(1) 250.472.8528
andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

The ongoing subsidy of natural gas extraction in BC

Today in the legislature I rose during budget estimate debates for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to ask a number of questions concerning the natural gas industry in British Columbia. My questions were designed to explore whether or not the BC Government was going to continue giving away our natural resources.

As I have mentioned numerous times over the past few years, the BC Liberals were so desperate to try and land an LNG industry in British Columbia that they literally gave the resource away. This giveaway is embodied in a number of Acts that they passed including Bill 30 — Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act, 2015 and Bill 19: Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Amendment Act, 2016.

My first two questions were designed to see whether or not the BC Government would pull the plug on the agreement with Progress Energy and its partners which was predicated on Petronas making a positive final investment decision by June 2017. Petronas decided to walk away from the project in July 2017.

The remainder of the questions were designed to contrast the BC taxpayer subsidy to the natural gas industry as embodied in the “deep-well tax credits” with royalties that the province receives from the natural gas sector. As you will see in the discussion below, the province makes virtually no money on natural gas royalties. And we have an accumulated $3.2 billion dollar tax credit subsidy on the books for this industry.

Below I reproduce both the text and video of the exchange. I am sure you will be shocked by what you read.


Text of Exchange


A. Weaver: I have a number of questions on this subject matter. First off, I am troubled by some of the direction this conversation is going. We’re still trying to double down on the economy of the last century, while the rest of the world is moving forward. But with that said, let me ask a couple of issues with respect to the royalties that we’ll get.

The first is this. We know that the previous government made a deal with Progress Energy and its partners that would have locked in royalty rates, low rates, for years and would have cost British Columbians millions in lost revenue. One of the key conditions of the deal, however, was that Petronas had to make a final investment decision on Pacific Northwest LNG by June of 2017, and Petronas decided to kill that project in July of this year.

Our government now has the legal right to terminate this backroom deal, this bad backroom deal, which literally gave away our resource. My question to the minister is: can the minister tell us if the long-term royalty agreement with Progress Energy will be terminated?

Hon. M. Mungall: Thank you to the member for the question. I appreciate that he’s done his homework and he’s looked at the details of this particular project. What I can tell him right now is that the ministry has started looking into it and started to look at some of the legal aspects around that. We’ll be able to have a better idea later on. Apologies for not being able to have a more fulsome answer for him today.

A. Weaver: Can the minister let the House know if any other long-term royalty agreements are being negotiated with other oil and gas companies in line with using the Progress Energy agreement as the bar by which others will be judged?

Hon. M. Mungall: There’s nothing of that kind at this time.

A. Weaver: If we move now to the deep-well royalty program — a program that has, in my view, surpassed its usefulness, but we’ll come to that…. This deep-well royalty program was designed to enable the provincial government to share the costs of drilling in B.C.’s deep gas basins. It has since transformed into a massive subsidy for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

It is my understanding that natural gas companies now receive hundreds of millions of dollars in “deep-well credits,” even for shallow wells, provided their horizontal sections are long enough. So five questions on this topic. One is: can the minister please tell the House what the amassed or outstanding value of these deep-well credits currently is?

Hon. M. Mungall: We’re getting that value of outstanding credits for the member. We don’t have it. We’re trying to find it in these big binders, so we’re getting that for him.

I just wanted to point out that in terms of how the program works…. I’m sorry if I missed it — perhaps the member already mentioned and he knows. What it is, is it’s credits against royalties owing. So it’s not money going to government. It’s just that we’re collecting less royalties based on a credit program that looks to incentivize industry for doing a particular task that government is hoping it will do.

A. Weaver: Very specifically, then: what is the value of the deep-well credits that were redeemed in 2016-2017?

Hon. M. Mungall: I’ll have to get back to the member on that as soon as possible. We’re just grabbing that for him.

A. Weaver: At the same time, I’d like to get the information as to what was the value of the royalties that the province of British Columbia earned from exploration in 2016 and 2017? And then I’d like to have the difference of those two numbers as well.

Hon. M. Mungall: We do have the first number for the member, and it’s the total of accumulated deep credits at $3.2 billion. That’s the total accumulation of all credits. Those credits are only available, however, to any company if their well is producing. So, if their well isn’t producing — say they earned credits as they did their exploration phase, but they didn’t produce the well — then they wouldn’t be able to access those royalty credits.

A. Weaver: The point I’m trying to get at here — and I really need the second part of those numbers — is that the credits that we give exploration companies from this deep-well program, these deep-well credits, essentially preclude us earning any money on royalties from the natural gas that is extracted.

Why it’s critical that we get the actual amount of money that we made from royalties for natural gas in 2016-2017 is we only have a cumulative total — $3.2 billion — that is yet to be claimed in the credit program. But we need to know the numbers based on an annual credit-versus-royalty gain to tell British Columbians how much we are actually making from our resource.

The reason why I think this is important — and I hope we can get these numbers before estimates end today — is that, frankly, I have no idea why this program is still needed. Why do we still need to have this deep-well credit program in light of the fact that horizontal fracturing is no longer a new technology? In fact, it’s in use all around the world. We had deep-well vertical fracturing, which my friend from Peace River South was referring to earlier, that went back decades.

Horizontal fracturing is not new. We don’t need those credits. So why do we continue to have this program? Because all that this ensures is that we earn nothing from our natural resource here in British Columbia.

Hon. M. Mungall: I’m going to make sure that we get all the correct numbers to the member opposite as soon as we possibly can, and if we’re not able to do that today for some odd reason, I’ll be sure to get it to him in the very near future.

On that, I appreciate his points. I think they’re fair points. I’ll take that into consideration.

A. Weaver: I was so dutifully notified that I was speaking at this microphone over here, where I should be speaking to my…. I’m standing at my desk, but the microphone was not pointed correctly. Corrected now.

The final question on this topic is: does the minister plan to continue this subsidy program? You know, we’ve talked about subsidies to the oil and gas industry in this province. This is a gigantic giveaway. It ensures that we essentially make no money from royalties because of the magnitude of the credit program that it can be claimed against.

In fact, my understanding is we’ve received virtually zero in 2016-2017 in natural gas royalties because of the deep-well credits that were claimed against those royalties. So will the minister continue this subsidy program?

Hon. M. Mungall: I’m terribly sorry. To the member, I didn’t catch the actual question because I got those numbers for him.

The total credits that were earned in 2016-2017 was $229 million, and the net of all royalty credits was $145 million. So we took in $145 million as government, in 2016-2017.

A. Weaver: And we gave away $229 million in the process. If I might add….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Yes, because those credits were not claimed, were claimed against royalties — so that’s $229 million that could have come into our revenue here. We’re subsidizing the oil and gas sector to that amount.

Imagine this. If we actually subsidized renewable energy in British Columbia to the tune of $229 million a year, let alone the generational sellouts embodied in the Progress Energy agreement that we referred to earlier….

So my final question is: does the minister plan to continue this program, and if so, why does this industry still need a subsidy?

Hon. M. Mungall: In terms of reviewing the royalty credit program, there isn’t a plan to do so at this time.

 


Video of Exchange


Site C and LNG in BC: Standing up for the ratepayer

Today in the Legislature I rose in Question Period to question the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources about the need for Site C in light of a nonexistent LNG industry. I further questioned whether or not she would defend the interests of British Columbians and ensure a fair price for our natural gas assets by evoking a cancellation provision with the Progress Energy royalty agreement (as Petronas has not made a positive final investment decision).

In addition, in April, 2015 when Bill 23, The Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act was introduced by the BC Liberals, the BC NDP and I spoke out about profoundly troubling changes to the way Royalty Agreements are managed under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act. Under these changes, the Minister was granted the power to enter into secret agreements with oil and gas companies without the approval of Cabinet. I felt it was important important to see whether the Minister would agree to not undertake such agreements.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange as well as a copy of our accompanying press release.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: I think I’m living in some kind of a fantasy world here in question period today. It’s quite remarkable.

To entice LNG projects to British Columbia in 2014, the previous government promised proponents electricity rates of 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour, but that wasn’t good enough. So two years later, they dropped the rate to 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now, we know the actual cost of power from Site C, if the government continues with this project. It will be over ten cents a kilowatt hour, while residential customers today are paying 8.6 cents at tier 1 and 12.9 cents per kilowatt hour at tier 2.

Not only are residential customers paying nearly twice what hypothetical LNG companies would pay, they’re also financing Site C to provide electricity to a nonexistent industry through a business model that will lose about five cents for every kilowatt hour of energy produced. That’s B.C. Liberal economics for you. Fortunately, for the members of that party, they have one leadership candidate who hasn’t run on their abysmal economic record.

My question to the Minister of Energy, Mines…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question, please.

A. Weaver: My question to the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources is this. Will government admit that the only reason to continue with the construction of Site C is to provide ratepayer-subsidized power to a nonexistent LNG industry?


Answer


Hon. M. Mungall: Thank you to the member for the question. He is aware of the process that is undergoing right now. We’ve just completed the B.C. Utilities Commission review of Site C. That report was delivered just a week ago, and this government has announced that we are now moving into our analysis, and then we’ll be doing proper deliberations.

Next week myself and the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation are actually going to be formally consulting with Indigenous communities and First Nations leaders who are directly impacted by Site C. Saying anything at present about future decision-making would likely prejudge that, and I’m just not going to be doing that.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: The previous government did everything industry asked them to make their LNG dreams a reality. “Jump.” “How high? How often? Where to? How many times?” They wanted to deliver unicorns to each and every one of our backyards, and when they couldn’t squeeze water from a stone, they tried desperately to squeeze even harder.

They even changed the natural gas royalty legislation so that the minister could negotiate sweetheart deals in secret. They signed a deal with Progress Energy.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: They signed a deal with Progress Energy and its partners that would have locked in low royalty rates for years and cost B.C. millions. But that contract had an escape valve. One of its conditions was a positive final investment on Pacific Northwest LNG by June of 2017. Yet Petronas decided to kill the project.

My question to the Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources is this. When will the government stand up for the people of B.C., demand a fair price for our natural gas assets and terminate the long-term royalty agreement with Progress Energy? And will the minister confirm, for the record, that this government will not negotiate royalty agreements in secret with any other gas companies?


Answer


Hon. M. Mungall: I think there’s no doubt that anybody on this side of the House would agree with the member that the previous government made large promises and absolutely failed to deliver on those promises. I think we’ve canvassed a few of those: the jobs with LNG, the LNG prosperity fund, the “Debt-free B.C.” Families first, as well.

That being said, moving forward, we have committed to work with industry but also to make sure that our regulatory oversight bodies are doing their due diligence, as well, and that they have the resources to do so. On this side of the House, we want to make sure that government is working for all British Columbians and that we’re all together building a better B.C.


Media Release


November 8, 2017
For immediate release
Site C, Hydro finances demonstrate need to reverse trend of failed Liberal economic management: Weaver

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, is calling for an overhaul of BC’s approach to the energy file. Weaver says that the politicization of energy has got in the way of sound fiscal management and evidence-based policies that would protect ratepayers and allow BC to become a leader in alternative energy.

“Energy has been treated like a political tool in this province, depriving British Columbians of the leadership and sound fiscal management they deserve from their government,” said Weaver.

“Today, the NDP announced that they are freezing Hydro rates. B.C. Hydro is in a dire financial position due to the utter failure of the B.C. Liberals to responsibly manage our finances. They raided B.C. Hydro of more than half a billion dollars in dividends last year alone. ICBC is facing a similar financial mess for the same reason.

“Since the Liberals used LNG as a Hail Mary pass to clinch the 2013 election, they have been hell-bent on developing an industry that was never going to materialize. Due to Liberal enticements to LNG companies, British Columbians pay nearly twice as much as hypothetical LNG companies for their Hydro.

“Site C is yet another piece of this disturbing puzzle – it is billions of dollars over budget and was pushed through without proper oversight by BCUC to satisfy the LNG pipedream. BCUC, an independent body whose purpose is to protect ratepayers, was blocked from doing its job because of the Liberals’ blind pursuit to get to yes at any cost.

“The NDP is at a crossroads. They can continue down this path of reckless Liberal fiscal management, or they can keep their promise to be better. While I’m glad they’re reviewing BC Hydro, there are concrete steps they can take to reverse the trend of energy policy being used as a political tool. They can and should cancel the Long Term Royalty Agreement with Progress Energy, who, by the way, is responsible for the two largest unregulated dams in North Eastern BC. They can, and should stop the pilfering of BC Hydro by requiring dividends that, if not stopped, will amount to $2.8 billion by 2020.

“We cannot keep making political decisions while saddling future generations with debt. If the NDP truly want to make life more affordable, freezing hydro rates without developing an energy strategy – which will simply saddle our children with these costs – is not the solution. We have a generational opportunity to use this minority government to chart a new path for BC, one that takes us away from the BC Liberals fiscal mismanagement. It will require us to think big and to take bold action, but that is exactly what British Columbians deserve from their leaders.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Clean energy, the Columbia River Treaty Entitlement & the folly of proceeding with Site C

Yesterday during budget estimate debates I took the opportunity to question the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on a number of topics involving clean energy projects, the Columbia River Treaty Entitlement and the folly of proceeding with Site C.

The line of questioning was designed to get the Minister to recognize that continuing to construct Site C is a fiscally reckless way forward. My questioning culminated with me asking the Minister directly:

Why are you not making a decision today to terminate Site C?

I was not very impressed with the responses I received.


Video of Exchange



Video of Exchange


A. Weaver: I have a series of very short questions on the Columbia River entitlement. My first question is: how much power is British Columbia entitled to under the Columbia River entitlement?

Hon. M. Mungall: The Columbia River treaty is under the purview of the Minister for Children and Family Development. It’s not under this ministry, unfortunately.

A. Weaver: This line of questioning is very germane to the topic at hand. I would suggest the minister should be able to answer this question, because the amount of power that British Columbia is able to get under the Columbia River entitlement is exactly the same, almost precisely the same as the amount that Site C would provide.

My question, then, to the minister is: how much is British Columbia getting, on average, from electricity sold to the U.S. spot market that could otherwise come to B.C. under the Columbia River entitlement?

Hon. M. Mungall: It’s $125 million at current market prices.

A. Weaver: What does that translate to in terms of per kilowatt hour or per megawatt hour, in terms of costs, that is being sold?

I didn’t mean this question to take so long. It was almost a rhetorical question, because the answer is about $40 per megawatt hour, and that calculation is done very, very quickly.

The reason why I wanted to ask that question is I would have hoped that the minister would be on top of this file. Because $40 per megawatt hour is less than half what the projected future cost…. The revenues being brought to the province are $127 million a year. Why is B.C. Hydro not considering power available under the Columbia River entitlement to meet this hypothetical demand in either the low or medium forecast?

Hon. M. Mungall: Sorry I was taking so long. There’s no need to be antagonistic. I was just trying to get some further information to provide to the member in reference to his question. He doesn’t want that, so okay.

The reason why B.C. Hydro isn’t looking at the Columbia River entitlement is partly that the Columbia River treaty is up for renegotiation. I would hope the member would know that. As a Columbia Basin resident, it’s one of the things that we’ve been working on since well before 2014, the first opportunity to give notice for renegotiation because the treaty comes to an end at 2024. It’s one of the reasons we’re not able to ensure that it’s with any certainty.

I see the member for Kootenay East. He will know this as well. Any Kootenay MLA will know this and know what’s going on presently with the Columbia River treaty.

A. Weaver: Frankly, I find that answer quite remarkable. Of course I’m aware about the Columbia River treaty, and Site C is not to be built any time before 2024…. I mean, it will be 2021 before that’s built. The reality is that there is power available today, firm power to the amount available for Site C for any interim costs.

My follow-up question to the minister is this. Why is it that we have about 170 megawatts — or 117, I believe it is — in the standing offer program that’s gone through and there’s no call for power? Why is it that B.C. Hydro did not put a call out for power at ten cents a kilowatt hour and take, accepting those applications in the standing offer program…? Because we know that the price of Site C, as noticed by the BCUC and the ongoing tension cracks that we’re seeing, is going to come in higher than that. Why was no call for power at ten cents per kilowatt hour issued?

Hon. M. Mungall: First, the standing offer program and calls for power were different types of programs.

The call for power — B.C. Hydro did calls for power in 2003, 2006, 2008. After the last one, the recommendation to the previous government was to go forward with Site C rather than another call for power. Their rationale, at the time, was that B.C. needed more firm power, not more intermittent power and that intermittent power was being generated at a higher cost than what B.C. Hydro felt they could do in terms of constructing Site C.

That’s the reason why there hasn’t been a call for power since then. The member will note this government took action in terms of bringing Site C to the B.C. Utilities Commission, as that decision to move forward without a review by the B.C. Utilities Commission was done by the previous government, not ours.

A. Weaver: I correct my previous statement. There are 137 megawatts in the standing offer program ready to go, including 15 megawatts of an amazing solar facility by Rocky Mountain Solar in the Cranbrook area ready to go — on private land, with support of the local community, transmission lines through the property, ready to go, scalable to 50 megawatts. Give them a price. They’ll deliver. We have examples of pump storage on Vancouver Island and in the Kootenays as well, ready to go, but again, B.C. Hydro is not bringing them into the fold.

So my question to the minister is this. In light of the fact that we have the BCUC, why are you not making a decision today to terminate Site C? For four years now, the B.C. Greens have pointed out the fiscal folly of moving down this path solely to deliver to below-market contracts that were signed with LNG proponents that have left British Columbia. Why, based on all the evidence, are we kicking the can down the road until December when a decision could have been made in May, it could have been made in June, it could have been made in September, and it could be made today?

Hon. M. Mungall: I just wanted to ask my staff a quick question. The member brought up pump storage, and I interpreted that to mean pump storage that is active in the Kootenays, and that was something I wasn’t aware of going on. The reason why I wasn’t aware of it is because it’s actually not taking place in the Kootenays. There may be proposals that are currently being developed by some entrepreneurial individuals, but in terms of it actually existing right now, it doesn’t. So I was just curious about that.

To answer the member’s question about why a decision isn’t being made today, why a decision wasn’t being made in May or in June. I think looking back in terms of what has happened over the summer…. The member was very active in it, so I think he knows the answer to those particular timelines.

In terms of today, well, we’ve been very clear with our process. We’ve sent things to the B.C. Utilities Commission, as we committed to the electorate that we would do, as we committed that we would do in our supply agreement with the member and other members of the Green Party. That process has now finalized in terms of the BCUC’s report on November 1. And as we’ve said, to answer the member’s question, we have to do our due diligence. We have to provide appropriate analysis of the B.C. Utilities Commission report. We have to do that due diligence, and we have to take the time appropriate to do so, and so we are doing that.

That being said, we also recognize that there is a lot of uncertainty for people. I mean, I can absolutely empathize with people in the north. I know that members opposite in the B.C. Liberal caucus are representing their interests very well in terms of wanting to make sure that a decision is done in a timely manner, and that’s why we’ve committed to doing that by the end of this calendar year.

Statements on Pacific Northwest LNG & Trans Mountain Expansion Projects

Yesterday I issued a statement in response to Petronas’s announcement that it will not be proceeding with its Pacific Northwest LNG project. As I mentioned more than four years ago, global market conditions were never going to support an LNG industry in British Columbia on the scale the BC Liberals promised. This decision by Petronas was not unexpected.  I reproduce my statement below.

In addition, a number of media outlets asked me to comment on the Attorney General’s remarks regarding the Trans Mountain permitting process as well as subtle changes in the language used in the Minister of Environment’s mandate letter. That letter stated that the Premier expects the Minister of Environment to make “substantive progress” on a number of priorities. These include:

Employ every tool available to defend B.C.’s interests in the face of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and the threat of a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast.

Recall that the Confidence and Supply Agreement, ratified by both the BC NDP and BC Green Caucuses, specifically states that an NDP government will:

Immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.

This language was based on similar language in the BC NDP 2017 election platform as well as long-standing BC Green opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline. The BC NDP election platform specifically said:

The Kinder Morgan pipeline is not in BC’s interest. It means a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic. It doesn’t, and won’t, meet the necessary conditions of providing benefits to British Columbia without putting our environment and our economy at unreasonable risk. We will use every tool in our toolbox to stop the project from going ahead.

My comments, reproduced in Huffington Post and Canadian Press articles, point out that:

As an opposition party, we will remain steadfast in calling on the NDP government to use every legally available tool to stop the pipeline from going ahead


Statement on Petronas Announcement


For immediate release
July 25, 2017
Andrew Weaver statement on Pacific Northwest LNG

VICTORIA, B.C.
– Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green caucus, issued the following statement in response to Petronas’s announcement that it will not be proceeding with its Pacific Northwest LNG project.

“Since the beginning it has been clear that the global marketplace does not support the LNG industry that the BC Liberals promised in their 2013 election campaign,” said Weaver.

“Rather than doing the hard work​ required to strengthen and secure the economic opportunities already available in other sectors, the BC Liberals recklessly went all in on a single industry. They let opportunities for innovation and economic development in clean technology, the resource sector, and other major BC industries fall by the wayside.

“BC’s future does not lie in chasing yesterday’s fossil fuel economy; it lies in taking advantage of opportunities in the emerging economy in order to create economic prosperity in BC. These opportunities must be available to people in all regions of our province.

“The BC Green caucus is committed to developing these opportunities in the emerging economy that all British Columbians can access. This is the vision we ran on.”

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Media contact
Sarah Miller, Acting Press Secretary
+1 250-858-9891 | sarah.miller@leg.bc.ca

Question Period: The influence of lobbying and corporate donations

Today in the Legislature I was up in Question Period. I questioned the Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, about the lobbying and donation practices of the fossil fuel industry and the effect on government decision-making. I also asked about reforms needed to regulate the lobbying industry in BC and bring it in line with federal standards.

My question follows reports in the media over this week that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients, as well as a recent analysis that maps the influence of the fossil fuel industry in BC politics, highlighting extensive lobbying practices and vast amounts of political donations. Both reports can be found at the end of this article.

Below are the text and video of the exchange. I was disappointed with the Minister’s answers. She merely restated that we have a registry of lobbyists in BC. We do have a registry, but its usefulness as a tool of transparency is severely limited, since lobbyists are not required to report the meetings they hold with public office holders. Moreover, we have no code of conduct for lobbyists to regulate practices such as gift-giving to public office holders. The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists recommended both of these measures, back in 2013, as important ways to make lobbying practices more transparent in BC. Yet the government has ignored these recommendations and the Minister of Justice was unwilling to engage on this serious issue.


Question


A. Weaver: Vast amounts of money are flowing from fossil fuel companies to both the B.C. Liberals and — to a much lesser extent, mind you — the B.C. NDP.

Between 2008 and 2015, 48 fossil fuel companies and industry groups donated $5.2 million to the government and official opposition and reported more than 22,000 lobbying contacts with public officials between 2010-2016. With seven of the top donors also ranking among the most active lobbyists, there is a substantial overlap between those who give money and those who get meetings.

To further that, 28 percent of lobbying by the top-ten most active lobbyists has been directly with cabinet ministers — an unrivaled level of access — and the Minister of Natural Gas Development is the most targeted member in the entire Legislature.

In light of this, my question to the Minister of Justice is this. How does the government expect the public to trust that their interests are being protected and that these practices are not buying lobbyists and their clients special treatment?


Answer


Hon. S. Anton: It may be that the member was not here yesterday to know that we actually established the first-ever lobbyist registry in 2002 to establish transparency so British Columbians could see who is doing the lobbying. There never was a registry before that. After some years of experience with that registry, we updated it in 2009, creating one of the strongest regimes for lobbyist registration in Canada.

The updates increased the registrar’s powers and duties so the lobbyist registrar now has the power to conduct investigations, to compel testimony and to compel documents. In other words, the lobbyist registrar has the tools that he or she needs in order to make sure that the registry is conducted properly and that the lobbyists are conducting themselves in accordance with the rules, which is what I expect, which is what we expect as a government.


Supplemental Question


A. Weaver: I’m glad the minister talked about the lobbying registry, because frankly, we are one of the weaker in the country of Canada. B.C. lacks rules to regulate lobbying practices and ensure transparency.

We know that extensive lobbying is ongoing in B.C., but we have no code of conduct for lobbyists. Moreover, we have no requirement in B.C. for lobbyists to register actual meetings with public office holders. All they have to do is register who they plan to lobby. Other jurisdictions in Canada have much stricter standards.

It’s clear to me that with our rampant cash-for-access system and allegations that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients — largely to the B.C. Liberals but also to the B.C. NDP — that we need much more stringent rules. We need standards against which the public can hold lobbyists and their contacts in the government to account.

My question to the Minister of Justice is: will the minister commit to transparency on lobbying practices, including requiring lobbyists to report on actual meetings held with government officials and creating a code of conduct for lobbyists?


Answer


Hon. S. Anton: The matter that the member referred to about contributions is very clearly, if that were to happen, a breach not of the lobbyists act but of the Election Act. The Election Act in section 186(2)(b) says that “an individual may make a political contribution with the money of another individual, but must disclose to the individual required to record the contribution under section 190….”

In other words, you can make a payment on behalf of a third party, but the third party must be disclosed. It must be very clear that it is that third party’s money which has gone to the payment. That is a breach of the Election Act. It is very clearly a breach if that is conducted. I think that that’s the conduct the member is referring to.

In fact, to the lobbying act itself, the 2009 updates to the act put very strict and significant penalties into that act for breaches of the act.


Video from Question Period


 

Sources

Mapping Political Influence: Political donations and lobbying by the fossil fuel industry in BC, Corporate Mapping Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Available at: http://www.corporatemapping.ca/bc-influence/.

Lobbying in British Columbia: The Way Forward: Report on Province-Wide Consultations and Recommendations for Reform, Elizabeth Denham, Registrar of Lobbyists. Available at: https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/handlers/DocumentHandler.ashx?ID=447.

‘Fairly limited’ transparency rules for lobbyists in B.C., deputy registrar says,  Liam Britten, CBC News. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/lobbying-lobbyists-b-c-1.4014551.

British Columbia: The ‘wild west’ of fundraising, Kathy Tomlinson, CBC News. Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/wild-west-bc-lobbyists-breaking-one-of-provinces-few-political-donationrules/article34207677/.