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B.C. minister's misplaced notes reveal proposal for 'big and shiny' affordability measure

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The carbon tax – and a private note that fell into the wrong hands – dominated question period in the B.C. legislature Thursday.

The document was written by Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Minster Josie Osborne, who explained that it involved pieces of advice she’d received, and which she compiled in a note she emailed to herself.

It begins with: “If PDE (referring to Premier David Eby) is looking for a big and shiny affordability measure for budget, we should push them to look into option of returning a portion of incremental carbon tax back to people on their monthly BC Hydro bills."

BC United MLA Mike De Jong raised the document in the legislature, grilling the government about its contents.

“That’s all about politics, that’s not about providing real relief to British Columbians,” said De Jong outside the chamber.

Eby responded to the criticisms during question period, saying: “I make no apology for searching for affordability options for British Columbians, especially as we prepare the budget."

The document also proposes branding the rebate a “Clean BC rebate," and having the government use carbon revenues to freeze hydro rates.

Osborne said Thursday the idea of a rebate or hydro rate freeze aren’t being ruled out.

“All ideas are on the table, and we're going to press and look for everything we can do to support affordability,” said Osborne.

Osborne said she dropped the document sometime Wednesday – it’s not clear where, but presumably somewhere in the halls of the legislature – and they were subsequently picked up and delivered to the Official Opposition, BC United.

“I can’t tell you where I dropped the memo. I can tell you I dropped it, and that’s my mistake,” said Osborne Thursday.

“It’s a sneak peek inside the decision-making process at government,” said Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of Fraser Valley. “We got a glimpse of how the sausage is made today.”

The incident came the same week BC United and the BC Conservatives staked out their opposition to the NDP government’s Clean BC plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as their opposition to parts or all of the carbon tax, citing the need for affordable measures.

“Well, it’s pretty clear they’re feeling the pressure,” said De Jong.

We may have to wait until February, when the province rolls out its budget, to see if ongoing concerns about affordability lead to a hydro rate freeze. 

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