Premier Christy Clark at her Victoria office Dec. 10.

Christy Clark on greenhouse gases and government ads

In a year-end interview, Premier comments on B.C. missing its 2020 greenhouse gas target and prospects for LNG exports

Tom Fletcher sat down with Premier Christy Clark for a year-end interview Dec. 10.

TF: I want to start with your trip to the UN climate conference in Paris. Did you speak about natural gas as a transition fuel, and did you find support for that idea?

PCC: Yes and yes. The new government in Ottawa is a big supporter of our LNG plan, and part of the reason for that is that they also see it as a way forward for Canada to make a huge contribution to fighting global climate change.

There are 150 coal plants on the books to be built in China today. The only way that those plants and the ones that come after will be stopped is if they have a transitional fuel to move to. We all want to get to 100 per cent renewables one of these days, but that’s not going to happen in the next few years, probably not for the next many years.

TF: Prime Minister Trudeau campaigned against subsidies for fossil fuels. That was interpreted by some people as cancelling capital cost allowances for an LNG plant, passed by the previous Stephen Harper government.

PCC: They continue to support that change made by the previous government. They have publicly endorsed that position. LNG will be source of emissions for Canada, but overall it’s going to be a big favour to the world.

TF: B.C.’s 2020 greenhouse gas target, reduction of emissions by a third, another target that isn’t going to be met. Why?

PCC: Some of those targets were more ambitious I think than were possible for us to meet. When the government brought in the carbon tax and the first iteration of the climate change plan, it was based on the assumption that other jurisdictions around us were going to eventually catch up. And none of them have.

And so the balance that we have to find is to make sure that we’re environmental leaders at the same time that we’re protecting jobs and growing the economy. And there comes a point where the carbon tax can only get so high before we start chasing all those jobs out of the province.

Those emitters go to other jurisdictions, they take the jobs with them and they pollute more than they would in B.C. because they’re under a lax environmental regime. That’s what we want to avoid, and that’s been part of the reason why this has slowed.

TF: You’ve been promoting B.C.’s revenue neutral approach to carbon tax globally now. Your advisory committee says it needs to go higher starting in 2018 if it’s going to have an effect. Do you really have a choice there?

PCC: Let’s see what happens in the rest of the country. Let’s figure out what the national goal is going to be, which we don’t know yet. Other provinces are starting to get closer to where we are. By 2018, Alberta’s going to have come some way. By then Ontario will be into a plan, and Quebec already is.

The thing that I thought was really interesting about the Climate Leadership Team’s results was their acknowledgement that environmental policy and economic competitiveness have to work together.

I really want to congratulate Merran Smith and Tzeporah Berman for thinking so untraditionally about this. Ten years ago you wouldn’t have found many active environmentalists who wanted to work so hard to protect trade-exposed energy-intensive industries. Pretty amazing.

TF: On a related topic, transit spending. Your new minister Peter Fassbender has talked about a “new day” in Ottawa and he’s downplaying the idea of another referendum for new funding sources. Is that off the table now?

PCC: It’s the law, so it’s on the table. It may be possible that the federal government wants to invest more in transit, and take up some of the slack from the local government level. There are a lot of different possible solutions that might mean it doesn’t have to go to referendum. And we are very much at the forefront of that discussion with the federal government.

TF: You’re not changing that referendum law?

PCC: Nope. People deserve a say.

TF: On LNG, oil and natural gas prices are continuing to go down, and supply continues to go up around the world. Did you see any positive signs in the market this year?

PCC: What I saw this year was developing countries, especially China, making a firm commitment to reduce their emissions. They say they’re going to peak in 2030. The only way for them to do that is to move to a greater degree to natural gas, and the bulk of their industry is still located on the east coast of their country, a long way from Russia and close to B.C.

So I think the concern about climate change is going to rebalance the market for natural gas.

I guess the other positive sign is that nobody has accurately predicted any of these changes, negative or positive, in the past. I’m not sure if what’s happening today would even predict the future.

But I do know that countries are going to be looking to natural gas as the primary solution to the climate change issues they’re trying to resolve.

TF: Veresen has just green-lighted a second gas processing plant for the Montney region, so they must have some confidence.

PCC: Producers have invested $20 billion in B.C. so far and there’s no sign of that slowing down. These are long, 30-year agreements. I’m going to be 80 by the time some of those agreements expire. Goldman Sachs couldn’t predict this latest downturn in oil. I don’t think anybody knows what it’s going to look like in 30 years.

TF: The high cost of urban housing. Are we going to see some policy action in 2016, and will there be some relief from the property transfer tax?

PCC: You’ll see in the February budget, but we are looking for ways to provide some relief for home buyers.

There are two things we can do to make life more affordable for people. One is to reduce taxes, and the other is to create a stronger economy for more people to get higher-paying jobs. We’re working on both.

Frankly I think the job creation side of it is the one that needs the most attention, because we already have really low taxes in the province comparatively. In terms of property purchase, we’re looking at that now, but I can’t give you an definitive answer.

TF: We’re starting to see government advertising ramp up. We saw a lot of Jobs Plan advertising before the 2013 election, we saw the federal government do it with their Economic Action Plan, which was very expensive, and to most people’s eye self-serving or political in nature at taxpayers’ expense. Is that what we’re going to see in the next year and a half?

PCC: It won’t be political. I think some of that was, really, political. You saw a lot of advertising this summer, for example, anti-forest fires. And that all gets counted in there.

You will see more information-based advertising out there, talking to people about for example, the Registered Education Savings Plan. People need to know that, so you’ll see more of that.

TF: Not Jobs Plan 2.0?

PCC: I don’t think that’s in the plan. I wish I could say to you no, never, but I, you know….

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The peninsula’s Community Christmas Day Dinner at White Rock Baptist Church – seen here in 2019 – has been cancelled for 2020, because of pandemic-inspired limitations on gatherings. (File photo)
Annual Community Christmas dinner ‘just not possible’ this year

Organizers vow that 40 years-plus Semiahmoo Peninsula tradition will return, post-COVID

Sources volunteers face off at the organization’s ‘Enchanted’ gala – one as a fairy and the other as her magic-mirror reflection – held in 2019. (Tiffany Kwong photo)
‘Rising infections’ prompts move to virtual Sources gala

Silent auction, raffle opens to public at 9 a.m. Oct. 30

This year’s annual Lighted Boat Parade has been cancelled. (File photo)
White Rock’s annual Lighted Boat Parade cancelled

COVID-19 cited as main reason for cancellation of popular winter tradition

Strawberry Hill Hall is being renovated and moved to another location on its existing corner lot in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall being moved a few metres in $1.2M reno project

Childcare spaces coming to corner lot where hall has stood for 111 years

A surveillance camera in a photo posted to the Project Iris page on surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Quality surveillance video helps catch crooks, Surrey Mounties say

Charges laid in connection to break-and-enter in Guildford area

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

Most Read