Vaughn Palmer: Weaver drops pillow to label NDP’s stance on LNG a ‘sellout on steroids’

“The sellout on steroids. Hats off to LNG Canada negotiators. They really were dealing with a bunch of suckers, I tell you.”

Green leader Andrew Weaver hammered away at the New Democrats this week, accusing them of hypocrisy and worse on the LNG file and using their own words against them. Arlen Redekop / Postmedia News Files

VICTORIA — For two afternoons this week, Green leader Andrew Weaver hammered away at the New Democrats, accusing them of hypocrisy and worse on the LNG file and using their own words against them.

It happened during debate on Bill 10, the enabling legislation for some of the tax breaks and incentives in the NDP government’s deal with the LNG Canada project.

Weaver’s complaint being that the New Democrats were now engaged in the very thing they denounced when the B.C. Liberal government offered tax breaks and incentives to attract LNG investment.

“I have a litany of quotes that I will be reading during the course of the debate,” said Weaver at the outset of his remarks on Tuesday. “I had to ask my staff to pare them down because I’ve got 20 pages of quotes that I look forward to bringing in.”

Moreover, as the Green leader went on to show, in some cases the New Democrats were offering richer breaks and more incentives than the Liberals had done.

“This is a government, now, that literally hurled abuse, rhetoric, catcalled, name-called, all sorts of things for four years,” said Weaver at one point. “Now what they propose to do is take what the B.C. Liberals did to a whole new level.”

Not content with a general attack on his partners in power sharing, Weaver went after individual New Democrats in personal terms.

He quoted Energy Minister Michelle Mungall’s comments against LNG development from her days in Opposition. Then he noted that protesters in her Nelson-Creston riding were preparing to stage a “funeral” to memorialize the passing of her credibility.

“Well deserved, frankly,” said Weaver. “She has no credibility in this file.”

Next on the hit list was Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, who like Mungall was known as an environmental activist before she gained a seat at the cabinet table.

He quoted her on the LNG file circa 2016, when she faulted the Liberals for “not legislating like we’re in the most important races of our lives, the race to slow down the effects of climate change. This is not a joke.”

Now he sees Popham as part of a government engaged in a “despicable” version of “greenwashing.” He disputes the NDP claim that a massive increase in LNG production can be reconciled with targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Weaver to Popham: “Where are you now? Do you have the courage, do you have the moral fortitude to stand up for what you believe in and you said so back in 2016?”

While showing no mercy to ministers Mungall and Popham, when Weaver quoted some earlier words from NDP backbencher Doug Routley, he chose not to identify him in the usual way by naming his riding.

“I’ve become quite good friends with this member,” the Green leader explained. “I recognize that this member is probably struggling with the decision because I truly believe this member’s heart is in the right place. I’ll let you guess who this member is.”

But Weaver didn’t hold back when going after Premier John Horgan.

He quoted the NDP leader from his Opposition days, accusing the Liberals of giving away the store on LNG and covering up the details.

“If anything, we’re becoming less transparent from where we were with the B.C. Liberals,” said Weaver.

As for the alleged sellout, Weaver noted the NDP’s terms on taxes, electricity rates and carbon tax rebates were even more generous than those of the Liberals.

“The sellout on steroids,” said Weaver. “Hats off to LNG Canada negotiators. They really were dealing with a bunch of suckers, I tell you.”

The Green leader believes Horgan and crew missed the boat: “I don’t think the Premier and his party have thought this through. They haven’t reflected upon the comments they made historically and they don’t see how they apply now more than ever.”

Capping his comments was a question he put to everyone on the government side: “How do you sleep at night, knowing that you are putting before us a generational sellout that actually goes against everything you campaigned on in the last election?”

In reply, the New Democrats ignored Weaver, knowing the Greens will vote with them on confidence matters, as they have done twice in the current session.

The Greens, for their part, made two motions Tuesday and another Wednesday to try to derail the LNG legislation. Each was defeated by a massive margin, the Liberals joining the NDP in voting them down.

Much as the Liberals enjoy Weaver bashing away at the New Democrats, they recognize it as a pillow fight, and a one-sided one at that.

Weaver has no difficulty inhabiting two political worlds, the one where the New Democrats are hypocrites and generational sellouts with no credibility, the other where he votes to keep them in power.

His most useful contribution to the debate, other than documenting the NDP’s world class record of hypocrisy on the LNG file, was the airing of a letter alleging a massive giveaway on natural gas royalties in B.C.

Weaver did not name the author, saying only that he resigned earlier this year from the energy ministry.

Nor were the claims checkable within the narrow confines of legislative debate.

But the contents were sufficiently detailed to warrant further attention, if not by a legislature committee, then by the independent auditor general.

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