B.C.'s climate plan written in oil industry boardroom: documents
B.C.’s climate plan under the previous Liberal government was written with oil industry insiders in an oil association boardroom in Calgary, new documents say.
And that’s why the plan didn’t include a hike to the carbon tax and seemed to set B.C. on the path to missing emissions targets, according to the think tank that obtained the documents, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“Instead of taking recommendations from their own climate leadership team, they held secret meetings with the oil and gas industry in Calgary in the boardroom of the country’s most powerful oil organization,” said Shannon Daub, the CCPA’s associate director.
“Frankly I was shocked and dismayed by what we uncovered."
But B.C.’s interim Liberal leader said the government of the day was just consulting with industry – and went to Calgary “because that’s where all their head offices are.”
“They think there’s something secret here. Our folks responsible for climate action were sent to consult with everybody,” Rich Coleman said.
B.C.’s climate plan was unveiled with fanfare in August last year, with the government claiming that its 17-member climate leadership plan had fashioned recommendations to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.
“These will be very big steps, many of them difficult to implement,” former premier Christy Clark said at the time.
But the plan didn’t include any increase to the carbon tax, seemed to set the province on the path to missing the climate targets, and bizarrely included the construction of a 10-lane bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel as a step to rein in greenhouse gases.
By that point the CCPA had already noticed that the plan was missing deadlines, and had requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act about the consultation process that created the recommendations.
After being initially denied, the left-wing think tank received a package from January 2016 detailing the consultation with the oil and gas industry.
The agenda notes that a Jan. 13, 2016 meeting happened in the boardroom of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, in Calgary. On the agenda is: "review of the language in the Climate Leadership Team Recommendations report."
In attendance were representatives from industry players including the B.C. LNG Alliance, Chevron, Encana, Shell, Suncor, Encana, ConocoPhillips, and Nexen Energy, which is identified in the attendance list as “a wholly owned subsidiary of CNOOC Limited," a Chinese state-owned oil company.
It’s not clear what was released after the meeting, as 19 pages are withheld by the government on the grounds they would reveal trade secrets or constitute policy advice to the government.
Brad Herald, the vice-president of Western Canada Operations at CAPP, told CTV News that it made sense that the industry meeting happened after the Climate Leadership Team meetings because the government had to understand how it would impact the industry.
“After any policy initiative you get into the how and that’s what these initiatives are about,” he said.
The meeting wasn’t disclosed under B.C.’s lobbyist rules because that disclosure is only required if the lobbyist requests the meeting; in this case, the government apparently asked for the meeting, Daub said.
Daub said many of those in attendance were donors to the Liberal party, and called for changes to B.C.’s political donations rules that would limit the influence of industry.
“We need a government that represents all British Columbians, not just one wealthy industry,” Daub said.
Coleman told reporters the party did receive support from the oil industry, but that it didn’t impact their decision.
“I’ve never met an oil lobbyist,” Coleman said. “I’ve always dealt with companies, whether it’s Sunoco or Encana. Some did support us, but that’s no different than $700,000 from the steelworkers to the NDP. These weren’t lobbyists. We met with corporations and financial people,” he said.
The new NDP government in B.C. has promised to increase the province's carbon tax by $5 a tonne of CO2 per year starting in April 2018.
“It’s important as we develop our climate plan that we have transparent consultations with everyone including industry so that as we reduce emissions we can grow a prosperous economy and that’s exactly what we have to be transparent and earn the public’s trust,” said B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman.