On Monday July 13, 2015, nine My Sea to Sky’ers travelled over to the Victoria Legislature to take our message right to the kingdom’s doorstep. Read how the day unfolded. Please share.
The news of the tax exemption agreement signed between Pacific Northwest LNG and the BC Liberal Government last week was more than shocking. This agreement is without precedent in any of BC’s major resource industries (mining, forestry, water), and would lock BC in to no tax increases on the LNG industry for 25 years of the proposed Petronas LNG project in Prince Rupert. To put it in context, 25-30 years is the average life span of an LNG processing facility. Combined with the full development capital recovery costs policy and an already devastatingly low tax regime, it is evident that our government is selling our resources to the lowest bidder.
While our province is going up in smoke and people can now be fined for tossing a cigarette butt out the window (what took so long?), the BC Liberals have rushed a rare summer session to push through the legislation needed to activate their already-signed agreement with Petronas. This new tax exemption policy will lock in increased greenhouse gas emissions (ghg), intense water usage by the fracking industry and disable BC from implementing strong climate policy. Summer time is a great time for Christy Clark to sidestep public involvement because, I don’t know about you, but I’m swimming and spending time with my friends whenever I can – i.e. not paying much attention to TV or news.
On Monday July 13, 2015, nine My Sea to Sky’ers travelled over to the Victoria Legislature to take our message right to the kingdom’s doorstep. We got up around 4am to catch the 7 o’clock ferry, which we did by the skin of our teeth. We arrived at the legislature around 9:30 to be greeted by dozens of people already waiting for some action with signs and banners.
Immediately, Provincial Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver secured seats for our delegation inside the public gallery to watch the session live at 1:30. In his opening, he introduced us to the Premier as his nine guests from Squamish, saying each of our names aloud, who were here to stand up against this climate and economic disaster of a deal. Andrew tried to introduce a motion to debate the climate impact of an LNG industry prior to discussing the (Bill 30) legislation – to no avail. Seems valid to suss out how your government is doing BEFORE you lock in policy that increases ghg, right? Speaker Linda Reid wasn’t having any of that!
To ramp up the game, My Sea to Sky also connected with some Victoria youth climate activists who were keen to plan an action of their own. And boy are we thankful that they came through. The courageous youth coalition disrupted the Premier during her rapid fire of LNG one-liners that we’ve all heard for the past four years,
“This is a once in a generational opportunity”;
“BC will be a leader in the ‘cleanest LNG’ in the world”;
“British Columbians are uniting together all over to support this opportunity”;
“LNG will provide the revenue to pay for all the services that residents value, healthcare, childcare, education…”
and my personal favorite
“This country was founded by truck drivers!”
I wish I were kidding.
When suddenly two youth stood up and delivered their message “No Consent No LNG!” with their ‘LNG=Climate Change’ printed shirts. First two, then two more, and then two more. For a few minutes the entire chamber was filled with a chanting mass of protestors standing up while our Ministers and MLA’s looked amazed. Most of the NDP MLA’s smiled and were amused as this moment opportunistically captured their opposition to the deal. Our Premier sat quietly waiting as security rushed around like moles in a forest fire anxiously scrambling to capture the youth and escort them out. Since the youth spread themselves out throughout the chamber it was quite the comical site to watch the guards try and round up everyone as quickly as they could. The guards seemed frantic.
After the youth were escorted out the tension in the chamber was palpable. Opposition leaders couldn’t take their eyes off our gallery in anticipation of the next outburst as the Premier continued with her LNG pipe dream speech. It came soon when one of our members stood up and yelled, “SELLOUT!” then calmly walked out ahead of the guards. While that was not officially planned, I don’t blame him for saying it because, trust me, it was not easy to sit through her speech. When she repeated her claim that all British Columbians were united on her L NG plans, another one of our members couldn’t contain it and stood up and proclaimed, “We are uniting together against you. No consent, no LNG.” He also escorted himself out quietly while the guards tried to figure out how they could look busy.
If you’ve been following the Premier’s LNG campaign you would know that she started out galloping through the tall grass on a stallion flagging 25,000, then 75,000 and finally 100,000 new jobs from the LNG industry and then she rode a unicorn and flew through glittery skies boasting a $100 billion dollar Prosperity Fund that would pay off all our provincial debt and fund health care, childcare, education and make all our wildest dreams come true. “Debt-free BC” was emblazoned on her campaign bus. She inflated her unicorn yet again during her opening speech on Monday.
NDP Opposition Leader, John Horgan reminded her that only a fraction of her promised long term jobs for Canadians would come out of the LNG plans and that concurrent to her unicorn-esc numbers of jobs for Canadians she had ensured India that she would eagerly train and welcome thousands of its citizens to Canada to work in the LNG sector and then signed an agreement with China for the same thing.
While the NDP opposition argued against the tax deal agreement, the Premier and at least a dozen ministers, and ours truly, MLA Jordan Sturdy, had departed the chambers leaving empty desks.
This apparently is normal as the NDP did the same for the Liberals once they began speaking – clearly no feelings were hurt. One thing that hurt was my naiveté that our politicians actually engage in an adult manner in the legislature. Seeing it on TV is one thing, sitting there watching them is a completely different feeling - shame. I wouldn’t even for a second think of behaving like that at my work and not because I’d be in trouble but because I know not to act like a hormonal teenager.
John Horgan continued by pointing out that the $100 Billion Prosperity Fund has all but disappeared. He also directed his next comments on the claim of the ‘cleanest LNG in the world’ to Minister of Environment, Mary Polak who appeared to be ignoring him completely as she was scrolling her ipad then sharing whatever compelling results to her neighboring minister. Horgan reminded the Ministers that their claim of ‘clean’ LNG is utterly absurd (my words not his) and indicates that they clearly have not considered where the LNG comes from – fracking. Once you’ve included the entire life chain of the LNG industry from extraction to shipping and end use you are nowhere clean at all. In fact, policy and climate think tank, Pembina Institute has revealed how LNG rivals the tar sands by way of GHG's and water usage. All Liberal ministers and MLA’s left in the chamber simply looked like teenagers in chemistry class while the teacher scribbles abstract drawings of chemical bonds, some scrolled their cell phones, others wrote notes on small pieces of paper and passed them around, others fiddled with their laptops or iPads, while a few keeners appeared to look in the direction of the speaker.
My limit was reached when Finance Minister Mike de Jong attempted to defend the tax regimes and elusive prosperity fund. His presentation of the merits of the deal was disjointed, laced with partisan comments and was utterly unconvincing.
At that point I had had enough! We had watched this dog and pony show for over an hour and realized that no answers had been given, no promises other than unicorns for all had been made, no accountability to the tax payers had been assured - I had to get out. Our group reconvened outside the legislature and debriefed in the sun.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then closed the gallery and kicked out the remaining people around 3:30pm. A security guard told us that it was most unusual and had happened maybe twice before – once during the Clayquot Sound “War in the Woods”. They had closed the gallery because of us. Yesterday NDP Vancouver-Point Grey, David Eby posted online that the public gallery had been closed all day Tuesday, which is not normal practice. He called it 'unacceptable'. They closed it because it allowed for opposition to this terrible deal for BC tax payers to be shown and captured on audio and video, which doesn’t match the Premier’s claim that BC residents are uniting around her LNG plans.
So there you have it folks….this was our action. We were pumped and assured that our Premier felt first hand what we thought of her desire to sell off this province to the lowest bidder. She heard us. She’s knows very well that we exist and she now knows some of our names.
As I left to retrieve my belongings from security (the same guys who escorted the youth and our members out), our guard politely asked,
“So how was that for you?”
Me: “Depressing actually. Really shameful”
Guard: (with a wry smile): “Welcome to the Legislature”
Co Founder, My Sea to Sky