B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon has kicked MLA John Rustad out of caucus over controversial tweets suggesting climate change is not caused by carbon dioxide emissions.
“Following a pattern of behaviour that was not supportive of our caucus team and the principles of mutual respect and trust, I have removed MLA John Rustad from the B.C. Liberal caucus effective immediately,” Falcon said in a statement Thursday afternoon. Rustad, the MLA for Nechako Lakes, will now sit as an independent.
Rustad posted a comment from Patrick Moore, director of the CO2 Coalition and outspoken climate-change denier, on both Facebook and Twitter.
The comment says, “No net warming in Australia for the past 10 years. And the Great Barrier Reef has more coral cover this year than ever recorded. The case for CO2 being the control knob of global temperature gets weaker every day.”
Falcon said “politics is a team sport” and Rustad was not being a team player by refusing to discuss his tweets.
“While a diversity of perspectives are encouraged and a source of strength, they cannot exist without that important foundation in place,” Falcon said.
On Wednesday, Falcon took to social media to distance himself from Rustad.
“Let me be clear, climate change is one of the most critical threats facing our future. The B.C. Liberals are strongly committed to substantive climate action and restoring B.C.’s place as a world leader in climate policy. John Rustad does not speak on behalf of caucus on this issue,” Falcon said on Twitter.
Rustad said being ousted by Falcon was not the 59th birthday present he expected Thursday.
Rustad said he received a note from Falcon Wednesday asking him to delete his tweets and he wasn’t willing to do that.
“I realize that when you stand up on an issue and that particular issue is thorny and challenging, that sometimes that’s met with consequences,” he told Postmedia News.
Rustad said it’s too early to speak to his political future and whether he’ll find a home in another party such as the B.C. Conservatives. Rustad was forestry critic but that file will be turned over to Liberal house leader Todd Stone.
Rustad, who was first elected in 2005 and served in various cabinet roles during the previous B.C. Liberal government, insists he’s not a climate change denier.
“Let me be clear, climate change is real. I’m not saying it isn’t,” he said. However, he said B.C. is implementing environmental policies pushed by
“environmental elitists that are hurting people.”
Climate scientist and former B.C. Green party leader Andrew Weaver commended Falcon for swiftly removing Rustad from the Liberal caucus.
“I give Kevin Falcon a lot of credit because it takes courage to stand up to those who are spreading misinformation,” Weaver said. He suspects there are others in the B.C. Liberal caucus who don’t accept the science on climate change and Falcon might have to root them out as well.
Asked if there are other B.C. Liberals who share his position on climate change, Rustad said he didn’t want to speak for others especially considering the political consequences.
There is a global scientific consensus on climate change. Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that human activities — mainly greenhouse gas emissions — are the primary cause of global warming.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a “code red” for humanity and earlier this year the panel, made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world, said the window to stop global warming from exceeding 1.5ºC is closing.