Questions answered, answers questioned in LNG Canada decision

This much is clear: the formal Final Investment Decision of the LNG Canada megaproject is an extraordinary opportunity for Northern BC and for Canada and a test of our abilities to deliver our energy to the wider world.

This much is murky: the speculative nature of the project, without a pre-sell of its product, offers some risk within the first phase. Let’s assume we will get past that and that the projections on world demand are not off-kilter.

And this much is truly a mess: the BC NDP-Green alliance, predicated on the principle that the environment superseded our fossil fuel energy project ambitions, is wounded, perhaps mortally.

There is much credit to go around, and the business and political leaders spread it widely like a wonderful fertilizer at the official heralding: Indigenous leaders, politicians of yesteryear, industrial conglomerates afar—all were given their due by the prime minister and the premier.

They ought to have also thanked the world market, and particularly Asia, because LNG Canada was mothballed until the sun broke through and predicted fair weather in the years that the project will be onstream.

But no matter. This is history-making, even though that term is overused. The international partnership has done its homework, worked with First Nations (although there is one holdout), and tamed the public perception that the emissions from the project are worth the immense economic benefits.

John Horgan has embraced this project as premier, even if he had his qualms in opposition, and he knows that the vitalization of the north will pay dividends across the province. He has tossed in a heaping helping of tax breaks—somewhere in the vicinity of $6 billion—to demonstrate the walk as much as the talk.

But he has yet to play his most important card: how he will square LNG with the greenhouse gas emission targets of the province over the next decades.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is no slouch on this issue, and he has been direct: The math doesn’t work, so we can’t work with the premier.

The simple picture of Weaver is of a man lusting for proportional representation (PR) in the legislature through electoral reforms that eliminate our first-past-the-post system and doubtlessly elect and appoint more Green MLAs.

But that’s a deceptive portrait. Weaver came to politics from science, particularly from climate change science, and that is his hill to die on. He may get to do so.

Weaver has at times huffed and puffed and threatened to blow the house down on a variety of issues big and small. Today he is inhaling and awaiting Horgan’s next card: a comprehensive climate action plan that needs to assuage and assure the Greens to retain their support and their minority government.

On the surface, LNG and PR do not mix. But hold on: Horgan, with his possible trump card to his chest, hasn’t mused about breaking up the band. He has at least one option to keep it together: massive electrification of the project infrastructure, at great expense, would mitigate many environmental consequences. He could even enlist the other energy project that lit Weaver’s fuse—the Site C hydroelectric project—as a source.

Horgan also has his environmentalist base of support to please—or to least displease—and his government’s climate change blueprint later this year will be its most substantial test of how it balances the economy and the environment.

If he cannot please the big bad wolf at the door, Weaver will indeed exhale and we will be electing a first-past-the-post government—or maybe another minority—in the spring.

At this point, the NDP sits well in that scenario. It has stolen the thunder from the BC Liberals who built the foundation for the project and, at least for the time being, silenced the thunder of the Greens. Nothing is ever dull in B.C. politics.

— Business in Vancouver

Kirk Lapointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president of audience and business development with Glacier Media.  

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