VICTORIA — The premiers of B.C. and Alberta appeared to find common ground in their otherwise tense relationship Monday, uniting behind the idea of exporting more liquefied natural gas to Asia and taking pollution credits for weaning countries off of dirtier coal.
B.C. Premier John Horgan told reporters at the Council of the Federation meeting in Toronto that he believes B.C. and Canada should get credit for selling LNG to customers in Asia and India because it will replace dirty, coal-fuelled power plants and improve global air quality — an argument he once openly mocked when it was made by the previous Liberal government.
“We believe low-emission natural gas is a preferable fuel source to high-emission thermal coal,” Horgan said. “We have a lot of work to do on coming to terms with how we manage global emissions. And Canada’s role, and certainly Western Canada’s role in that, can be to displace these noxious sources with a cleaner product.”
B.C.’s first major LNG facility, LNG Canada, is currently under development near Kitimat. At $40 billion, it’s the largest private-sector project in Canada’s history and intended to export Canadian natural gas to overseas markets. The NDP offered $6 billion in tax breaks for LNG Canada in 2018.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, seated beside Horgan at the closing news conference, chimed in with his support. It marked a rare moment of agreement between the two provinces, who have been engaged in a long fight over B.C.’s opposition to the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project that will triple the flow of oil products from near Edmonton to Burnaby.
“Every extra unit of exported Canadian liquefied natural gas will reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions,” said Kenney. He described it as “the global game-changer on greenhouse-gas emissions that Canada can play in the foreseeable future is significantly increasing our natural-gas exports.”
Former Liberal premier Christy Clark also used to argue that B.C. should get credit for exporting LNG to displace China’s use of coal and Japan’s use of nuclear power.
“We are doing the world a favour,” she said in 2013.
The then-Opposition NDP sharply criticized Clark for that argument, calling it a “fantasy.”
“The assertions from the premier are that if we sell them gas, magically their emissions will go down,” Horgan said when leader of the opposition. “I’m not convinced that will happen.”
“There’s absolutely no evidence B.C. LNG will result in the use of less coal in China,” then-NDP environment critic George Heyman said in 2016. Heyman is now environment minister.
Liberal LNG critic Ellis Ross called it “hypocrisy” for Horgan to criticize the idea while in opposition and now claim credit in government.
“Everything the NDP are saying are actually coming out of the B.C. Liberal playbook,” said Ross. “Politics. That’s what gets me. If they had not really criticized LNG with all this misinformation we could have got LNG off the ground a lot quicker.”
The NDP government doesn’t rely on international credits in its Clean B.C. climate-pollution reduction plan. The plan accounts for pollution from the LNG Canada project. The Clean B.C. plan also has an industry fund that uses revenue from carbon-tax increases to help high-polluting industries reduce emissions.
Countries haven’t decided how, or if, they will allow international credits for displacing dirty-fuel sources, said Karen Tam Wu, B.C. director of the Pembina Institute. “Replacing one fossil fuel for another fossil fuel is not a long-term solution,” she said.
However, Wu said she gives the NDP credit for having a plan to fight climate change, as well as passing a law this session to make mandatory annual reporting on the plan’s progress.
Also at the premiers’ meeting Monday, a joint communique called on the federal government to increase health-care transfers to the provinces to 5.2 per cent annually.