Op-ed: Desperate premier selling British Columbians short on LNG

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By John Horgan, Leader of BC’s New Democrats

The premier of British Columbia’s job is to represent the interests of British Columbians first. She is supposed to work for the people who live here, the people who are raising their families here, the people who make our province successful.

So when Premier Christy Clark announced a deal this week with Malaysian state-owned oil company Petronas for a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant, it was disappointing to see that she is clearly not putting the interest of British Columbians first.

The B.C. Liberals made big promises about creating an LNG industry, promises they can’t keep. They promised we’d have LNG plants up and running this year. Yet not one shovel has been put in the ground.

The premier and the B.C. Liberals are now desperate, and they are willing to do anything to get even one company to commit to building an LNG plant here – even if it means signing a deal that doesn’t deliver the benefits they promised to British Columbians.

The details of the deal are still being kept secret, but here is what we know so far:

There is no commitment to jobs for British Columbians.  In fact, Petronas has filed a report saying they will use up to 70 per cent temporary foreign workers on the project. That’s not good enough.

The deal locks in a low tax rate for use of our natural gas for 23 years, meaning Petronas benefits from any increase in prices in the future, not British Columbians.

And if British Columbia decides to increase environmental protection in a way that affects the LNG plant, we will pay for that too, not the company.

Finally, the premier signed an agreement with Petronas knowing that there is no agreement with the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, who have just rejected a billion-dollar offer to support the new LNG plant.

New Democrats want to see B.C. build an LNG industry, but it has to be done right. That means putting the people of this province first.

Jobs for British Columbians must come first. A fair return on our resources for British Columbians must come first.  Working with First Nations as true partners must come first.  And protecting our air, land and water must come first.

That’s what British Columbians expect, and it’s not at all clear that Premier Clark has achieved any of them in her desperation to move this project forward.

Premier Clark has worked very hard to make sure that Petronas has what it needs as it considers building an LNG plant in B.C.  But I am not at all sure she has worked nearly as hard to make sure British Columbians get what they need.