As a progressive voter, it was disappointing to watch the sunset press conference, hastily organized on the banks of the Fraser River earlier this week, to announce the federal approval of Petronas's Pacific Northwest LNG project. Hosted by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (cue the irony), the event welcomed an industrial project that would trample First Nations' rights and title, and make it virtually impossible for B.C. to meet its legislated greenhouse gas emission targets.
As the news sunk in, I couldn't help but feel my own faith in the Trudeau government fading like the sun that was setting behind his Ministers.
Just under a year ago, I wrote an opinion piece, identifying where progressive British Columbians in the Lower Mainland should strategically vote Liberal to defeat Stephen Harper. The Liberals ended up winning in all but two of the 11 ridings I recommended (the other two going to Conservatives Alice Wong and Dianne Watts in Richmond Centre and South Surrey-White Rock, respectively).
In making my case, I listed 10 reasons why a progressive voter in the Lower Mainland could feel positive about voting Liberal based on their election platform and party policy, including a new relationship with First Nations, evidence-based scientific decision-making, and action on climate change.
Unfortunately, the Trudeau cabinet approval of Pacific Northwest LNG sharply calls into question the government's commitment to these policies, and progressive voters in B.C. must now seek and deserve answers to two simple questions:
1. How is this approval consistent with establishing a new relationship with First Nations based on respect and meaningful consultation?
2. How is this approval consistent with evidence-based scientific decision-making and action on climate change?
With regard to the first question, Lelu Island, the site of the proposed LNG plant, is subject to complicated and unresolved First Nations titleholder claims. This makes approval inconsistent with the government's legal responsibilities to First Nations, let alone its moral obligations. In Question Period, the Prime Minister glossed over opposition questions about the government's respect for First Nations, and he spoke of "folding in" consultation with indigenous leaders. Was this a slip of the tongue or a true glimpse into Trudeau's actual views on meaningful consultation?
On the issue of climate change and scientific decision-making, this approval gives Petronas, wholly owned by the Malaysian government, nearly a third to as high as 75 - 87% (depending on whose numbers you use) of the total allowable emissions for B.C. in 2050, assuming we are going to meet our legislated climate target of 13 megatonnes that year. This leaves little to no room for the emissions of other sectors of the economy, or for British Columbians personally, making it virtually impossible to achieve our targets. How will Canada meet its international climate commitments if our provinces don't meet theirs?
In response to the public outrage this approval has generated, Trudeau and his Ministers have repeated a non-sequitur about growing the economy and protecting the environment (not possible when we're talking about expanding fossil fuel infrastructure in the context of climate change), and platitudes about conducting resource development in the "most sustainable manner possible" (it's either sustainable or it isn't).
This approval violates some very closely held progressive values, and in the absence of answers and real action on these troubling questions, the hope of thousands of progressive voters in B.C. who helped elect this government, may go the same way as his Ministers' press conference: off into the sunset.