VICTORIA – The B.C. government has announced the first money-saving moves in its "core review" of provincial functions, eliminating Crown agencies that buy offsets for government carbon emissions and manage heritage properties in the Victoria area.
The functions of the Pacific Carbon Trust and the Provincial Capital Commission will continue, but will be run directly by government ministries, Energy Minister Bill Bennett announced Tuesday.
Bennett, minister in charge of the core review, said winding up the Pacific Carbon Trust is expected to save $5.6 million annually by 2015. The CEO and 13 staff are to be offered other positions in government and Bennett said he does not expect severance to be paid.
Winding up the Provincial Capital Commission is expected to save about $1 million, while maintaining the agency's cultural and student outreach programs. Capital region properties including St. Anne's Academy, the Crystal Garden and the former CPR steamship terminal will continue to be operated by government, with no immediate plans to sell them.
Post-secondary schools and health authorities will continue to pay millions to offset their fossil fuel use, and the money will go to industrial, forest and other projects deemed to reduce carbon emissions. Bennett said the government intends to adapt the program as has been done with public school offsets, so hospitals and universities can invest in their own energy-saving efforts.
The Pacific Carbon Trust was criticized in a March 2013 report by former auditor general John Doyle. He said the two largest investments by the trust, a forest preserve in the Kootenays and a flaring reduction program for EnCana natural gas operations at Fort Nelson, would have happened without subsidies from provincial operations.
Other offset projects funded by the trust include hybrid heating systems for the Westin Whistler Resort and Spa and the Coast Hillcrest resort in Revelstoke, as well as fuel substitution for mills and greenhouse operations. The program has been unpopular since it was established in 2008.
"Who in their right mind considers a school or hospital a polluter?" said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation. "Taxpayers are spending millions on buying carbon credits for these facilities rather than providing front-line services."
Environment Minister Mary Polak said international experts have certified the trust's investments as legitimate offsets.