ON APRIL 21, the BC government organized a “virtual townhall” on the COVID-19 virus for the Island Health region. Given the extreme financial challenges that the virus poses for the government, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the vast sums in public funds being doled out to LNG Canada—through royalty tax credits, reduced hydro rates, a provincial sales tax holiday, a carbon tax ceiling, and cancelled LNG income tax—might be in jeopardy.
Or might the handouts even be switched to support renewable energy?
Sadly, the esteemed panel was unable to get to my question: “Given the likelihood that the climate crisis will kill even more people than the virus, should the $6-billion taxpayer handout to LNG Canada be diverted to renewable energy projects?”
Fortunately, eight days later, the government’s PR wing did answer my question. Well, sort of. The following is the verbatim emailed response I got from the Citizen Engagement Team. You be the judge.
- There is no handout.
- The provincial government developed a framework to ensure natural gas development had a level playing field with other industries in B.C., allowing investment to move forward so jobs could be created.
- This framework aligns with our climate commitments, as described in CleanBC. That plan has put us on a path to a cleaner, better future where we can continue to balance environmental protection with economic competitiveness and job creation.
- The LNG Canada project fits into the climate goals of CleanBC and allows B.C. to build a strong economy—that is even more important today as we grapple with the economic challenges created by the COID-19 [sic] pandemic.
- More details about the natural gas framework and the opportunity created as a result of LNG Canada’s investment can be found here.
Thanks, Citizen Engagement Team. That clears up everything!
Russ Francis worked as a political columnist and reporter for many years before becoming a BC government analyst. During his 10 years with the government, he worked in strategic policy, legislation and performance management for a number of ministries. He’s happy to be writing again from his home in the Southern Gulf islands.