Here are excerpts from Tom Fletcher’s year-end interview with Premier John Horgan. For the full text and video, see the opinion section on hopestandard.com.
TF: In your new climate plan, is the intention really to phase out natural gas for home heating?
JH: The intent is to decarbonize our economy, absolutely. We’re now in a position to export natural gas to other jurisdictions after the final investment decision by LNG Canada, the largest private sector investment in Canadian history. I’m proud of that, and we’re going to continue to meet our targets.
TF: You embraced Christy Clark’s argument that B.C. gas can displace coal in Asia, but emissions from that operation here will be significant. Can electric cars and solar panels on houses really make up for that?
JH: We need to electrify our economy. That includes our industrial activity.
TF: The opposition leader, Andrew Wilkinson, is concerned this is too sweet of a deal.
JH: I disagree. We sat down with investors and said, where are we competitive and where are we not? They came back and said, ‘you’re charging us more for electricity than you are other industrial sectors. You’re charging us more for income tax than any other investor. That’s not fair.’
We were able to conclude an agreement that will see $23 billion come to the province over the life of the project. I’d say mission accomplished.
TF: The Greens don’t want LNG exports.
JH: And I said we needed to fit the LNG development within our climate plan, and we have been able to achieve that, with the help of Dr. Weaver and the Green caucus, as well as the B.C. Business Council. It’s not B.C. warming, it’s global warming, and we all need to get on board with this.
TF: The wait continues for ride hailing.
JH: But there is now legislation in place for it to happen. The BC Liberals had five years to do that and did not. We had 16 months and we’re underway. Next year when we do this interview, we can hail a ride-hailing company and we can sing karaoke in the back of the car.
We wanted to make sure that the existing industry had a transition period and that the rules were the same for both. That means a Class 4 driver’s licence.
Some argue that’s a step too far, but the travelling public wants to be confident that the person picking them up has been trained to drive a vehicle and carry a person, that they have had a criminal record check, and that they are fully insured. The travelling public is in the front of our mind.
TF: 2019 is shaping up as a difficult year for employers. A lot of them are looking at continuing to pay some Medical Services Plan premiums and a hefty new payroll tax. With a billion-dollar surplus, was that necessary?
JH: The surplus wasn’t forecast. We forecasted a modest surplus in this fiscal year. We’ve seen consumer confidence. And that means small business operators, who were paying premiums themselves, and other families, being the only province in the country that was imposing this tax on individuals. So we’re going to eliminate that by the end of the coming year.
In the interim, those very businesses that are asking for more child care, asking for housing affordability so they can retain employees, are going to get those services.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media.