POLITICS
05/13/2019 14:10 EDT | Updated 05/13/2019 14:13 EDT

Jagmeet Singh Grilled On B.C. LNG Project In Light Of NDP Push For More Climate Action

"LNG involves fracking, fracking means more emissions," a reporter noted.

Justin Tang/CP
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill on March 19, 2019.

Jagmeet Singh appears to be walking back support for a major liquified natural gas project in British Columbia that has the backing of that province's NDP government.

Singh spoke to reporters outside of the House of Commons Monday to introduce an NDP motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare a climate emergency, end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and scrap the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

The federal NDP leader also pledged to make massive cuts to Canada's greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade if his party forms government after this October's election.

He was asked how he could reduce emissions in light of his support for the $40-billion LNG Canada project in northern B.C., which involves hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a pipeline, and export facility.

"LNG involves fracking, fracking means more emissions," a reporter noted.

Singh said he has made it clear that "the future of Canada does not include fracking" or relying on fossil fuels as an energy source.

Pressed further on how he squares his earlier support for the LNG project with his opposition to fracking, Singh lauded the B.C. government's plan to fight climate change.

"But I want to make it clear in terms of my values and my priorities," he said. "As leader of the New Democratic Party... I do not believe that fracking or fossil fuels (are) the future of our country."

Asked directly if he supports the initiative or not, Singh said that he has always maintained that "the project has problems." Resource projects need to be in line with climate change goals, respect Indigenous rights and create jobs, he said.

"It has not satisfied all of those criteria," he said.

Singh confirmed support for project months ago

Singh had a much different answer when asked about the LNG project during an interview with CTV's "Question Period" in January. The NDP leader was, at the time, set to run in a byelection in B.C.'s Burnaby South.

Host Evan Solomon noted that a planned pipeline to support the LNG project has the support of Indigenous communities along the route.

"I ask you a simple question: do you as the leader of the NDP support this LNG pipeline?" Solomon asked at the time.

"Yeah, I've already mentioned my support for this project given the fact that they've done consultation in a very meaningful way, broadly speaking," Singh said.

"As you mentioned the vast majority of Indigenous elected bands and chiefs have all shown support and the consultation process was done in a very meaningful way, very much in line with what we'd like to see going forward."

You can watch that exchange at the 3:07 mark in the video below:

While on the byelection campaign trail in February, Singh told The Canadian Press that the LNG project has "demonstrated some clear, positive steps" around consultation.

"There was an exhaustive and pretty thorough consultation around Indigenous communities, First Nations communities and elected bands and chiefs," he said.

But Singh has faced pressure from his own candidates over the issue — most notably by former NDP MP Svend Robinson.

Robinson left federal politics in 2004 and is seeking to make a comeback this fall in Burnaby North. He has expressed concerns about how the LNG project will increase emissions.

"The most important issue facing our planet and our country today is climate change. We have to effectively put the country on the same kind of wartime footing that we did at the time of the last world war to fight climate change," Robinson said in February.

Greens buzzing from B.C. byelection win

Climate change and environmental matters are poised to be election issues this fall.

Former NDP leader Tom Mulcair has said that progressives "looking for a home on environmental issues" could gravitate to Elizabeth May's Green Party, rather than New Democrats, because of the LNG issue.

Singh's effort to step up his credentials on fighting climate change comes on the heels of a Green byelection win in B.C.'s Nanaimo-Ladysmith last week.

Green candidate Paul Manly won the seat previously held by former NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson. Manly told supporters the results showed voters want to see "political courage to deal with climate change properly."

When asked by HuffPost Canada in March where she stands on the LNG project, May was direct and blunt.

"We are opposed to the destruction of life on Earth, therefore we oppose any new fossil fuel developments," she said. "We advocate for a rapid reduction of Canada's fossil fuel production so we're able to ensure a livable world for our kids. And that's the bottom line."

Watch: Paul Manly says Greens are brimming with confidence