Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have provided permits and investment credits to establish a liquefied natural gas export industry in B.C.

Prospects for B.C.’s biggest investment

Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have set a path for LNG industry in B.C.

VICTORIA – Now that the political back-and-forth is over, there are two questions left about the Petronas-led proposal to make the biggest private-sector investment in B.C. history.

Will it actually happen? And is it a good deal or a bad one?

Premier Christy Clark ducked the first question on the day the project agreement for Pacific Northwest LNG was approved by the B.C. legislature.

“After many predictions about the Canucks and the Alberta election, I don’t make predictions any more,” Clark said. “But I can say that this project has gone farther than any of our critics said that it would.”

For what it’s worth, my prediction is on record: it will go ahead. The latest evidence is the company’s continued, costly effort to gain federal and local approval for a suspension bridge to Lelu Island to minimize the marine impact. Lax Kw’alaams Band members could not have had details on that change from an underwater pipeline when they voted to oppose the project in May.

Is it a good deal? The mayors of Prince Rupert and Port Edward have made their views clear – they see it as a lifeline for an area that has struggled for years with a faded forest and fishing industry.

The B.C. NDP is also now clear, having voted against the project agreement in the brief summer session of the legislature that concluded last week. Whether the project proceeds or not, this will be a key election issue in 2017.

NDP leader John Horgan and other MLAs made much of the lack of job guarantees, pointing to similar projects in Australia.

Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman issued a statement with excerpts from the state of Western Australia’s agreement for the Gorgon LNG project. The so-called guarantees contain qualifiers like this: “… except in those cases where … it is not reasonable or economically practical to do so, use labour available within Western Australia.”

Obviously there were no job guarantees, which could only exist in a command economy, in other words a communist dictatorship.

Everyone agrees that specialized trades such as welding alloys for low-temperature operation will be brought in. And LNG processing trains will be shipped in pre-fabricated from places like South Korea, as they have been in Australia and elsewhere.

Pacific Northwest LNG is on record with federal regulators that in the latter stages of construction, the use of foreign labour for the project could reach 70 per cent. Does that make it a bad deal?

Perhaps B.C. could attempt to develop this expertise from the ground up. It seems to me that was tried with aluminum ship fabrication, and it didn’t work out too well.

For David Keane, president of the B.C. LNG Alliance, the question is how many large LNG projects, pipelines and all, can be managed at the same time as the Site C dam is being built. It was skilled labour shortages, and particularly a shortage of supervisors, that caused Australia to lose some of its proposed projects.

Keane said all LNG proponents here want to use as much local labour as they can, because it’s less expensive and it builds local support. And he disagrees that B.C. is a sweet deal for the industry. Among other things, pipelines have to be built across two mountain ranges.

Not only that, B.C. producers would pay an LNG income tax, which is a first in the history of the industry. Add to that PST, GST, payroll taxes, municipal taxes and federal and provincial corporate income taxes. Add aboriginal revenue sharing, and we have a deal.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

B.C. freestyle skier wins gold

Cassie Sharpe of Comox shines in the halfpipe

B.C. Health Minister announces plan for new hospital in Terrace

“This means more beds, a level three trauma centre, better surgery and better care,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

B.C. Family Day to move to third week in February next year

Premier John Horgan said the move is to better align the holiday with businesses and families

B.C. to increase minimum wage to $15.20/hour in 2021

Premier John Horgan says next increase will come in June

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Canada rounds out Day 11 earning gold in 2 more events

Comox Valley’s Cassie Sharpe and fan-favourites Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir all earned golds

Trudeau announces two-way $1 billion investment deal with India

Some of India’s biggest companies to invest more than $250 million in Canada in the coming years

’60s Scoop group educates survivors, pushes rejection of federal settlement

Federal government’s compensation proposal includes $50 million for an Indigenous Healing Foundation

As ‘Black Panther’ shows, inclusion pays at the box office

At the box office, inclusion is paying — and often, it’s paying off big time

Washington senator wants B.C. to follow suit and phase out net-pen fish farms

An American ban will be less effective in the shared ecosystem of the Salish Sea, senator says

Virtue and Moir end ice dance careers with Olympic gold

Virtue and Moir’s gold medal win at the Olympics makes them the world’s most decorated figure skaters

Canadians find living in small spaces teaches creativity

Canadian families choosing to live in small spaces to bring closeness to children

Most Read