B.C.'s LNG legislation to require rare Liberal, NDP co-operation

B.C. Greens plan to vote against legislation required for government's LNG promises, leaving the NDP minority government to rely on Liberal support.

Staunchly opposed Greens await NDP climate plan for proof emissions targets can be met

One of the proposed liquefied natural gas facilities is by LNG Canada, a joint venture of Shell, PetroChina, KOGAS and Mitsubishi Corporation. (Submitted by LNG Canada)

Construction is now set to begin on a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in northern B.C. following the go-ahead from all five investment partners.

But B.C. Premier John Horgan's minority government will have to seek a new partner to push through legislation to allow for incentives it has promised to make projects such as LNG Canada's Kitimat, B.C., export terminal financially viable.

The NDP framework for LNG development, unveiled in March, includes a break on carbon tax, an exemption on provincial sales tax related to construction costs and the elimination of an LNG income tax that was brought in under the Liberals.

Some measures of the plan require legislative changes. But the NDP won't find support with the B.C. Greens, as it has on other issues since forging a confidence and supply agreement to govern following the 2017 election.

"We as a caucus are united and we will not support any legislation the B.C. NDP bring to this house for support of this decision today," Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said, of LNG Canada's positive final investment decision.

"The duty and the responsibility is then on the B.C. NDP to get the Liberals to support them."

Liberal support of industry

Liberal support of the LNG industry is not in doubt. Prior to losing power last year, the Liberals spent a decade trying to coax investment to build the sector.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson celebrated LNG Canada's announcement Tuesday, considered to be the largest private sector investment in Canadian history, as a victory brought about by the party's years of work on the file.

But Wilkinson said he will be examining the forthcoming NDP legislation to ensure it provides a fair return for the resource.

The need for support could provide the Liberals with some leverage to push for desired specifics, said UBC associate political science professor Gerald Baier.

But it's unlikely the two parties would not be able to pass the legislation, he added.

"They seemed to spend the day congratulating each other for this happening. So it would be odd to expect the Liberals to put much in the way in terms of roadblocks," Baier said.

Should the NDP succeed in working with the Liberals, as they have with the Greens on other issues, it would show the minority parliament is functioning as intended, he added.

"Ideally, this is how a minority parliament is supposed to work."

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the official announcement around the approval of LNG Canada's joint venture project in B.C. (CBC)

Climate plan to come

A big test for how much the LNG project will impact the Green-NDP relationship is yet to come.

While the Greens are staunchly opposed to LNG development, Weaver says he's waiting to see how successful the NDP government is at meeting its climate targets while factoring in carbon emissions from the LNG Canada project.

That is something the government says is possible to achieve but admits will require other measures such as electrification of more transportation and heating and greenhouse gas reductions by other industries.

"We are working as hard as we can to make sure our climate plan, which [Weaver] is an integral part of, is coherent, credible and can fit this type of investment," Premier Horgan said.

That climate plan is expected to be ready this fall. At that point, Weaver says he will make a decision on whether LNG is a deal breaker for the NDP-Green relationship.

"What matters most and singularly is the ability to actually meet the targets," Weaver said.

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