, B.C., the only LNG export terminal under construction in Canada.
Under outgoing Premier John Horgan, the NDP government courted proponents of LNG to invest in the province. It secured a $40-billion investment in the LNG Canada project in exchange for a series of subsidies. Mr. Eby did not say if those subsidies would be reconsidered, although the NDP government has already moved to eliminate its deep-well royalty program, which is the province’s largest oil and gas subsidy.
However, there are other incentives, including discounted electricity prices, exemptions of the B.C. carbon tax, and corporate income tax breaks that the Horgan government promised to secure LNG Canada.
Phase 1 of LNG Canada is scheduled to open in 2025, and the significant greenhouse-gas emissions from that operation are included in the Clean BC climate-change plan which, Mr. Eby said, will continue to guide the government’s policies.
Caroline Brouillette, national policy manager Climate Action Network Canada, said Mr. Eby’s decisions on those projects will be a litmus test for assessing the new government’s seriousness regarding ending the expansion of fossil fuels.
“It’s clear that the idea of stronger climate action galvanized a lot of people who had been disillusioned with the party’s track record,” she said Friday. “And he’d be wise not to ignore the signal these new members are sending.
Mr. Eby was joined at the event held at UBC by his wife, Cailey Lynch. As a practising family doctor, he said she has given him a unique viewpoint into the province’s health care woes. He said his government will start fixing the shortage of these general physicians by making it easier for them to open up family practice. He cited the complications of starting their own business as well as an inability to take vacations as key barriers.
He also said he would add to the health care talent pool by addressing the hurdles immigrant doctors face in getting their credentials recognized on Canada’s West Coast.
Asked what he would do about the high-profile spate of random assaults by prolific offenders, Mr. Eby said his government will make fixing this cycle of disturbing violence a priority by focusing on the mental health, addiction and homelessness fuelling these disturbing incidents.
“No tools are off the table,” he said.