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MLA Rustad stands by comments after removal from B.C. Liberal caucus

Step taken after MLA for Nechako-Lakes shared comments from "climate change denier"
John Rustad

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad is not backing down from his views on climate change despite being ousted Thursday from the BC Liberal caucus.

In an interview following the decision Rustad said he has no ill feelings towards party leader Kevin Falcon for taking the step.

"But I'm in a position today where I see a wrong being done in our society and I think it's obligated upon a politician to be able to stand up and call a spade a spade and say 'no, this is wrong, the emperor has no clothes on this.'"

He went on to raise concerns that "environmental policies are hurting people" by pushing up the cost fuel and increasing the scarcity of food.

"It's just wrong on so many levels and I feel obligated to stand up and say that and unfortunately, that view is not one that is reconcilable with Kevin Falcon's perspective on climate change," Rustad said.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Falcon said Rustad has been removed "effective immediately."

A specific reason was not provided, but the step appears to have been taken for sharing a posting questioning the validity of the science behind climate change.

The move caught the attention of the BC NDP who, in a press release issued Thursday morning, accused Rustad of "retweeting misinformation from climate change denier Patrick Moore."

The move prompted BC NDP MLA Grace Lore to call on Falcon to remove Rustad as the BC Liberals' forestry critic.

"Actions speak louder than words. If Kevin Falcon continues to allow John Rustad to remain as a critic of a key environmental file, how seriously is he taking the issue of climate change?," Lore said in the media release.

Falcon initially responded by distancing himself from Rustad, saying in a social media posting on Wednesday the B.C. Liberals "are strongly committed to substantive climate action and restoring B.C.'s place as a world leader on climate policy," and that the MLA "does not speak on behalf of caucus on this issue."

Falcon took the matter a step further today and kicked Rustad out of caucus.

"Politics is a team sport and British Columbians expect their elected officials to work cooperatively on the important issues facing our province.

"Like any team, our caucus operates on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. While a diversity of perspectives are encouraged and a source of strength, they cannot exist without that important foundation in place.

"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."

In the posting Rustad shared, Moore, a founder of Greenpeace back in the 1970s but now an outspoken critic of the environmental movement, claimed there was no net warming in Australia in the past 10 years and that the Great Barrier Reef has more coral cover this year than ever recorded.

In its media release, the BC NDP said Rustad has regularly questioned the science of climate change and cited three examples:

- This spring, Rustad amplified tweets saying that actions to address climate change were too expensive.

- In April 2021, he suggested that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not a pollutant.

- In 2019, he criticized the BC NDP law requiring all vehicles to be sold after 2040 to be zero emissions, falsely stating the province would run out of electricity.

"Despite that public admonishment, Rustad remains forestry critic. It begs the question: why?," the BC NDP goes on to say

Rustad said he plans to sit as an independent MLA for the time being and do the best he can to represent his constituents.

"We'll see what happens. I mean, I'm not sure if I'll run again, I'm not sure if I'll have a riding, my riding may be eliminated," he said in reference to the redrawing of the B.C. electoral boundaries map currently underway.

"I'll explore sort of all options at this point but I do not plan to stay silent on the many issues that are just wrong that are going on in society today and I plan to be vocal about them."