A British Columbia cabinet minister says she mistakenly dropped a memo to herself describing a “big and shiny” affordability measure that mysteriously ended up in the hands of the Opposition BC United party.
In the document, Minister of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation Josie Osborne suggests using the provincial carbon tax to reduce BC Hydro bills, a prospect that BC United said showed the NDP government was “panicking” about opposition to the carbon levy.
“I can’t tell you where I dropped the memo,” Osborne said at a town hall climate event she attended with Premier David Eby.
“I can tell you I dropped it and that’s my mistake,” she said. “Those are notes I wrote. This is something that can happen from time to time. It’s not great.”
Osborne said the memo, which was sent to media by BC United, is a copy of notes she made Wednesday about possible ideas for the government’s February budget after discussions with an adviser she refused to name.
“These are ideas,” she said. “It’s advice I have under consideration. All ideas are on the table.”
The one-page memo sent from Osbourne to herself at 7:13 a.m. Wednesday starts with the sentence: “If PDE (Premier David Eby) is looking for a big and shiny affordability measure for budget, we should push them to look into option of returning a portion of incremental carbon tax to people on their monthly BC Hydro bills.”
Osborne’s memo, which was printed out and includes her handwritten notations, says a similar initiative was considered in the past but did not occur.
The memo also contains Osborne’s notes about energy cost negotiations with Australian mining and energy company Fortescue, which is planning a hydrogen and ammonia production project in Prince George.
BC United has been critical of the government’s CleanBC climate plan to lower harmful emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, calling it economically destructive.
Attorney general critic Mike de Jong asked Osborne to explain her memo because the government has consistently refused to give cost relief from the carbon tax.
“Can the minister of energy and mines explain what exactly she meant by ‘big and shiny affordability,'” said de Jong, adding the memo “goes on to reveal plans to politically manipulate BC Hydro to stall collapsing support for CleanBC.”
BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said earlier this week that if elected to govern next year, he would dump the CleanBC plan and ramp up liquefied natural gas export infrastructure instead, in an effort to replace reliance on coal abroad and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
B.C. Conservative Leader John Rustad also said this week if elected he would eliminate the carbon tax, roll back the NDP’s climate-friendly building codes and consider nuclear power as an energy option.
Eby, without directly commenting on the circumstances of Osborne’s memo being obtained by the Opposition, said he has encouraged his ministers to bring innovative and bold ideas to improve affordability.
“I absolutely am looking for big affordability measures for British Columbians,” he said. “People are in distress, find the big affordability initiatives that we can do. And I’m going to keep delivering that message to my ministers. I expect them to hunt for those and find ways for us to deliver for British Columbians in this budget and going forward.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2023.
This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Josie Osborne’s last name.
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