Suspend WLNG’s environmental assessment certificates: My Sea to Sky

Call comes in wake of RCMP investigating donations to BC Liberal Party

My Sea to Sky is calling on the federal and provincial governments to suspend the environmental certificates granted to Woodfibre LNG in the wake of revelations about illegal donations to the BC Liberal Party. 

Representatives for the environmental group opposed to Woodfibre LNG say that recent revelations about donations to the BC Liberal Party by Woodfibre LNG employees on behalf of the company call into question the integrity of the environmental assessment process. 

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The group wants an independent legal review done to “determine whether there is a reasonable apprehension of bias by the BC Environmental Assessment Agency, Minister Rich Coleman, and Minister Mary Polak,” reads a news release from My Sea to Sky. 

The federal government’s review of the project was dependant on the provincial review, My Sea to Sky spokesperson Tracey Saxby told The Chief.

“So it throws into question the entire environmental assessment,” she said. 

My Sea to Sky had previously called on its members to boycott the latest public comment period for the amendment to Woodfibre LNG’s application on the change from seawater cooling to air-cooling for the facility. More than 1,500 people boycotted the process, according to the group. 

A spokesman for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, which is responsible for the Environmental Assessment Office, said it is a “neutrally administered office.” 

The office’s executive director will assess the environmental, economic, social, heritage and health adverse effects of the air-cooling method proposed and then “render a decision independent of any political direction.”

Elections BC announced Friday it has referred its investigation into indirect political contributions to the RCMP.

B.C.’s chief electoral officer Keith Archer had announced on March 6 that donations made on behalf of Squamish’s Woodfibre LNG were part of an investigation the organization was doing into possible contraventions of the Election Act by the BC Liberal Party. The investigation followed a Globe and Mail article that highlighted how donations are funneled to the party by individual lobbyists on behalf of corporations and special interest groups. 

Sea to Sky MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones told The Chief  she feels it is important to allow the RCMP to investigate the possible violations. 

“The federal rules for political fundraising are among the most stringent in the world,” she added. “Corporations and unions are banned from making contributions.  Individuals may contribute a maximum of up to $1,500 to a candidate and/or a political party.”

The BC Liberals collected donations close to $12.5 million – from 9,324 individuals and 1,876 corporations – in 2016, according to its own data released on its website.

All told, Woodfibre or its staff donated about $167,000 to the Liberal Party since 2013, My Sea to Sky representatives note, which includes the period of time when the project was under review. 

Byng Giraud, vice-president of corporate affairs for Woodfibre LNG, gave $47,149 in his own name over three years that Woodfibre then reimbursed him for. 

That is against BC election rules that don’t allow for indirect political contributions. 

“In referring the investigation to the RCMP, Elections BC could ensure the investigation wouldn’t impede Elections BC’s administration of the provincial general election,” stated Archer in a news release Friday. “This referral will also ensure that there is no perception that Elections BC’s ability to administer the general election in a fair, neutral and impartial manner is in any way compromised.” 

Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy was not aware of the referral to the Mounties when The Chief talked to him on Friday, shortly after the referral was announced, but he said all donations to the BC Liberal Party are published shortly after they are submitted.

“So everybody knows what it is and who they are,” he said. 

“Now, we can’t control what other people do and clearly if Elections BC officials determined that there was a need for the RCMP to be involved and investigate then I certainly defer to them.” 

Premier Christy Clark announced reforms to the province’s electoral financing system Monday, including legislation to make the system more transparent, but changes won’t be in place prior to the upcoming provincial election on May 9. 

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