Budget Estimates 2021: Energy, Mines, Low Carbon Innovation

May 20, 2021 | 42-1, Blog, Estimates, Governance, Legislature | 0 comments

With one hour available to the BC Green Caucus for Budget Estimates in Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation I had a limited opportunity to canvass a couple of important topics.

In this session I asked Minister Bruce Ralston about cost estimates for Site C and the viability of LNG and LNG Canada.

View the video. Starting at 4:21pm. (Access time stamp by clicking “Advanced” and then “Content”)


A. Olsen: Just following up on my colleague from Kootenay East, how would the minister characterize the government’s response to the BCUC report that came out in 2017? It was clear that the government of the day, his government, referred this to the BCUC. I’m coming in here a little bit late in the debate, but I just…. The minister did state that this government did send it to the BCUC. How would he characterize how his government took the advice of the BCUC and applied it to this project?

[4:25 p.m.]
Hon. B. Ralston: The government made a request of BCUC to review the project. That was done. A report was prepared and reported back to the Premier and the cabinet. After consideration, a decision was made to proceed with the project.

A. Olsen: I think the point being, of course, is that the argument or the discussion about who referred it, and who didn’t refer it, and it wasn’t referred, and now it’s referred, and we referred it, but they didn’t do it…. I think it becomes moot, really. Doesn’t it? If you don’t actually take what the BCUC has to say and apply it to the decision that’s being made.

If I remember back to 2017, I think there was a political decision, and the minister is correct that there was a decision to proceed. But I walked in on a discussion here, frankly, which was who did what and when did they do it, and why didn’t they do it. I think, really, it doesn’t matter.

What does matter, actually, is that this project, at the beginning, was $5 billion. Then it was $6.6 billion. Then the government approved $7.96 billion, and then 2016, it was $8.3 billion, then $8.7 billion. In 2018, it was $10.7 billion. These numbers are continually increasing, and this year it’s $16 billion.

[4:30 p.m.]
Whatever the case, the government of British Columbia, represented by two political parties — one that got it started, and one that inherited the project, clearly — has seen this project be one of, if not the most expensive projects in the history of this country. And yet we continue to stick our head down and just drive forward, based on the sunk cost fallacy that has largely been raised by a number of people.

The question to the minister: how certain are you that $16 billion is the final price tag?

Hon. B. Ralston: That’s an important question. It’s one that I’ve asked myself. B.C. Hydro is engaging in what’s called a re-baselining. In other words, a re-examination from the bottom up of all of the components of the budget. That’s a lengthy process. They’re almost completed that. In addition, we’ve had Mr. Milburn have a look at many aspects of the project, with a view to improving management of some areas which have seen cost increases, particularly commercial claims and risk management.

The choice of language of the $16 billion cost estimate is deliberate, but we’re expecting that there will be a budget that will be coming forward which will endeavour to be as precise as it can be in the circumstances. I’m not in a position — I think I answered my other colleague, and I think my present colleague had yet to join the debate — where it would be prudent for me to guarantee a budget number.

I’m convinced that the senior management and the team that’s been hired and the outside consultants that have been engaged have increased the probability of that budget number being accurate. There are unforeseen circumstances. No one could have predicted COVID, for example. I’m convinced that we’re as close to a fairly solid number as we can be.

A. Olsen: There have been lots of solid numbers offered British Columbians, and those numbers have been increasing one over another. Is there a ceiling? Is there a number that we won’t surpass in this project? We’ve got some certainly that this number, $16 billion, is a good estimate, and I respect the fact that there are unforeseen circumstances. But is there any number that this government won’t accept?

Hon. B. Ralston: The process now is the re-baselining of budget and an examination of all the components of the budget in an effort to be as certain as possible about those elements. As I’ve said, I’m confident that due diligence has been exercised and that we are close to a number that’s accurate. Whether that is the final number, I’m not able to say. I have confidence in the process that’s being undertaken and the additional scrutiny, the additional response to the recommendations of Mr. Milburn in a number of areas of the project.

The additional diligence of an independent project assurance board that’s being implemented, and the results of all of that, I think give us some reasonable assurance that we are certainly close to an accurate number. I’m not in a position to guarantee that absolutely. I think that would be imprudent on my part, and so I’m not going to do that.

[4:35 p.m.]
A. Olsen: That’s not the question that I asked. The question that I asked was whether or not there is a ceiling, that there is a limit. Or if we, as a province, need to be prepared, as citizens of a province, as ratepayers of a utility, a Crown corporation, as taxpayers in a province, if we need to embrace ourselves for any number? We’ve seen this project double, more than double, in the life of it so far. We’re well away from being done. That project is not completed yet. But we continue to go through these processes.

So my question was, to the minister, at what point do we say that this project costs too much?

Hon. B. Ralston: I appreciate the place that the member’s question comes from. I, too, am apprehensive about the budget. I think the member and I share that point of view. It’s a legitimate point of view. The public is, to the degree that they focus on this, likely concerned. But what I can say is, as the minister, I’ve been advised and I am convinced that Hydro is committed to completing the Site C project in the most prudent and efficient way possible.

The steps that have been undertaken since I became minister, in terms of the Milburn report and the implementation of that, are the re-engaging of EY in a more comprehensive way, the strengthening of the project assurance independent oversight and the addition of a number of teams in the commercial claims and risk management. All of these changes, I think, bring increased likelihood that the project will be delivered on budget.

I’ve mentioned, and I’ll mention again, the rebaselining. It’s a little bit of an awkward term, but it is a comprehensive look and examination and recalculation of a budget, element by element, from the bottom up. That is being done. It’s underway.

There are a number of cost pressures, which I’ve identified in some of my earlier answers. COVID, unmistakably, geotechnical issues. There are a number of other issues, as well, that have come forward. Civil works and cost increases over the time. These cost pressure have been real. That is hindsight, obviously, but I think the best thing that we can do — and that’s why these measures have been implemented — is to manage the project, going forward, in a better way. Those measures that have been implemented, I’m convinced, will help do that.

So that’s, I think, the best I can provide to the member to deal with his concern about cost escalation.

A. Olsen: I’m going to take it that there is not a number, then. I recognize that the question that I’m asking the minister is challenging, but it is one that comes from, I think, experience as a member of this House and previously, before, watching this project’s cost increase. As the minister has pointed out, his government has put in place a number of measures throughout the time.

[4:40 p.m.]
It’s almost like the way that the answer came was that in response to this budget now being this astronomical number, $16 billion, the government is just putting in place things like the project assurance board. But that, in my understanding, was put in place. Yet the numbers still continued to go up, even with that oversight in place.

What we have, actually, in British Columbia, is a lot of project assurance. This government seems, with the answer to the question, very much assured that they’re going to continue to support this no matter what the number is. I think what we’re getting to, in the point here that I’m trying to make, is that we don’t have a lot of public assurance. We haven’t had a lot of information. There have been a lot of questions asked over the past couple of years about what government knew and when government knew it and when they shared it with the public.

This isn’t the minister and his cabinet colleagues that are paying for this. This is the people of British Columbia, the ratepayers of B.C. Hydro, the taxpayers of this province, that are going to be on the hook for this. What’s missing is the public assurance in this project.

There are so many unanswered questions about what government knew and when they knew it. Yet we get another report that comes out and says: “Nah, we don’t quite have the expertise to be able to do it.” Then you get a couple of other experts that are hired to come in and fill in the gaps that were there. All of this. Still the public are wondering where this project is at. It’s continued to be built during COVID.

So my question is to the minister: how much of the contingency fund for Site C has already been expended?

[4:45 p.m.]
Hon. B. Ralston: Thanks very much to the member for his question. Clearly, there’s a difference in opinion about the public policy considerations here. From what the member has said — and I think it’s his public position — he was in favour of terminating this project, and the government made the decision to continue with the project.

Termination had certain financial consequences in terms of rate increases, an immediate bill for about $10 billion, and ratepayers would be asked to pay that $10 billion if the project were to be terminated. The decision made was to continue. I’m speaking of the 2021 decision. It was made to continue the project and build an asset that will provide clean electricity for British Columbia for an estimated 70 to 100 years. In an economy where we’re attempting to achieve a low-carbon future, clean electricity is an important component of our economic future.

That’s clearly the policy difference. This member would stop the project. Certainly, that’s his choice, and he can advocate for that. I know there are those who do that. But that’s not the decision of the government, and that’s why the project is going forward.

In terms of a contingency, there is a contingency within the budget. It hasn’t been called upon yet. I would also say, to foreclose the member’s next question, “How much is it?” for reasons of commercial confidentiality, the amount of that contingency cannot be revealed, given the ongoing negotiations with the main civil works contractor.

A. Olsen: My next question was actually to backtrack a little bit, Minister. It wasn’t actually going to be that question.

The minister mentioned that B.C. Hydro is going through a rebaselining process right now. In other words, looking at the project from top to bottom to see how much it’s going to be. Is this the only time that Hydro has rebaselined the costs of this project? Or has that process happened previously?

Hon. B. Ralston: It’s not unusual in a major construction project, certainly one of this scale, that there are revisions to the budget, given the lifetime over which the project exists. In this case, there have been, obviously, unforeseen events, whether it’s the COVID interruption of the construction schedule or some of the geotechnical discoveries that were made. In order to make the project absolutely as safe as possible, Hydro fashioned a response and is in the process of executing that response.

[4:50 p.m.]
As much as one would like the predictability and certainty of an absolute flat line in a budget…. I know that that’s what project managers and accountants devoutly wish for, but it has not been possible in this project. There are unforeseen circumstances that have to be dealt with and raise costs and extend the schedule. That’s been the case here.

B.C. Hydro has endeavoured to respond, and we continue forward with the project.

A. Olsen: The minister raises the issues around the geotechnical and COVID-19 as being a couple of reasons why the costs have escalated. I think it’s also fair to suggest that the costs were escalating prior to COVID. Certainly, there’s probably some aspect of COVID that has an impact on the cost of this project. We’ve also heard that the government has known about geotechnical issues at this site for a lot longer than perhaps they let it be known for the public.

Can the minister provide a breakdown as to the geotechnical and COVID costs? What does that look like? They’ve been very, very murky — the breakdown between the costs that are related to COVID-19 and the costs that are related to the geotechnical issues that the minister has highlighted in his previous response.

Hon. B. Ralston: There are a number of elements that go into the composition of the overrun, and I’ve listed some of them in response to questions by our colleague the member for Kootenay East. But let me go back to some of those again.

Obviously, COVID-19 and the impact of COVID-19…. The member seems to want to know how that impacted the cost. A substantial amount of the summer construction season was lost in 2020 and resulted in a one-year delay to the project, which adds costs.

[4:55 p.m.]
The enhancements to the foundations, the geotechnical issue, are a significant cost issue, and those have been dealt with. I think I noted that the contract signed by the B.C. Liberals transferred all the geotechnical risk to B.C. Hydro, so that’s why B.C. Hydro has to pay for it and not anyone else.

There are other cost pressures that B.C. Hydro has acknowledged in previous progress reports to the BCUC that were being managed, as the member says, even before the outbreak of COVID-19: amendments to the main civil works contract, additional labour resource requirements, First Nations treaty infringement claims and an injunction application, increased costs associated with the reservoir clearing, transmission line construction and highway alignment work.

There are a number of cost pressures, all of which have contributed to an escalation in the overall cost of the project.

A. Olsen: Again, we’ve got this situation where the finger’s pointed at the B.C. Liberals for signing a contract that any geotechnical’s going to be on B.C. Hydro. That goes back to 2017, and the conditions at which this government made the decision to proceed with the project. That should have been seen as one of the potential weaknesses of proceeding with a project that was already, basically, being built on sand.

To hear about that today, it’s a bit…. I can understand why we want to do it in this place. That’s politics. Let’s put as much of the blame somewhere as possible. But there’s been a series of decisions that have been made by this cabinet and the previous cabinet. There was also — as the minister took quite a bit of time to highlight the difference in policy perspectives — there was a lot of similarities in the policy perspectives back in 2017. The main difference was one party wanted to send it to the BCUC, and one party was very clear over the last number of years that the project would have been cancelled. But there was a decision to proceed.

There still is the murkiness that exists when it comes to what is the weight of the cost overruns. We’ve heard that there’s a series of cost overruns. But what I was asking was for more information to be provided of the money that this project is costing us over and above the original budget. How much of that number is COVID, and how much of that number is geotechnical?

[5:00 p.m.]
Hon. B. Ralston: It’s difficult to give a definitive answer to the member’s questions. The impact of COVID upon the project is immense, but it is difficult to calculate finely. It has an impact on schedule, therefore resulting in delay. It has an impact upon labour costs as well.

The foundation enhancement is, I would say, the second-biggest cost in terms of an overrun and not anticipated. I know the member said somewhat disparagingly that the dam is built upon sand. It’s not actually built upon sand, but there were geotechnical issues that were discovered through a system of sensors, about 500 or 600, and there was a very small movement, many 30 or 40 meters below the surface, of less than 5 centimeters, detected by a sensor.

The engineering team felt that that represented a potential risk to the project. Many projects would not have even detected that, because they wouldn’t have the monitoring system in place to detect it. But in order to be as safe as possible, an engineering solution was considered and designed. That costs money. The estimates of that process have fluctuated, but they’re settling in on a final figure.

Then there are other costs. I know the member has expressed concern about the cost to the public. One of the reasons why it’s probably not prudent to reveal too much — I spoke of the contingency reserve and some of the other costs — is because there is ongoing negotiation with the main civil works contractor. To reveal some of those numbers might present a disadvantage to B.C. Hydro and ultimately to the taxpayers or the ratepayers that the member is concerned about.

For those reasons, some of these answers are not as precise as the member would wish and I would wish, myself. That’s the situation that we’re in. I will say and reiterate that Hydro is doing everything to control those costs. There are a number of measures that have been taken, following upon the Milburn report, and enhanced independent scrutiny that I’m convinced will result in a better project and more of a control of escalating costs and delays to the schedule. That’s the nature of a big project like this. Some of it is not ideal, but we are managing it as we go forward.

A. Olsen: I think it’s important to acknowledge at this point that this project was, back in 2017, roughly $8 billion, and over the last handful of years, four years, it’s now $16 billion. What’s been demonstrated here is that there isn’t a ceiling. So yes, there’s re-baselining. The government is prepared to spend what it will take to finish this project. But in the last four years, there has been a doubling in cost of this.

It’s the same organization that’s overseen the doubling in the cost of this program that is now still in charge. So the reassurances that the minister gives that B.C. Hydro is being prudent and is looking after to keep the costs down…. I think the people of British Columbia have every right to be skeptical about this.

[5:05 p.m.]
With the level of secrecy that’s been around this project, just asking questions and getting very, very vague responses, whether it be here in budget estimates this year, budget estimates last year, whether it be the media looking for information, whether it be Indigenous nations looking for information…. This is a public project. The public is paying for this. The public has a right to know. Does the minister agree that the public deserves accountability on this project and deserves to understand what it is that they’re going to be paying for in the end?

Hon. B. Ralston: The member raises the issue of transparency. The government is committed to managing the Site C project in the best interests of British Columbians.

That’s why we engaged Peter Milburn to provide independent advice. He was given full access to B.C. Hydro staff, cabinet documents, commercially sensitive information. It was a completely unfettered review. He interviewed key personnel in B.C. Hydro — many — and had full access to the range of documents I just mentioned. We wanted to make sure that British Columbians were fully informed about Mr. Milburn’s findings and recommendations but without compromising B.C. Hydro’s legal and commercial position with contractors.

Mr. Milburn produced the edited report of some 40 pages based on his experience as a former deputy minister in the government and the chair of the BCIMC, the independent management commission, which manages the pension fund of a number of British Columbians. He edited it. He was not directed by anyone as to how to edit it. That document was released.

We’ve also released multiple reports from independent geotechnical experts. The member for Kootenay East asked me about the quarterly reports. Those had fallen behind and weren’t being produced. I directed that they be produced. They’re up to date, and the next one will be coming at the end of June for the quarter January to March of 2021.

We also brought in new leadership, a new chair of the board at B.C. Hydro, in order to set off on a new path. We have taken strides to make this project, and B.C. Hydro generally, responsive to the public interest and open and transparent.

A. Olsen: Shifting gears here away from Site C to LNG. Thank you to the minister for his responses on Site C.

Today the minister made the statement in question period that the LNG Canada project has been factored into the CleanBC targets and to our emissions. Is the minister aware that the Minister of Environment is still looking to find emissions within British Columbia so that then we are actually in alignment with the commitments, the targets, that we’ve made? We’re still looking for 25 percent of those emissions. Those were to be identified by December.

Is it not a challenging thing to say in question period that we have accounted for LNG and yet British Columbia is going to blow past its targets by at least 25 percent? The implication in question period today was that LNG can fit within our budget. But in fact, it’s part of a carbon budget that is way over what we need it to be.

[5:10 p.m.]
Hon. B. Ralston: The member is right to mention the 25 percent, although I think it’s a bit jumbled in with the LNG there. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has publicly made that very clear, that the CleanBC program takes us towards 75 percent of our emission reduction targets. There’s an additional 25 percent that’s being worked on. There is consideration of other pathways that would lead to a reduction and ability to reduce that final 25 percent.

That’s a public discussion that the minister has engaged in. It’s not a secret. He recognizes it as a challenge, and I’m confident that he is working very hard on that. I know he’s very thoughtful and devoted to working on that plan and justifiably proud of the work he’s done so far, but recognizes that there’s more to do. That is the work that’s being done.

In terms of the comment about LNG. It wasn’t LNG. It’s one specific project: the LNG Canada project is accounted for in the emissions that are counted across the economy. It’s not a question of LNG, per se, the category, being accounted for. It’s that one specific project that is accounted for.

A. Olsen: I completely accept the distinction that…. And in fact, I wouldn’t even say that the minister made a distinction from what I was saying. That’s exactly what my point is.

Today, in question period, when we asked about…. When my colleague from Cowichan Valley asked about LNG and the minister said that LNG Canada is factored into our CleanBC goals and factored into our emissions, he left it hanging. The minister made it sound like we accomplished something, yet we still are 25 percent of the way from achieving our own targets. The minister actually today in question period left us hanging, believing that we can have LNG and we can also achieve our CleanBC targets.

Can we have LNG Canada, currently, and meet our CleanBC targets?

[5:15 p.m.]
Hon. B. Ralston: I am going to quote from the Minister of the Environment’s response in estimates. I believe it’s yesterday. There was a question asked by the member for Skeena. Let me give you the minister’s response:

“What is modelled in our 2030 plan are the emissions associated with LNG Canada phase 1, trains 1 and 2, 3.45 megatonnes when complete. That’s upstream and downstream. There is a small amount of potential additional emissions from oil and gas that were done in the original modelling.

“The OPP or memorandum of understanding with LNG Canada was very clearly and specifically limited to phase 1, which is the only final investment decision made to date. Our government has been clear. If proponents wish to develop LNG further, they should show us and the people of B.C. how their plan can reduce or eliminate emissions or how the sector overall can reduce and eliminate emissions, therefore creating some room so that they fit within the plan so that we can meet our legislated climate targets.”

That is the minister’s response. That’s what, in my, perhaps, imperfect choice of words earlier today, I was referring to.

A. Olsen: Currently, this project is built into a program that still has 25 perfect of the way to go. One of the arguments that the B.C. Green caucus has been making all along was that the investment that the people of British Columbia made in the Bill 10 amendment a few years back…. This, actually, would have been an unnecessary conversation. But we enticed LNG Canada to build this infrastructure. Now, as a result, we are falling way short of our own targets.

We’ve got the Ministry of the Environment looking to make up ground when it’s clearly right in front of our eyes. The IEA report that my colleague was referring to today has now even changed the language from 2019, where LNG was a transition, to just moving right past LNG.

Here we are in British Columbia, partnering with companies to build infrastructure that is going to actually impede our ability to lead on climate, and the people of B.C. are investing in that. That’s been a long-standing issue that we’ve had.

So will the minister, here, commit to not increasing the LNG industry any further than what LNG Canada is already building to come online in 2025?

[5:20 p.m.]
Hon. B. Ralston: Let me quote again. I’ll read the same quotation from the Minister of the Environment: “If proponents wish to develop LNG further, they should show us and the people of B.C. how their plan can reduce or eliminate emissions or how the sector overall can reduce and eliminate emissions, therefore creating some room so that they fit within the plan so that we can meet our legislated climate targets.”

The market forces that drive the LNG industry are changing very rapidly, as the member likely heard. A partner of Chevron Canada, Woodside, was going to develop a project called Kitimat LNG at Bish Cove, on land owned by the Haisla People. In December 2019, Chevron Canada said that they were putting their interest — 50 percent interest in that project — up for sale. It’s not sold yet. They have said that they no longer wish to support the project.

Woodside made the announcement yesterday that they too are putting their 50 percent interest up for sale as well, although they do retain substantial rights to natural gas drilling rights in the Liard part of northeast British Columbia. That company…. Woodside is an Australian company, but they have interest in western Australia and in Senegal, which they are choosing to be a higher priority. That project looks as though it will not proceed.

I think the other comment that I would make, as you’ve referred to the report and Fatih Birol, the director of the International Energy Agency…. It’s early days in terms of examining it’s impact on B.C., but one of the comments is that the future of LNG will be determined, to some extent, by the banks and commercial lenders. They will evaluate some of the advice that’s been given by Fatih Birol, and they may decide that they choose not to finance projects in the future.

It’s a very dynamic market and there’s a lot of technological change occurring out there and many shifts in energy generation priorities. I would not want to predict, in the way that the member seems to be convinced, that certain things are going to happen, when they may not.

The Chair: We will now take a five minute recess, just to prepare for a new Chair who’s starting. We will return at 5:28 p.m., while we undertake cleaning and safety protocols in preparation for the new committee Chair.

The committee recessed from 5:23 p.m. to 5:28 p.m.

[D. Coulter in the chair.]

The Chair: Continuing debate, I recognize the member for Saanich North and the Islands.

A. Olsen: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Welcome to the chair.

Before the break, the minister stated that the market forces are changing. In that context, I’d ask the question: was there a final investment decision on LNG Canada to be made before the provincial government moved that Income Tax Amendment Act and the assurances and the benefits that were provided on behalf of British Columbians through that bill?

Hon. B. Ralston: I wonder if the member might just clarify that question. I wasn’t clear what was being asked there.

[5:30 p.m.]
A. Olsen: Before the break, the minister acknowledged that there are a number of factors, in terms of financing these projects and, as well, the global marketplace and suggested that currently we’re seeing change in the LNG and natural gas global marketplace. The question that I was asking was: prior to the final investment decision that was made by LNG Canada. That final investment decision wasn’t made, in my understanding, unless there was that Income Tax Amendment Act that basically provided a market for that project to be approved and for the final investment decision. Would that project have been approved without the income tax amendments that were made by this Legislature?

Hon. B. Ralston: The member’s question is a hypothetical question, obviously, reaching back and asking what would have happened had something else happened.

I will say this about the decision. Government had a clear policy that LNG, if projects were to be approved, must contain express guarantees of jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians and a fair return on our resource, must respect and make partners of First Nations and must protect our air, land and water, including living up to our climate commitments. The member asked a question previously about where this LNG Canada project figures in the climate plan, and I’ve provided to him the response of the Minister of Environment made yesterday in estimates.

There are benefits to the project in terms of employment. The project continues. Over 3,000 workers are employed at the project site in Kitimat, over 1,500 people from that total being British Columbians. They’ve awarded more than $3 billion of project-related contracts with Indigenous companies, local companies and companies in B.C. across Canada. The project is estimated to generate $23 billion in public revenue over 40 years. That does not include the multiplier effects of taxes on economic activity.

LNG Canada has entered into agreements with the following impacted First Nations: Haisla, Kiselas, Gitga’at, Gitxaala and Kitsumkalum. Coastal GasLink has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations along the pipeline route. LNG Canada’s facility is expected to have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions intensity of any major LNG facility in the world.

We can’t revisit the decision, in the sense that it’s already been made and that project is being built, but those are some of the benefits, as we see them, of project.

A. Olsen: I’ll just, I think, leave it at this. The point that I think needs to be made here, and needs to be made at every opportunity, frankly, is that there is a rapid change across the globe when it comes to the combustion of fossil fuels. This most recent International Energy Agency report that my colleague referenced in question period today is the latest indication that British Columbia is on the wrong track.

[5:35 p.m.]
The reason why I’m revisiting…. I don’t have any interest in revisiting this other than that the minister has used language in here, in this debate and then, as well, in the Legislature, that would lead people to believe that we actually…. That LNG Canada fits within the commitments that we made with CleanBC. It doesn’t. Because we have yet to achieve the targeted amounts in greenhouse gas reductions that we’ve committed to.

Yes, we can add LNG Canada into the total emissions of the province, but we are still falling short by 25 percent. The Minister of Environment had 18 to 24 months to identify those. Still yet to be done. In all of the conversations that we’ve had with the Minister of Environment, the 25 percent that we’re looking for is the most difficult. When we spoke with the government about the approval of LNG Canada, we said: “Look, one of the ways for us to be able to achieve our targets is to not approve this.”

The other aspect of it is, in the questions that were responded to here, there was a suggestion that the market is changing. The reason why I went back and revisited the commitment that the people of British Columbia made to the consortium of companies at LNG Canada through that Income Tax Amendment Act is because the argument needs to be made and the point needs to be made that the market wasn’t there to begin with if the people of British Columbia didn’t step up and give a golden handshake to that consortium of companies. That final investment decision wasn’t going to be made unless we stood up and gave them that Income Tax Amendment Act.

LNG Canada, the project that we have right now being built…. Yes. Also, I’ll point out: LNG Canada is also the source of one of the most contentious breakdowns in Indigenous-Crown relations that this country has seen in decades. As the minister is highlighting all of the benefits of this project for British Columbians, let’s not forget the tension and frustration that that project caused for Indigenous People in this province. The confusion that it caused across the public.

This project and LNG…. When I asked the question: will this minister state clearly that we’re not going to be investing in further expansion? The response is: “Well, you know, if they can demonstrate that there’s….” The unwillingness of this government to say: “No. We’ve got a different direction for energy.” The member for Kootenay East and I sat and talked about a variety of different ways that we could capture, store and transmit energy and electricity across the province. There’s a bunch of different ways that we could do it. There’s a whole pile of numbers that we could run out in here.

I’m looking from this minister — he’s committed to looking at the IEA report. It’s a big report. It’s going to take awhile to pore through it.

What commitments do we have, on behalf of the people of British Columbia, that the minister is going to use that report to inform the future decisions of the ministry and the future decisions of this province, so that we are not continuing to pour public money into a project that’s going to increase our greenhouse gas emissions, making everybody else in the province pay more. That’s what happened. Every other industry in this province now has to peel it back because we made the agreement with LNG Canada. Everybody else has to pay the price for the decision that was made by this government.

What commitments do we have that this minister is going to use the reports of the International Energy Agency and the global marketplace to inform the decisions about the future of energy in this province and that it doesn’t look like the past?

[5:40 p.m.]
Hon. B. Ralston: I thank the member for the question. Two responses. One would be that the member has mentioned the Income Tax Amendment Act and, I take it, the arrangements that flowed from that. That’s really a question more properly addressed to the Minister of Finance. I don’t think her estimates have taken place yet. So that’s probably something that the member could pursue there.

In terms of the report that’s been mentioned, it’s very new. It’s one among many, many reports, but I certainly will have a look at it. The staff will analyze it, and what the implications may be for British Columbia and its energy policy, going forward, will be considered.


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