The Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) is a prominent industry association with over 250 member companies and organizations.19 Much like its national counterpart, the Business Council of Canada, the BC Council promotes right-leaning policies emphasizing low taxes, deregulation and support for fossil fuel industries. The BCBC claims that it “regularly contributes to public-policy development at the provincial level,”20 hinting at its role as a powerful lobbyist and event convener on behalf of corporate interests throughout the province.
With a considerable roster of powerful industry players among its members, the BCBC actively advocates for the construction of new pipelines and fracking operations throughout the province. It also cautions against government policies on climate change (such as increases to the province’s carbon tax), indirectly denying the urgency of the climate crisis and its members’ responsibility to meaningfully address it—putting it on our list as a legitimator.
Head office: Vancouver, British Columbia
The BCBC is a key player in provincial policy development, attempting to shape climate policy in a way that benefits the interests of Canada’s oil and gas industry. In 2018 the province signed a memorandum of understanding with the BCBC to develop an “industrial strategy that transitions B.C. into a low-carbon economy leader.1 But according to the BCBC, a “low-carbon economy” includes a dramatic increase in the production and export of fossil fuels.
The BCBC commends the United States on its recent efforts to deregulate the oil industry and build new pipelines across the country, suggesting that Canadian federal and provincial lawmakers should do the same. It argues that by fast-tracking the oil and gas industry, Canada will “make an outsized reduction in global emissions”2because the fossil fuels produced in Canada are ostensibly less carbon-heavy. “B.C. and the world’s climate are worse off if we don’t leverage our abundance of low carbon natural resources, energy and clean hydroelectricity,” said the BCBC’s president and CEO, Greg D’Avignon, in a 2019 press release.3
“Killing the Canadian oil industry will do precisely nothing to curb global greenhouse gas emissions or help the world’s climate,” the BCBC claims.4 Such assertions do not account for scientific research finding that Canadian oil sands oil is roughly 21 per cent more polluting than conventional crude.5 Their claims also ignore research suggesting that fracked natural gas may be equally emissions intensive as coal, or even more so.6 But according to the Council, ecological issues should not impinge on economic growth: “Canada has been handicapped by endless navel gazing and hand-wringing on environmental performance”, they suggest.7
Meanwhile, recent statements from the Council suggest that the MOU it signed with the BC government has already been incorporated into provincial policy. Four months after the MOU was signed, the BC NDP introduced legislation to offer a tax credit for all liquefied natural gas (LNG) proponents in the province: this would provide the LNG Canada project slated for Kitimat, BC, with a $6 billion rebate, for example.8 The BCBC suggested that the legislation “reflects the joint approach and work of the Business Council and the Province of BC” captured by the MOU.9 When it comes to the climate policies they will support, the BCBC is clear that industry should benefit. According to the Council, investment in BC’s “clean tech” sector is well suited to this objective.10 “Clean tech” references a broad sector of technology-based development, but in many cases consists of the development of infrastructure to reduce operational emissions for industry, such as technology designed to mitigate methane leakage during natural gas fracking. Clean tech should be positioned as a marketing tool, the BCBC suggests, calling on the province to “build its brand as a clean energy producer with low GHG inputs into our export products”11—ostensibly drawing on technology to “green” its resource-based exports, while growing BC’s global reputation as a site for environmentally conscious investment.
On carbon pricing, the BCBC says that BC’s carbon price is too high: they argue that since BC’s carbon tax (now $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, CO2e) is higher than other jurisdictions, it may lead to “carbon leakage” as companies move overseas to avoid carbon costs. The veracity of “carbon leakage” as a climate issue has been widely disputed.12Further, when it comes to an LNG industry that would require extensive increases in fracking activity, policies that maintain a fiscally “competitive” environment for LNG will likely make the province’s climate targets impossible to reach.13
The BCBC leverages its corporate membership to promote development projects throughout the province, including the controversial Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Greg D’Avignon spoke at the federal government’s Trans Mountain Ministerial Panel Review Economic Roundtable in 2016, expressing the Council’s emphatic support for the project.14In his comments, D’Avignon claimed that Trans Mountain would help meet an inevitable demand for fossil fuels, stating that “Trans Mountain should not be held to ransom through campaigns fed by misinformation, and rooted in the fantasy that shutting down oil production and pipelines in Canada will be good for the world, the global environment or our future prosperity.”15
Jock Finlayson, the BCBC’s executive vice-president and chief policy officer, further entrenched BCBC’s position, adding that while he recognized that the Trans Mountain project is “highly controversial, we are supportive of building our energy infrastructure to access global markets. Energy is the biggest export in the country.”16
The BCBC has been a vocal proponent for other fossil-fuel-related developments in BC, including the Site C dam project. Through numerous media op-eds and policy submissions, the Council fought for the project to be approved, emphasizing its capacity to electrify BC’s fracking operations in the northeast and the nascent LNG industry.17 When the project received provincial approval in late 2017, the Council issued a statement congratulating Premier John Horgan on his decision.18
Learn more about the Business Council of British Columbia at LittleSis.org
The intent of the Corporate Mapping Project database is to engage Canadians in a conversation about the role of the fossil fuel sector in our democracy, by “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.