NDP leader John Horgan sat down with Tom Fletcher for a year-end interview in his Victoria office Dec. 10. Here are excerpts. For the full version, see the Opinion tab at www.ash-cache-journal.com .
TF: In the recent federal election, national NDP leader Thomas Mulcair rejected the Trans Pacific Partnership sight unseen, endorsing letters from Unifor and CUPE saying this is a bad deal. Is your party seen as against Pacific Rim trade?
JH: No, I don’t think so, and what I said at the time was that I support trade. We’re a trade-centred province. We’re looking across the ocean at the largest market the world has known, and I support getting our products to higher-priced markets.
But having said that, the B.C. Liberals embraced TPP without even having seen it.
TF: The NDP and unions have historically been protectionist. Do you see any need to modernize the B.C. party?
JH: When it comes to trade, I think we have modernized. And who was the first premier to go on a trade mission from British Columbia? It was Dave Barrett. And now there has been a succession of premiers make regular visits to other markets to try to stimulate economic activity here at home.
TF: Your party supports the carbon tax now, but not the revenue neutral approach. Do you support increasing the rate?
JH: I’ve looked carefully at the report tabled by the premier’s [advisory] group, a vast array of British Columbians, and there was a lot of water put into the wine to get to the position they got to. What I’m comfortable with is that the date that they’ve selected for a ramping up of the carbon tax is 2018, which will be a year after the next provincial election. So if I’m successful and form a government, I’ll have time to look at tax policy broadly to see if we can make improvements in the carbon tax.
For me, and I think for most British Columbians, the model that Alberta has adopted of taking revenues and driving them into industries, or activities like transit, that will reduce emissions over time.
TF: Natural gas price and volume continue to go down, along with commodities generally, and supply of oil and gas keeps going up. What’s your take on the prospects for LNG after the year we’ve had?
JH: Not good. I’ve always said price will determine whether investors drop down multi-billions of dollars in a far-away place to provide a product that is not developed here. Brownfield opportunities have moved very quickly in the U.S. Changing LNG import facilities to export facilities is a whole lot easier and cheaper than starting from scratch.
Getting to the coast is a challenge for fossil fuels, and the last LNG price point I saw delivered in Asia was $5.70 a unit. You’re not going to make money at that price, even with rock-bottom prices here in B.C.
TF: We’ve just had a couple of announcements as part of the government’s Jobs Plan, $100 million in financing for tech startups, which your critic was pleased about, and an agriculture and food strategy. Are we going to see more Jobs Plan advertising in the new year?
JH: It’s the Christmas season, the federal election is over, there are two sets of ads running now. I think these ads are self-promotion. These are not informing the public on information that they really need.
If it’s just smiling people with hardhats on, I think we’re going to have something to say about that.
Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press.