Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad has been booted from the BC Liberal caucus after he retweeted views that questioned climate science.
In a statement, Liberal leader Kevin Falcon said that politics is a “team sport” and Rustad was not operating from a “foundation of mutual respect and trust.”
“Following a pattern of behaviour that was not supportive of our caucus team and the principles of mutual respect and trust, I have removed MLA John Rustad from the BC Liberal Caucus effective immediately.”
Rustad told Black Press Media in an interview that allegations he is a climate change denier are “just false.” But he does question the role of carbon dioxide (CO2) in global warming and opposes policies to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use, that he said would limit farmer’s access to fertilizer, resulting in lower yields. CO2 accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming.
“Climate change is real. There’s no question about that. We are facing climate change, and it is posing some serious issues that we have to be able to manage. Man is having an influence on climate. There’s no question about that,” Rustad said.
“The question is the role that CO2 is playing in particular. And more importantly, the question is the policy approaches that we’re taking that are hurting people.”
The statement follows a tweet from Kevin Falcon on Wednesday (Aug. 18) saying that Rustad “does not speak on behalf of caucus” about climate change.
Let me be clear, #ClimateChange is one of the most critical threats facing our future. The @bcliberals are strongly committed to substantive climate action & restoring BC's place as a world leader in climate policy. @JohnRustad4BC does not speak on behalf of caucus on this issue.
— Kevin Falcon 🇺🇦 (@KevinFalcon) August 17, 2022
Rustad’s MLA page has been removed from the BC Liberal caucus webpage. Rustad has also removed mention of the BC Liberals from his social media pages. He will now sit as an independent.
Rustad said Falcon and the previous leader had both “made it very clear that they were concerned” about any kind of statements on “controversial issues” such as climate change.
“I stuck to that, until I started seeing just how tough things are,” he said. The final straw for him was proposals that he said would limit fertilizer consumption in Canada and impact his constituents in Nechako Lakes.
“I already know about the hardship that many, many farmers are having, because they can’t even access fertilizer, not to mention the huge increases in the price of fertilizer and fuel costs as well,” Rustad said.
“Any policy that is going to intentionally make life more difficult for them is something that I just can’t support. I mean, morally, I can’t support it. But also from a riding perspective, I can’t support it.
“I can’t go to the people, my riding, and say I support a policy that’s going to hurt you.”
Rustad shared a CO2 sceptical tweet from Patrick Moore, a former president of Greenpeace Canada turned climate skeptic and industry consultant — that “apparently became the spark plug” for his removal from the caucus. He said the retweet “was designed just to create a conversation.”
“I have expressed some concerns to the party in the past about this. And I requested back in May of caucus to have a discussion about this. And we never did have a discussion. We’ve had a new leader in place since February, and we have not had the opportunity to talk through these issues,” Rustad said.
“I guess our party no longer seems to be a big tent, that (the BC Liberal party) doesn’t seem to be interested in having divergent views, particularly on things like climate.”
Prior to his removal Rustad was the opposition critic for Forests, Lands and Natural Resources.
He said that he will continue to speak out on the issue as an independent MLA, although he’s not sure what his political future will hold after electoral ridings in B.C. are restructured, which he fears could eliminate his riding.
Rustad said he harbours no ill-will toward caucus members despite being ousted.
“Some of them I consider to be good friends, all of them I consider as colleagues … I don’t have a grudge or anything like that. But I’m just going to stand up and I’m going to speak on the issues that are important to me, that I believe are important to my riding. That may align with BC Liberals at times, and it may not.”
Rustad said he has previously voted for implementing a carbon tax, that he supported at the time because it was “revenue neutral” and wasn’t going to have that significant impact on people.
“But what we’re seeing today is revenue neutrality has gone, prices keep going up… the cost of food in particular,” he said.
“I’m prepared to take a stand on this issue … These environmental elites are pushing policies that are hurting people, causing hardship and it’s wrong. It’s time to stand up and say, enough is enough.”