BC NDP candidates quiet as oil and gas subsidies soar

New Democrats fought corporate welfare for fracking, pipelines. Where’s the party’s “climate caucus” when we need them?

Murray Rankin is on his feet, hands outstretched, his voice rising with frustration. It’s February 2019, and the MP for Victoria is grilling the federal Liberals for giving billions of dollars to oil and gas companies in the middle of a climate emergency.

Nathan Cullen, Fin Donnelly and other New Democrats bang their desks and clap as Rankin reaches a thundering crescendo: “When will the Prime Minister stop giving fossil fuel subsidies to giant corporations and get serious about climate change?”

It’s a question the former MPs could ask their new leader, John Horgan. All three are now running for the BC NDP. But since defeating former Premier Christy Clark, Horgan has increased oil and gas subsidies by 79 per cent.

Taxpayer-funded climate change

B.C. taxpayers now give a billion dollars a year to oil and gas companies, in return for less than $200 million in royalties. The province’s budget for fracking and pipeline expansion is double what we spend on climate action.

What about jobs? Drive past the man camps and motels along the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipeline routes. Most of the trucks have Alberta licence plates. Only 8,300 British Columbians work in oil & gas. But we give their bosses a billion dollars a year – over $120,000 per worker.

In other words, we could pay oil patch salaries to B.C. workers to build the infrastructure our communities need to survive the climate crisis. We could pay people to go back to school, retrain or transition into any job they like. Instead, the government gives it to foreign corporations like Encana and Petronas.

BC NDP candidates in their own words

This government’s record over the last three years is at odds with many of the candidates now hoping to win seats as NDP MLAs.

Fin Donnelly, BC NDP candidate in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, fought corporate welfare for oil and gas for years. As an MP he voted against Stephen Harper’s 2014 budget in part because it contained “subsidies to highly profitable oil and gas companies.” As Donnelly said at the time, “It’s about priorities.”

Former MP Nathan Cullen is running for the BC NDP in Stikine. Last year he roasted the Trudeau government for “dumping” billions of taxpayer dollars on the Trans Mountain pipeline and breaking their promise to end fossil fuel subsidies. “Will the Liberals stop throwing good money after bad and finally start investing in the green economy?” he asked.

Niki Sharma jumped back into politics after a stint at Stand.earth, a climate organization that released a report revealing the eye-popping scale of B.C.’s oil and gas subsidies. She won the NDP nomination in Vancouver-Hastings, calling for the province to “move away from fossil fuel expansion [and] phase out subsidies to the industry.”

I hope some of them find the courage during this election to say out loud what they’ve said in the past.

NDP MLAs slammed fracking, subsidies

The BC NDP platform, released Tuesday, contains one line about fossil fuel subsidies: “We will conduct a comprehensive review of oil and natural gas royalty credits.” But prior to winning power in 2017, the party’s MLAs didn’t need a review to know that giving public money to oil and gas companies is wrong.

As George Heyman said, “We are creating significant environmental catastrophe, significant health issues and we are going to cost the economy of this province, this nation and the world billions of unnecessary dollars.”

David Eby slammed the BC Liberal “giveaway” to oil and gas companies in 2015: “We should not accept this deal that effectively obliges all B.C. taxpayers to underwrite those companies’ risks, as it also pads their profits.”

But once in government the BC NDP sweetened the pot, offering an unprecedented $5.3 billion in subsidies to the international fracking consortium known as LNG Canada. The NDP’s about-face prompted a rare public celebration from former premier Christy Clark.

“They could have changed the climate plan, or had a moratorium on fracking, there were a 100 different things they could have done to stop it, and they didn’t,” Clark said. She also credited John Horgan for pushing ahead with the Site C dam, which is arguably another multi-billion dollar sop to the fracking industry.

A caucus of the brave?

The climate crisis is the number one, top-of-mind issue for B.C. voters under 35 in this election, according to a poll by the nonprofit Angus Reid Institute. It is the number one issue for voters on Vancouver Island, and in the top four for voters province-wide.

Yet it doesn’t appear once in the BC NDP’s 11-page election messaging guide, leaked by the Breaker. That means some candidates are simply going to have to go off-script.

I suspect there are many BC NDP candidates and MLAs that see their party’s growing subsidies to oil and gas companies as a liability. Not just politically, but to the province’s plan to stop rising greenhouse emissions – and our collective battle for a safe climate future. Now is the time for them to speak up.


24 Responses to “BC NDP candidates quiet as oil and gas subsidies soar”

  1. Katherine Kortikow says:

    Dear Kai,
    As a long standing supporter of Dogwood, I wholeheartedly agree that the B.C. Government should stop subsidizing oil and gas…However, I am concerned that this campaign ( or its timing, more precisely) may be handing votes to the Liberals. I understand that perhaps this is a strategy to apply some pressure on Horgan & co…but I sure hope for all our sakes that this doesn’t backfire.


    • Kai Nagata says:

      Hi Katherine, the report from Stand.earth on B.C. oil and gas subsidies was released before the election was called. Horgan and team have had 3+ years to act on climate change; during that time they’ve increased subsidies by 79 per cent. If the BC NDP considers that a political liability, it’s up to them to explain how and when they’re going to stop giving public money to oil and gas companies.

  2. Henk Scholten says:

    Thank you for the clear information. Keep it up. Do not resort to attack and slander….
    That is not productive and will loose you votes. We need a strong well represented Green party to help BC with change in favour of our planet.

  3. Jacqui Gingras says:

    I, for one, appreciate the importance of this analysis that Dogwood has created. If the NDP doesn’t want the Liberals to gain seats because of their very own hypocrisy on oil and gas subsidies, then they should simply stop the oil and gas subsidies. It is in their hands. I’m a long time NDP voter, and I feel completely betrayed by what this party has done. I live in a riding that has gone LIberal (conservative) for a long time, and I will be voting Green.

  4. Kathy Griffiths says:


  5. Sebastien Anderson says:

    Thanks alot for coming out to support the BC Liberals! Don’t count on a donation for me, you just lost me as a supporter.

    • Kai Nagata says:

      Are you making an argument about “vote splitting”? The BC NDP has a commanding lead in the polls and by all accounts are headed to a crushing majority. Now is the time to talk about their record, their policy choices and the commitments they’re making for the next four years.

  6. Larry Layne says:

    Thank you for your article about the three NDP MPs’ 180 degree turn about now that they are running for election as NDP MLAs in BC. It suggests that these three men are not interested in the public good. It suggests that their primary interest is in benefiting themselves.

    I asked myself why they would cease to be MPs and run to become MLAs. They have each qualified for a federal pension by having served two terms as an MP. Now I expect they hope to serve two terms as an MLA and draw yet another lifetime pension.

    All they have to do is continue to be actors, puppets, who follow their party’s directives. There is live footage of each speaking as a MP against fossil fuel subsidies, which shows what good puppets they are. Thanks again, Dogwood, for making that footage available.

    Brainstorming, I suggest we, the citizens, cease to pay pensions to those that serve. Without such a tantalizing perk, perhaps some actors will decide not to run for political office. Perhaps we will be choosing to elect to office those that want to serve the common good and will vote on issues accordingly.

    I also suggest that we, as citizens, cease to support parties that dictate how each member must vote in all voting instances, instead of allowing them to vote based on their interpretation of what is best.

    While I am at it, I have serious doubts about the party system responding to the issues we face. Why not do away with parties all together and start to elect people on what we believe to be their stances on issues that matter to us.

    Let’s simplify. Each riding would have a series of questions that anyone wishing to run would answer in writing and have posted on the riding’s web page where voters can read and compare. There might be a way to allow voters to contact any candidate for clarification before voting. This would eliminate paid ads, zooms, waves, signs, canvassing, and all the record keeping. This would also cut down on all the middle people, news commentators, phone callers, etc., who try to tell us who we should vote for.

    Each riding website would be a place MLAs could report and citizens could post questions. Without having to maintain offices, perhaps we could reduce their salary. I am looking for ways to cut back on expenses.

  7. Thomas Warden says:

    Hey Kai, maybe you should take a look at what actually happened when the BC NDP were crafting Bill 10, (the LNG Income Tax Amendments Act) they were all set to repeal that old 2015 LNG Project Development Agreement which NDP and Weaver had once criticized so much, but the Liberals made a motion to keep it, the green party called ”division” (a recorded vote) and then they scurried out of the chamber essentially voting with their feet allowing the BC Liberals to win the vote and keep Christy’s original legislation which you quoted David Eby and George Heyman criticizing above.


    With Furstenau and Weaver having successfully blocked the repeal of the LNG Projects Development Act, we are stuck with /only/ the more aggressive controls on fugitive methane, requirements to fully exhaust wells and cap them before moving on (rather than leaving 20% to leak), extensive electrification of the industry, etc. Due to the “Green” caucus walkout other measures like… ending the subsidies and increasing carbon taxes above 2014 levels… are off the table until there is an NDP majority as the “Green” caucus has already voted with their feet indicating they do not support ending LNG subsidies. Their party members may support ending the subsidies but their caucus, including the former and current leader let an amendment preserving the subsidies until 2039.

  8. Alex R says:

    Elected officials and candidates still need to be held accountable for what they’ve said. Holding people accountable is the only responsible and logical thing to do. The BC Liberals are clearly pro fossil fuel subsidies though so I don’t think supporting the liberals is the point of this article.

  9. Andrea says:

    Anyone who is worried that this article will “Split the Vote” and turn people towards Liberals is deluding themselves. It was the Liberals who started the Site C mess as well as LNG and who have getting the Trans-Mountain Project Built at one of the top of their priorities on their platform. (https://www.bcliberals.com/2019/09/17/get-trans-mountain-built/)

    Absolutely no one who has the environment and protecting it at the top of their priority list is going to believe that the Liberals would do a better job than the NDP. They’re both entirely incompetent and have track records that immediately disqualify them from any claim that they care about protecting environment.

    To quote the Liberal party directly from their platform, “Our natural resources like LNG are part of the solution – not the problem. That’s what the NDP and Greens don’t understand.” This is a party that is all talk about money and nothing about protecting the environment. Their entire page about protecting the environment is about SUPPORTING LNG and similar projects and nothing at all stated about any concrete solutions or steps they would take to do a damn thing to protect our air/water/soil, etc.

    It is more and more clear that over the past many decades, the Liberals and NDP have proven that they either don’t take the issues seriously, that they are in the business of keeping their elected seats over actually effecting any real positive change for protecting our earth or that they are simply incompetent.

    Time to try something new and give the Greens a chance.

  10. Take me for granted! says:

    Dear Kai, no matter what the BC NDP does, you should never attack them, because then we risk get the much worse BC Liberals. So if the BC NDP support fracked LNG and accelerate BC’s GHG emissions, if they enable the wholesale clear cutting of Old Growth forests, if they continue the Site-C dumpster fire, still we must never point these things out, because they are the best we can hope for, and we should just shut up and roll over. Even if the BC NDP screw teachers or cut services, we should still be quiet, hold our nose and vote NDP. The BC NDP take our votes for granted, and they are right to do so. No matter how many promised they break, they can always count on us being good and voting for them, because they know that we are too scared of the BC Liberals, and that while some of us like the Greens, we are too set in our ways to vote for them. Please please please don’t ever criticize the NDP!

  11. Georgina says:

    I support making a swift transition away from subsidizing the oil and gas industry. My question is how will the loss of subsidies and jobs be made up? I’m more interested in what happens next and how we can support those who
    lose their income, and how to make up the lost revenue from the oil and gas industry. Transition might be costly but climate change is far more expensive. How do greens propose to transition our economy? I’m sold on the transition but would like to know what happens next.

  12. Lisa Barrett says:

    Let’s not forget the NDP’s failure to hold Imperial Metals to account for the still unabated Mount Polley tailings spill disaster.
    And Murray Rankin has more than a little stain on his environmental reputation:
    “Rankin acted on behalf of an American mining corporation in its successful bid to sue Canada using NAFTA.
    A startling ruling by a North American Free Trade Agreement tribunal last March could force the Canadian government to pay Delaware-based Bilcon more than $300 million because an environmental assessment review panel rejected a massive basalt quarry and ship-loading facility on the Bay of Fundy that scientists believed would threaten endangered right whales.
    At issue for Victorians in this case is the involvement of Murray Rankin, who acted as an expert witness for Bilcon at the NAFTA hearings. Rankin, currently Member of Parliament for Victoria, is an NDP candidate in the federal election. His 2012 report and 2013 testimony in the Bilcon case helped influence the tribunal’s decision to find against Canada, in what the dissenting tribunal member called “a remarkable step backwards in environmental protection.”

  13. Brilliant! LOL!! Captures the essence of what soooo many enviros do!! Isn’t it time we truly Vote Our Values!!!! Vote Green.

  14. John Fryer says:

    But the whole effort deliberately tries to treat this complex tax issue simplistically in the Dogwood’s continuing effort to damage the NDP. Why? are they doing this? No wonder many believe it’s to help the Liberals in order to keep Dogwood donations rolling in.

    • Lisa Sammartino says:

      We support good policy and platforms, not parties or politicians. If the NDP want the support of climate voters, they are going to have to try a little harder.

  15. eli kyriacou says:

    just vote green man if your party goes against what’s better for the environment while saying they’re the “environmental party” and then call out others for supporting gas(the liberals) while supporting something worse(fracking is just straight up irreversible towards the environment please as someone who can’t vote yet (i’m a year away for being of age) please I beg you vote for the greens they keep their platforms promises and care about our only home

  16. eli kyriacou says:

    please just vote green if you care about the environment, vote conservative if your a capitalist and care more about money than the earth I’m so annoyed with these hybrid parties that are actually just conservatives in disguise I beg you just vote green (I’m to young to vote by one year) so that my generation can have a future so that my generation can live past 40 I want to one day have grandchildren please don’t take away my future so you can get some more green paper or the promise of more green paper being used like a carrot on a stick

  17. eli kyriacou says:

    if we meet the current possible lowest amount of climate change we will still have something like 50-70% more natural disasters which I can guarantee will destroy infrastructures jobs, lives and will cost much more than a climate transition economy recovery

  18. Callum MacLeod says:

    On my two most important electoral issues (phasing out fossil fuels and protecting old growth forests), the Liberals and NDP are indistinguishable.

  19. Earl Richards says:

    Stop the oil and gas corporations from looting the taxpayer.

  20. Joop says:

    No climate action, everything else doesn’t matter.
    We’ll go from pandemic to other disasters.

  21. Charlene says:

    How has that been working?

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