B.C.’s New Democrat government suffered an embarrassing defeat in the legislature on a section of its marquee liquefied natural gas bill Tuesday night after its power-sharing partners, the Greens, walked out of a vote.
MLAs were in committee phase, debating details of the NDP’s LNG Income Tax Amendment Act, which offers more than $6 billion in tax breaks to the $40-billion LNG Canada project in Kitimat.
The Liberals proposed an amendment to one of the bill’s sections.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver, who has opposed the NDP’s pursuit of an LNG industry because of the pollution it will cause, walked out of the chamber and his three-person caucus abstained from the vote.
“I walked out of the room on the amendment because we had no intention of supporting the amendment either for or against,” Weaver said. “This is the B.C. NDP and Liberals fighting over who can be the biggest sellout for future generations.”
Without the Green support, the Liberals and NDP deadlocked in a 41-vote tie.
Joan Isaacs, the Liberal MLA chairing the committee session, broke the tie to side with her Liberal colleagues. The Liberals won with 42 votes.
The victory meant the Liberals have amended the minority NDP government’s legislation.
The amendment didn’t substantially change the LNG tax regime, nor is it likely to derail the LNG Canada project.
But it did give the Liberals a symbolic victory because it preserved a law — the Liquefied Natural Gas Projects Agreements Act — that former premier Christy Clark’s government had passed on project development agreements with LNG companies. It requires those agreements and key information contained within them to be made public. The NDP wanted to repeal that law.
After the amendment passed, the bill led to a further series of dramatic and bizarre events in the chamber.
The amended section of the bill went to a vote on whether it should pass as amended. Despite the NDP just voting against the amendment, the governing MLAs were forced to vote in favour of the amended section or else their entire bill would collapse.
So the Liberals and NDP cast 82 votes in favour. The three Greens then reappeared in the chamber to vote against the section, which passed 82-3.
Liberal MLA Mike de Jong said the Greens have “a new campaign slogan: When the going gets tough, the Greens get lost.” The Liberals accused Weaver of calling “division” — a recorded vote — on the amendment and then fleeing the chamber.
A third and final reading is to occur today at the legislature.
Weaver said the Greens have voted against every section of the LNG legislation, at every stage of debate. The Greens proposed three amendments last week, including a motion to delay the bill six months, but they have been consistently defeated by the NDP and Liberals.
“The NDP and Liberals are quibbling about where the deck chairs should be positioned on the Titanic as it is sinking,” said Weaver. “We don’t want to have any part of voting for or against amendments on this legislation. We think the bill is a generational sellout.”
Weaver said he does not care whether he embarrassed his NDP power-sharing colleagues.