Premier’s words cannot be trusted – she is failing to ensure responsible LNG development can move forward

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VICTOHorganFBRIA – While Premier Christy Clark certainly knew what to say about B.C.’s LNG potential, she has not done what is needed in order to ensure responsible LNG development moves forward, said New Democrat leader John Horgan and spokesperson for natural gas development Bruce Ralston.

“Even though Premier Clark and the B.C. Liberals are completely pre-occupied with LNG to the exclusion of other important economic sectors, they are failing to do what’s needed to ensure responsible development of B.C.’s LNG potential,” said New Democrat Leader John Horgan.

“The premier gave away a strong bargaining position when she promised total debt elimination, a fantasy fund of billions of dollars and 100,000 jobs when LNG plants are up and running starting in 2015,” said Horgan. “That sent a clear message to potential investors that her Liberal government would become desperate for a deal, putting British Columbia in a weaker bargaining position and threatening our ability to ensure a fair return for the province.”

Horgan said there’s a reason why several companies have already pulled away from LNG development in B.C. and why the biggest potential investor, Petronas, is threatening to follow suit.

“It was a huge misstep to promise too much with no plan to deliver on those promises,” said New Democrat spokesperson for natural gas development Bruce Ralston.

“There have been major delays in introducing the tax regime and regulations for LNG development, there have been delays in implementing a skills training plan and, rather than engendering support from First Nations, Clark and the B.C. Liberals have instead antagonized these important partners,” said Ralston.

Horgan and Ralston outlined the government’s record on the four conditions Horgan told the recent UBCM convention are necessary for responsible LNG development:

1) That projects expressly guarantee jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians.

The promise-happy government has not even said it will achieve express commitments from proponents that British Columbians will have the first and significant share of jobs and skills training opportunities. Instead, Christy Clark’s Liberals are capping two decades of undermining skills training in B.C. by taking a defeatist attitude that says we will have to rely heavily on foreign workers to build LNG.

2) That British Columbians receive a fair return for the resource that belongs to them.

Right out of the gate, Christy Clark made unrealistic and unachievable promises about LNG. Now, having ditched the fiscal framework in its Budget 2014, she is headed to be a year and a half behind schedule in defining B.C.’s share.  It’s no wonder proponents say they are still far away from being able to make a final investment decision.

3) That government respects and makes partners of First Nations and recognizes their right to a share of any benefits that flow from the resource.

If Christy Clark was serious about respecting and including First Nations – and keeping B.C.’s focus on projects that could benefit all British Columbians – she would have given Stephen Harper an unconditional “No” on Enbridge’s Alberta bitumen pipeline.  Instead, she is giving her conditional support to a project that puts First Nation and other B.C. communities at great risk with little benefit.  As we saw in her government’s recent reversal on gas plant environmental assessment, she still does not know or care enough how to work with First Nations to share the benefits of the LNG opportunity. If her government had spent the last three years negotiating on aboriginal title with First Nations – rather than spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars fighting a losing battle against the Tsilhqot’in– there would today be more opportunity and benefits for First Nations and greater certainty for investors and workers on where and how LNG related pipelines and plants will proceed.

4)  That our air, land and water be protected, and that our resource development be as clean as possible.

Christy Clark said she would deliver the world’s cleanest LNG industry, but instead she is trying to sweep environmental issues under the table.  A government that knows how to gain social licence to move LNG forward would today be leading an evidence-based discussion with communities on hydraulic fracturing as it is conducted here in B.C. to identify and mitigate any impacts. Premier Clark’s failure to deal with this issue, and with implications for greenhouse gases, has worsened – not improved – public confidence in this aspect of the LNG opportunity.

“Premier Clark’s ‘say anything, but do the wrong thing’ approach to this opportunity has hurt, not helped, potential LNG investors.  It is hurting the workers, families and communities who are hoping for benefits from LNG development,” said Horgan.