Debate during Question Period on the dispute between B.C. and Alberta in the Legislature on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and Premier John Horgan exchange words, with Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone joining in.
A. Wilkinson: Yesterday the Prime Minister of Canada came out in a rare and almost unprecedented role and condemned the actions of the Premier of British Columbia.
The Prime Minister said, “Frustratingly” — the Premier, using his name — “is actually trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change.” The Premier has shown no remorse about this. He’s triggered a totally unnecessary trade war with Alberta. He’s now drawn the criticism of the Prime Minister of Canada, which draws into question the credibility of British Columbia and our current government. Thousands of small business people are being affected by this in many locations around the province.
Will the Premier simply admit he’s made a mistake?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member for his question. But again, it’s curious to those on this side of the House and, I think, all British Columbians that the new Leader of the Opposition prefers to sow discontent rather than unity here in British Columbia when it comes to a clear violation of internal trade agreements, which the member will be quite familiar with.
Why he would choose to sow disconsent rather than unity as we try to defend the interests of British Columbia is a mystery to me, and I suggest it’s a mystery to British Columbians as well.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Official Opposition on a supplemental.
A. Wilkinson: The only mystery in this House and this province this week is why the Premier can’t swallow his pride.
The Prime Minister of Canada has said that the historic $1.5 billion federal investment in ocean protections for British Columbia is now at risk. It was secured by the previous B.C. Liberal government. It’s now at risk because of an impulsive decision by this Premier.
This is not serving the interests of British Columbians. To quote the Prime Minister yesterday: “We won’t get the ocean protections plan investments.”
The Premier knows he’s made a mistake. And the statements by the Premiers across the country and the Prime Minister confirm that he’s made a mistake. He stands alone, and he needs to admit that.
Will the Premier save the credibility of British Columbia, admit that he’s standing alone on this issue amongst first ministers in Canada and admit that he’s made a mistake?
Hon. J. Horgan: Well, it’s all well and good for the Leader of the Official Opposition to look across the country. What he should be doing, as all members of this House should be doing, is looking at their neighbours and looking at British Columbians and defending their interests.
We announced on January 30 our intention to consult British Columbians, to fill the gaps in science that have been acknowledged by the federal government, to fill the gaps in science about the adverse consequences on our billion-dollar sport fishery, our $900 million agrifood export industry. That’s standing up for British Columbia, not dividing British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Official Opposition on a second supplemental.
A. Wilkinson: Standing up for British Columbia means having a constructive and purposeful relationship with the government of Canada and Ottawa.
I’ve been there. I’ve been at first ministers conferences, where the attitudes of Premiers are essential to the development of this country as a whole and to provincial interests.
It’s up to the Premier to bring credibility back to British Columbia. He started this fight with Alberta, and now, sadly, the Prime Minister has effectively stepped in as a referee to solve this squabble. It’s the Premier who’s made a mistake, and now he simply cannot admit he’s wrong. His counterpart in Alberta said it well this week: “It’s in British Columbia’s power to put this issue to rest.”
For the thousands of British Columbians stuck in this petty dispute, will the Premier swallow his pride, make that phone call to Edmonton and solve this dispute, which is not in the interests of British Columbians?
Hon. J. Horgan: While clearly there’s a jurisdictional difference of opinion right now between British Columbia and Alberta, it appears that the Leader of the Official Opposition prefers to side with the government of Alberta when it comes to where jurisdiction rests on protecting the interests of British Columbians.
Yesterday the member beside the Leader of the Opposition talked about the rule of law. The question of jurisdiction is in dispute. We have a position on this side of the House, and the B.C. Liberals prefer to defer jurisdiction to another province. But when it comes to the law….
Hon. J. Horgan: Perhaps the members on the other side would want to hear this, hon. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. J. Horgan: Perhaps if the members on the other side would talk to their Leader of the Opposition…. He was appointed by the former B.C. Liberal government to be one of the dispute resolution members on the TILMA board. So he knows, I would hope, a little bit about internal trade, and therefore he would know that Alberta is violating the law by restricting access to their market with our wine. That’s a clear violation of an agreement that he was part of.
I will concede that he would prefer to stand with the government of British Columbia. I would prefer to stand with the people of B.C. But at a minimum, he should understand, as a former so-called expert on the matter, that Alberta is violating internal trade agreements. He should stand up for B.C. and stand up for the wine industry.
T. Stone: Standing up for British Columbia does not involve traipsing across Asia to encourage investment to this province, all the while back at home doing everything that you can, throwing every tool that you can, to kill a $7.4 billion investment in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question.
T. Stone: Speaking out of both sides of your mouth is not leadership. These are serious words that were uttered by the Prime Minister of Canada about this Premier’s provocative behavior. I’m going to quote these words again, “Frustratingly,” the Premier “is actually trying to scuttle our national plan on fighting climate change.” These are the words of the Prime Minister of Canada.
Now, we saw in the recent throne speech all kinds of spending commitments, and a lot of these spending commitments rely on federal funding. Clearly, it can’t be good news when we saw yesterday’s postponed federal funding announcement regarding child care and, of course, the sharp rebuke from the Prime Minister of Canada. This cannot be in B.C.’s best interests.
When will the Premier stop playing games with this project? When will he admit that he is wrong? When will he fix this mess to prevent further damage to British Columbia?
Hon. J. Horgan: As we end the Year of the Rooster and go into the lunar new year, Year of the Dog, I’ll say gung hay fat choy on behalf of the Legislature. But I guess I’ll exclude the member for Kamloops–South Thompson in that, because traipsing around Asia is about building markets. You used to do it. Governments before you used to do it. It’s important to the economy of B.C. that we grow and expand our markets.
While our forest industry was ignored by that side of the House and U.S. interests abrogated the softwood lumber agreement again, they were nowhere to be found. I traipsed down to Washington to stand up for B.C.’s interest.
I’ll go anywhere in this country, anywhere on this planet to respect and promote British Columbia. You should follow suit.
Mr. Speaker: Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.
T. Stone: What the Premier’s traipsing around the world has done, coupled with the opposite actions back here in British Columbia, is that there is a chill on the investment climate in this province. This province is now quickly becoming a laughingstock in international capitals around the world because this government does not respect the rule of law. This government is changing the goalpost as it moves forward, and this government is trying to kill major project after major project in this province.
What is needed is for cooler heads to prevail. What is needed is for this Premier to show some humility. What is needed is for this Premier to work with Ottawa to get the maximum benefits for British Columbians.
The Premier has done serious damage to British Columbia’s international reputation, and he has put critical investments in B.C.’s coastline in jeopardy.
Mr. Speaker: Members, if we could hear the question, please.
T. Stone: My question to the Premier is this: when will the Premier swallow his pride? When will he stop this damaging trade war with Alberta? And when will he allow the thousands of British Columbians to get on with their jobs?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the bronze medal winner — actually, no; you’re just off the podium, Member — for the question.
I do believe there was a question. He wanted me to stand up for B.C. industry. He wanted me to stand up for the sport-fishing industry that puts $1 billion into the economy in British Columbia.
He wants me to stand up for agrifood industries that export almost $1 billion worth of agrifood products — seafood products, geoducks, shellfish and a whole host of other issues that are put at risk by a catastrophic spill.
Now, I don’t know what part of that these guys don’t understand. But get with the program. We’re in this place to protect British Columbia, not to defend Alberta.
Source: BC Hansard transcript.