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Andrew Weaver spoke today at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention in Vancouver

Andrew Weaver — UBCM Speech
September 19, 2013

Two years ago, if someone had said to me that I would be standing before the UBCM as Deputy Leader of the Green Party of BC and elected MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head, I would have told them that they were crazy. But here I am, and what a thrilling journey it has been.

May 14, 2013 saw a change in BC’s political landscape. It saw the emergence of another choice for the voters of British Columbia. The Green Party of BC offers British Columbians a new vision for our future — A vision that transcends the traditional political boundaries spanning the right versus left spectrum. It is a vision for a compassionate society that lives within its means while preserving the environment around us. It is a vision that guides us to think about the long-term consequences of the decisions we make today.

The transition from scientist to Green Party of British Columbia politician hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. In science, we identify a problem or challenge and seek a solution to that problem or challenge based on the available evidence. We don’t start with the solution and seek evidence to support it after the fact.

The Green Party of BC is a solutions-oriented party — one that fundamentally believes that policy should flow from evidence. I like to call this evidence-based decision-making, as opposed to what happens too often in politics today — decision-based evidence making.

For the Green Party, being a member of the opposition is about more than opposing government policy for the sake of it — it’s about addressing the issues and working in a non-partisan fashion to advance good policy.

The fact is, very few of the important challenges facing our society can easily be placed within the traditional left-right political spectrum. Addressing these challenges requires us to come together from across the political divide. It requires us to cooperate and collaborate across all levels of government. And it requires us to develop a social license before, not after, a policy pathway is chosen.

The Green Party of BC believes that small business is the engine of our economy. We believe that basing budget projections on hypothetical LNG revenues is to risk subjecting BC’s economy to the boom and bust roller coaster of global fossil fuel pricing, with all its twists, turns and drops. To attempt to lay all our eggs in this one basket, in the hope — the desperate hope — that we will be the one exception — the one jurisdiction that will defy history and economics— is to base our future on very unstable ground.

Yet even if we defy the odds and coast through the boom and bust cycles, we cannot achieve our provincial greenhouse gas targets while we double down on LNG. We will have no choice but to abandon our continent-leading climate commitments. That’s not politics — it’s science. And the numbers just don’t add up. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with LNG development are simply too high to allow us to meet these targets.

I believe our province is headed in the wrong direction, and it is up to us to redirect its course. We’re following a path fraught with risk. It’s a pathway that puts the interests of major multinational energy corporations motivated by short-term profit ahead of British Columbians and their long-term interests. My question to you is this: Will BC’s hypothetical, risky adventure into LNG actually benefit your communities in the long-term? I think not.

And I think talk of BC becoming a major LNG exporter is nothing more than a pipedream.

Canada has less than 1% of the world’s proven natural gas reserves.

Russia has about 20 times as much natural gas as all of Canada combined and recently signed long term export agreements with China. Russia can transport its gas to China via pipeline and does not need to undergo the costly process of liquefying the gas for tanker transport.

Australia has similar-sized shale gas reserves as Canada and is much further ahead in the development of its LNG industry. Yet several of their new projects have been put on hold citing concerns over cost.

The United States has more than twice the shale gas reserves as Canada and the US government recently decided to allow natural gas export. The US already has some of the necessary infrastructure in place on their coastline to facilitate a relatively quick development of an LNG export industry.

China could soon be well positioned to take advantage of its own natural gas reserves, which are 3 times the size of Canada’s.

The fact is, we need to grow and stabilize our economy. But the government’s solution will not do this — it will not address this economic challenge. Nor will it address the challenge that Stephen Lewis just yesterday described as the greatest threat that we face today — climate change.

So here’s another solution. We don’t have to go all in and then double-down on LNG. We could invest in the economy of tomorrow instead of the economy of yesterday. We could follow the leadership of Germany, California and now the United States as a whole or even China. We could position ourselves as leaders in the clean tech sector – the sector responsible for the generation, transportation, storage and end-use of renewable energy. This is a sector that creates stable, high paying, jobs in communities throughout British Columbia, not just in one or two locations.

We already have the industry, the expertise and the capital, and we were once considered emerging leaders in this area. But now what we lack is clear government leadership. In the US, for example, job growth in the clean tech sector is growing at four times the rate of all jobs. And that’s a Jobs Plan you can take to the bank.

Stable, local jobs give rise to vibrant, resilient municipalities. Yet, building strong municipalities is about more than making smart economic choices at the provincial level. It is also about ensuring that municipal governments are empowered to make the investments their communities need. It is about asking ourselves: “How do we finance our municipalities now and how might we better finance them in the future”.

No one knows this better than our new interim leader, Adam Olsen, a former municipal councilor from Central Saanich.

The Green Party of BC is delighted by the unanimous UBCM vote yesterday in support of the Strong Fiscal Future Policy Paper. We also believe that it’s critical to immediately initiate a provincial dialog on the future of municipal financing. Is continuing to burden homeowners with property tax increases year after year really the best approach? Or, could provincial and municipal governments instead work together to create a more progressive financing system that promotes, instead of impedes, the type of fundamental economic activity that we all value, such as buying a home.

I’m asking everyone in this room to consider working together to find real solutions to the important problems that face us today. When Stephen Lewis says that we have the most lunatic political culture in Canada we all laugh. But quite frankly, I think we should all be ashamed.

While I may disagree with the government in their approach to LNG, I am committed to work with them to find more practical solutions for the betterment of all British Columbians. There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of potential to be realized. But together, we can move our communities forward by investing in stable, local jobs and strong municipal governments.

Achieving this goal requires hard work and cooperation across all levels of government, willingness to work across political differences and a focus on evidence-based decision-making. It’s not going to be easy, but it is possible. Together, let’s forge this path to the future.

Thank you and thank you to the UBCM for giving me the opportunity to present to you today.

One Comment

  1. Blaise Salmon-
    September 26, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Yes, BC’s plans for LNG are indeed misguided.

    However, I think BC’s coal exports should have been mentioned.
    In 2012, BC’s coal extraction rose to record levels.

    The global climate damage from BC coal (66 MtCO2) exceeded the total emissions from all sources inside BC (49 MtCO2). This is a staggering fact. The coal wasn’t burned here in BC, but the emissions went into our shared atmosphere.

    BC’s coal is the elephant in the room. It should be in all Andrew’s speeches on BC impact on climate change.