BALDREY: B.C. Green-NDP relationship about to be tested

The strength of the relationship between the BC NDP government and the B.C. Greens may be about to be tested on two fronts.

While the two parties disagree on some issues, there has been little of any consequences from any of those disagreements.

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For example, the Greens have been demanding since day one of their agreement with the NDP that ridesharing be introduced to this province. The NDP is dragging its heels on that, and life goes on for both parties.

The Greens want to move quickly to shut down (or relocate) many fish farms, but again the NDP has delayed taking any action until after the next election. And let’s not even get into the NDP’s decision early on to continue the construction of the Site C dam.

But two issues are coming to the fore that may ultimately strain the relationship between the NDP and the party that is propping it up into power.

One of them is the speculation tax and the other is a huge LNG project in the northwest corner of the province.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver appears to be ready to use his opposition to both ideas in different ways and in one instance it may pay off for him.

He intends to introduce amendments to the speculation tax when it is unveiled in the upcoming legislative session (that’s assuming the NDP doesn’t back down in the face of widespread criticism of the tax). He could, for example, introduce an amendment that gives cities and municipalities the option to be covered by the tax or not.

Where things could get interesting is if the B.C. Liberals like what they see from Weaver and vote in favour of his amendments. Together, the two parties can beat the NDP government in a vote.

On the other hand, perhaps the Liberals, many of whom seem to dislike Weaver, will opt not to support anything he does and keep enough of their caucus out of the house to allow the government to defeat the amendments.

But even if the amendments fail and the Greens (and the Liberals) combine to defeat the original bill (it’s not clear yet how the Greens would vote at third reading), it won’t result in the NDP falling from power, since individual bills (with the exception of the budget) are not considered confidence votes.

The LNG issue may be more problematic for the Greens as it runs directly counter to its core philosophy when it comes to fighting climate change.

The final investment decision (FID) for the LNG Canada project near Kitimat is expected to be made in October and it is widely expected to be a positive one. 

All signs are pointing to the FID being a green light: the Malaysian energy giant Petronas has once again bought a 25 per cent stake in the project, after bailing on it last year. As well, crude oil prices are expected to increase and a supply gap of LNG to develop in the early 2020s, setting the stage for Shell and other companies to start making go-ahead investment decisions.

Finally, the pipeline to transport natural gas from the northeast gas fields to the LNG facility in Kitimat now has the backing of all First Nations along its route.

LNG Canada’s chief rival for investment is thought to be potential LNG projects around the Gulf of Mexico, particularly the Lake Charles project on the Gulf coast of Louisiana. But more signs point to a positive FID than not.

Can Weaver support a government that is embracing an industry – in fact, one that it is willing to provide generous tax incentives to – that he insists will make it impossible for the province to meet its climate emission targets?

He threatened on Twitter over Christmas that he would ensure the NDP government would fall should it allow an LNG project to set up shop in this province.

Since then, he has softened his tone – now he wants to see the government’s climate action plan before passing final judgment – but not his opposition to LNG.

Weaver can have some fun with the speculation tax, but the problems associated with LNG will sorely test his continued backing of the current government.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

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