Following are highlights from Tom Fletcher’s year-end interview with NDP Leader John Horgan.
TF: The B.C. Liberal government has given every indication they’re going to proceed with the Site C dam on the Peace River. What do you think?
JH: I’ve always maintained that it’s a good project, but it’s a question of when to add another $8-9-10-12 billion onto the backs of ratepayers.
First of all, go to the B.C. Utilities Commission and find out if this is the power you need and if this is the time to build it. The government refuses to do that, and I think that’s just an Achilles heel in this process.
TF: You voted for the liquefied natural gas income tax to provide certainty, and then you immediately said you would work to increase the LNG tax in 2017, before any major project could be started. How is that certainty?
JH: I thought it was important that the investment community in this sector knew there was bipartisan support for LNG in British Columbia. But we went from a seven per cent [tax] to a 3.5 per cent because of a softening market.
If there is a decline in return to the province because of a softening market, then surely over a 25-year period – not just between now and 2017, but if the market conditions change and prices go up – I think British Columbians would want their government to make sure they were getting a fair share of that benefit.
TF: Why did you vote against the LNG environmental legislation?
JH: They said prior to the election that LNG would be the greenest in the world. And then when they tabled legislation, they left out 70 per cent of the emissions from upstream activity.
TF: Gordon Campbell’s great goal for greenhouse gases, 33 per cent reduction by 2020, can that be reached assuming a substantial LNG development?
JH: I find it difficult to believe that they’re going to achieve those results. [Environment Minister] Mary Polak has a different point of view, and our job as Opposition is to hold them accountable to the numbers that they passed into law, and we’re going to do that.
One of the three sectors – housing, energy and transportation – where emission profiles can be managed downward is transportation. And the government has wasted 18 months talking about a referendum on [Metro Vancouver transit.]
TF: What’s your top priority for 2015?
JH: I think the public is going to increasingly find affordability issues to be the challenge. We didn’t spend as much time as I had hoped to on hydro rate increases, ICBC. When the government balanced the budget, they did it by selling assets, and by increasing costs at their Crown corporations and then pulling that revenue in for budget purposes.
We’re going to have to use new technologies and means of communication to better explain to people what the government’s doing to them.
TF: What should happen with the agricultural land reserve?
JH: I don’t think there was a groundswell of opposition to the ALR, quite the opposite in fact, and the commission has, in my opinion, infinite flexibility to meet the demands of development in northern areas as well as urban centres.
I’m going to make sure that [agriculture critic] Lana Popham, who, as you know, is fearless on this issue, is let loose on [Agriculture Minister] Norm Letnick, and we’re going to dog this issue up to the next election.
Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press newspapers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @tomfletcherbc