As most people reading this report will be aware, we were called back to the Legislature for a rare summer sitting. The purpose was for the government to expedite a bill on liquefied natural gas, which effectively sells out the province for the next quarter of a century.
It is an absolutely astounding piece of legislation. In a desperate attempt to get at least one LNG facility operating in BC by the next election, the government has already fixed the tax regime to be so low that we are effectively giving away our resource. This latest bill adds insult to injury. It ties the hands of this and future governments so that if any changes are made in laws that will negatively impact the earnings of the LNG producer the corporation will be compensated by the BC government. In other words, if any government in the next generation chooses to change to environmental laws, tax laws, carbon reduction initiatives, royalty rates or make any other changes that negatively affect the corporation’s bottom line, taxpayers would have to pay compensation to the corporation that could add up to millions and millions of dollars.
Now I know that there are people within the BC Liberal caucus, maybe within cabinet, who have been involved in business. After all, they boast regularly that they are sound financial managers. This legislation blows that claim to bits. I am astounded that nobody said to them that this is simply an absurdly bad deal. We are effectively paying Petronas, and other LNG producers, to take our resource and sell it for their profit, not ours.
The irony is Petronas is a state-owned foreign company; its profits help finance the government of Malaysia. So the reality is that BC is essentially compensating the corporation and by doing so will effectively be injecting millions of dollars indirectly into the treasury of the government of Malaysia.
The Premier, Christy Clark, made bold and impossible promises at the last election. We were going to have at least one LNG plant operating this year and three by 2020. So far, of course, we have none hence the desperate attempt to nearly give away our province’s resources. It should be remembered that part of her electioneering claimed this industry would wipe out the $60 billion debt (which as we know has grown substantially under Ms. Clark’s leadership), fill a $100 billion prosperity fund and generate $1 trillion in economic activity.
It is now less than two years until the next provincial election and none of these wild assertions have been fulfilled, and none will be. So what we have is a desperate government so determined to be able to show something is happening, that it will sell out the people of BC. The deal fails us in so many ways: it is anti-democratic in that it ties the hands of future governments into indemnifying producers against changes future governments may want to make; it allows LNG producers to negotiate environmental regulations and protects them from changes to a carbon tax and other environmental initiatives; it gives no guarantees of jobs for BC workers; and it fails to mention First Nations.
But Christy Clark used her majority to get this through during the summer, even though there was no deadline for any legislation. The Premier, who was hardly visible during the short session, boasted the historic nature of the legislation. If the historical analogies are taken to their logical conclusion it is apparent that rarely has a government in a democracy been so willing to both abuse the system and to make deals with an industry at high cost to the people that government is supposed to represent. And it has done so with eager alacrity.
The summer sitting was also used to amend the legislation that governs the way the Ombudsman’s Office works. This was done with all party approval as it will allow the Ombudsman to investigate the fiasco around the summary dismissal of the Health Ministry workers in 2012, which resulted in one of those fired committing suicide. While we would prefer a public inquiry be held to find out what really happened, an investigation by the Ombudsman may assist in uncovering some of the truth that the government so far has refused to reveal.
I was able to use this abbreviated and unexpected session to thank all those who helped combat the forest fire outside Port Hardy earlier this month, as well as show appreciation to the many volunteers who spend hours working on emergency preparedness for our communities.
As it is summer I am usually around the constituency. At the end of this week I’m hosting a meeting with representatives from some of our smaller communities to talk about how we in the North Island can gain greater benefit from our resource wealth. Next week I look forward to the official start of new broadband Internet for the north end of the Island and I will continue to advocate for improved service for all areas as well as cell coverage for our major highways.
I’ll also be working on some critic related issues through the coming weeks – talking with people about ferries, highways and transit.
My offices are closed for the week after BC Day to allow staff to enjoy some of the summer. I will be taking some holidays in August, but expect to run into people camping around our wonderful North Island lakes.
As always you can reach me by email at Claire.email@example.com, by phone on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 250 949 9130 in Port Hardy or 866 387 5100 toll free. Feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.