The gas industry has donated more than $1 million to the BC Liberals since the last provincial election, according to a new analysis done by the Wilderness Committee.
The companies and industry groups are involved in extracting B.C.’s gas (via fracking) and building gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations.
“This industry receives billions of dollars in provincial tax breaks and subsidies from the very government they’re paying to elect,” Peter McCartney, climate campaigner at the Wilderness Committee, said in a press release.
Gas industry donations since 2013 total $1,007,456.
The largest donor is Encana, a natural gas company with extensive fracking operations in B.C.’s northeast, which gave $338,041 to the BC Liberal party in the past four years.
Chevron, which owns a 50 per cent stake in the Kitimat LNG project and the affiliated Pacific Trails gas pipeline, donated $114,540. Woodfibre LNG, which recently received federal approval to export LNG from a facility in Squamish, B.C., donated $63,500.
Other industry donors include the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., FortisBC, TransCanada, Pacific Northwest LNG, AltaGas, Steelhead LNG and Imperial.
A Globe and Mail investigation published on the weekend revealed that lobbyists are illegally funneling money to the party on behalf of corporate and special interests. This practice conceals the true source of the money from the public and is now under investigation by Elections BC.
Corporations Can Donate Unlimited Amounts in B.C.
B.C., recently called the “wild west” of political donations by the New York Times, has long been criticized for its lax rules, which allow unlimited donations from corporations, unions, the wealthy elite and foreign interests.
Most other provinces and the federal government have caps on how much donors can give. The federal government limits individual donations to $1,525 and has an outright ban on donations by corporations, unions and foreigners.
The province of Quebec limits political donations to individuals and has a strict cap of $100.
Due to the fact B.C. has virtually no rules, the BC Liberal party is flush with corporate and foreign cash. Last year alone the party raised $12 million, more money than any other provincial party in power and two-thirds of what the federal Liberals collected from supporters across the country, according to the Globe article.
The piece noted what is considered standard political donation practice in B.C. is illegal in other provinces.
“When anyone anywhere in the world can donate as much as they want to the system, you have an even bigger threat to the system,” Dermod Travis, executive director for IntegrityBC, told the New York Times.
Travis, who has spent years documenting political donations and government contracts in B.C. recently wrote the B.C. government has turned the practice of returning favours to political donors into a refined art form.
Since 2013, Chevron’s Pacific Trails gas pipeline, TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline, TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission line, Woodfibre LNG’s export terminal, Pacific Northwest LNG’s export terminal and LNG Canada’s export terminal have received full or partial permitting.
In the lead up to the last provincial election, the BC Liberals campaigned on a LNG promise that pledged $1 trillion in economic activity, 100,000 high-paying jobs and the creation of a $100 billion B.C. Prosperity Fund.
The promise to have at least three LNG facilities online by 2020 was central to the party’s BC Jobs Plan and debt-reduction plan. Although both Pacific Northwest LNG and Woodfibre LNG have received permits, final and full investment decisions are still pending.
The companies behind the donations were poised to help the government deliver on the BC Liberal’s LNG promises. But those promises are looking harder and harder for the government to keep.
Image: Christy Clark announcing investment in the Woodfibre LNG terminal. Photo: Province of B.C. via Flickr cc