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Support refugees fleeing Ukraine invasion, B.C. premier urges

Politicians can’t interfere in public service pension fund
Michelle Joo joins a rally for Ukraine at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Phil Melnychuk/Twitter)

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Monday his government will make its views known to B.C.’s public service pension fund about its investments in Russian petroleum companies and a state-owned bank, but it can’t be directed by politicians.

Opposition MLAs called for the government to assist an international effort to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and to accelerate liquified natural gas development to help Europe reduce its dependency on Russian gas.

B.C. Liberal MLAs reminded the government that in 2021, B.C. Investment Management Corp. listed among its holdings $103.25 million worth of shares in Russian state-owned bank Sberbank, $83.85 million in Lukoil, $32.2 million Rosneft Oil, and $19.16 million in Gazprom, the Russian gas company. Opposition leader Shirley Bond said Rosneft is the main supplier of oil for the Russian military.

Horgan said the province’s donation of $1 million to the Red Cross for its humanitarian efforts in Central Europe and stopping sales of Russian vodka and other spirits are within its mandate, but investment decisions are made by trustees. “But it is, I suggest, a call that British Columbians would want them to respond to,” Horgan told the B.C. legislature Feb. 28. “It’s in the hands of those who make those decisions, I’ll leave it up to them to follow the ball and make the right choice.”

Individuals can also help, he said. “I would also recommend, if those people do have disposable income, that they look at the UN High Commission on Refugees. We are going to have a refugee crisis in Europe, and we need to be part of that here in British Columbia.”

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross urged the government to accelerate permitting for multiple natural gas export permits, to help displace Russian gas that has become a strategic resource for the regime of President Vladimir Putin.

Long approval times for resource development is a key reason for B.C.’s creation of a new lands and water ministry to involve Indigenous land title holders and solve disputes that have held back energy and mining projects.

“The global liquefied natural gas industry is already close to producing its limits,” Ross said. “They can’t produce any more. But here in B.C., we have a huge source of clean, safe, ethical LNG.”

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