The Green Party of B.C. says that the expansion of LNG pipelines is "economic suicide" for British Columbia, arguing that the foreign markets both major parties are banking on for LNG exports won't exist in the next decade.
It's a markedly different position from both the NDP and the Liberals, who support LNG. The Greens say the government must focus on investment in the clean energy sector – an issue that has seldom come up this campaign, which has been dominated by discussions of economic growth through pipelines and the extraction of fossil fuels.
"We believe that it is in the best interests of British Columbians to actually continue down a path of making the clean sector a priority," said Green Party candidate Andrew Weaver, a well-known University of Victoria climate scientist, at a clean-energy panel discussion Thursday in Vancouver. "And we believe LNG exports and the focus on fossil fuels and pipelines and the transport of this is yesterday's thinking and not tomorrow's thinking."
Mr. Weaver is running in Oak Bay-Gordon Head in the May 14 provincial election.
He says current predictions of provincial revenues from LNG are a "fantasy," and it makes no sense to invest in the expansion of LNG – with the intention to sell to Asian markets – when Russia has 20 times the natural gas resources of all of Canada and has already signed export agreements with China.
He also says British Columbia will not be able to meet its greenhouse-gas reduction targets, set in 2007, if it continues down the current path.
Paul Kariya, the executive director of the Clean Energy Association of B.C., said the clean-energy sector has the potential to spur economic growth in the province. His organization represents 225 independent power producers, including those in the production of wind, hydro and geothermal electricity.
He says 12 projects he recently visited have generated $2.6-billion in capital expenditures and 2,300 direct jobs, including 690 First Nations jobs. He says initiatives like the 50-megawatt hydro project in Fraser Canyon, or the Cape Scott Wind Farm in North Vancouver, also use anywhere between 50 and 170 suppliers, mostly from B.C.
"In terms of jobs and economic development, we are a tried and true industry that knows what we're doing and we can provide competitively based electricity for the grid and for communities in B.C.," he said.
Jane Sterk, the B.C. Green Leader, acknowledged on Thursday that her party would not form the government after next week's election. But she said it is vital to have a Green presence in the legislature. "We are a party that welcomes investment and if we have an NDP government, we know that there is kind of a narrowness about the involvement of the private sector in power development," she said. "We can provoke that government, if it is an NDP government, to think differently … without abandoning our beliefs or protecting the public good."