B.C. Liberals force hospitals and schools to finance corporations

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VICTORIA—It's wrong for the B.C. Liberals to strip money from underfunded schools and hospitals and send it to private corporations to finance their carbon emission reductions, say New Democrats.

“The B.C. Liberals are taxing health authorities for heating hospitals and saving lives, and then sending that money to some of the biggest polluters in the province,” said New Democrat health critic Mike Farnworth. “The Interior Heath Authority alone paid more than a million dollars for carbon offsets this year. None of that money goes back into our healthcare system. It will all be used to finance private sector projects.”

The B.C. Liberals are forcing schools and hospitals to buy carbon offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust. The money paid by schools and hospitals is then used to finance emissions reductions in the private sector. Meanwhile, major pollutors like Encana vent millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year. They are not required to buy offsets for their emissions, and then they benefit from the money paid by schools and hospitals to the Trust.

“The B.C. Liberals are taxing schools for keeping the lights on, and then sending that money to big polluters like Encana,” said New Democrat education critic Robin Austin. “Instead of taking money from classrooms to finance the emission reductions of private companies, they should be ensuring these companies reduce their emissions on their own dime.”

Encana, a very large gas company operating in northeast British Columbia, has received millions of dollars from hospitals and schools, despite the fact that they are planning to build a gas plant that would emit 2.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year – the equivalent of adding almost 450,000 cars to B.C. roads, and increasing emissions levels in the province by 3 per cent over 2006 emissions levels.

“Healthcare dollars should be used to provide healthcare, not used to subsidize big pollutors,” said Farnworth. “Encana is a very profitable company that can afford to bankroll its own emissions reductions.”

Adrian Dix and the New Democrats have proposed an environmental plan that would reinvest carbon tax revenue in transit and climate change initiatives, create green jobs, and offer legislated protection for species at risk.