BC Liberals sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at swanky fundraiser
“That treads very close to that thin line between legitimate fundraising and influence peddling," said a Howe Sound resident, concerned with Woodfibre LNG
The Clark government’s BC Liberal party was sponsored by Woodfibre LNG at an upscale, private members' fundraiser event on Thursday night.
“We’d like to thank our sponsor tonight, Woodfibre LNG,” the master of ceremonies said, within earshot of inside the front entrance of the stately Capilano Golf and Country Club.
The exclusive event in West Vancouver was billed as an opportunity for attendees to meet Finance Minister Michael De Jong, and to fundraise for local West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy.
The next provincial election is not until 2017.
While it’s not clear why the party is fundraising now, Woodfibre LNG is just weeks away from learning if the provincial government will grant it an environmental permit for its proposed and controversial liquefied natural gas export terminal in Squamish.
The NDP’s environment critic said the corporate sponsorship smells of government-influence buying too close to key decision-making for the $1.6-billion fossil fuel project.
“That just breeds real cynicism in politics. Who are our politicians representing? Is it citizens or corporations?” said MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.
“If you advertise exclusive access as being something you can buy, it doesn’t sit well with me. It feels wrong.”
Minister De Jong took to the podium to speak to the “packed” Liberal event, according to an MLA tweet, but he was not immediately available for comment.
Attorney General Suzanne Anton and Minister of International Trade Teresa Wat were two other cabinet ministers in attendance for the fundraiser to raise money for the local MLA.
Eoin Finn stood outside the golf club’s street entrance in the rain to protest the event.
The retired Bowyer Island resident – a former KPMG partner with an international MBA and a PhD in chemistry — is well-known for his opposition to the project’s LNG tankers that would traverse Howe Sound if the project goes forward.
He said it was odd that local Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy would be seeking to fundraise at this time. It’s in his riding that the Squamish LNG facility would be built.
“It’s very unusual that a backbench MLA is fundraising in-between the election period. And the fundraiser would attract the Finance Minister and the Attorney General,” said Finn.
“That treads very close to that thin line between legitimate fundraising and influence-peddling,” he added.
Eoin Finn and other protesters outside a BC Liberals fundraiser sponsored by Woodfibre LNG on Thursday night. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.
Axe the Carbon Tax for LNG?
Due to a new law introduced late last year, the Liberal cabinet has the power to axe the carbon tax for an oil and gas project. The provincial government could forgo millions in revenue if the B.C. cabinet wishes it.
Finance Minister De Jong is expected to deliver his provincial budget in two weeks.
Woodfibre LNG is owned by controversial Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto, whose company, Asian Agri, was ordered in 2012 to pay over $200 million USD in fines for tax evasion in Indonesia. In 2014 the Guardian newspaper noted court evidence showing Asian Agri had long been engaged in "routine and systematic fraudulent accounting practices."
The magnate also met Premier Christy Clark warmly in Asia last year during her LNG tour.
Woodfibre LNG would partner with FortisBC to pump fracked gas from B.C.’s northeast, to the Squamish facility for liquefaction. The terminal would produce some 142,000 tonnes of climate-warming greenhouse gases per year, according to Finn.
The company was not immediately available for comment, but it has long promoted the 100 permanent jobs it would create in the Squamish area.
Woodfibre states that it can responsibly operate the facility with minimal impact to the environment.