Op-ed: B.C. Liberals get it wrong on LNG

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By John Horgan, B.C. New Democrat leader

I support the development of B.C.’s LNG industry — done right.

Doing it right means insisting on jobs and training opportunities for B.C. workers.

It means protecting our air, land and water by controlling all greenhouse gas emissions, from wellhead to waterline.

It means ensuring that British Columbians get a fair return for their resource.

And it means the industry must respectfully involve and benefit First Nations.

In the legislature, the B.C. Liberals have brought in legislation that will ensure that our LNG industry does not meet those standards.

To them, doing it right means something very different. It means giving up on B.C. workers, turning back our climate change commitments, and letting industry call the shots when it comes to setting their tax rate, cutting it in half.

I believe that the LNG industry can and should be built and run 100 per cent by British Columbians. But the B.C. Liberals don’t agree.

Premier Christy Clark promised 100,000 LNG jobs, but now she is trying to arrange for the industry to bring more temporary foreign workers into the province. These are lower-wage workers on short-term contracts who won’t be given the chance to make a life here in B.C. through immigration, like so many of our families have.

Having promised industry these lower-paid temporary workers, the premier is now trying to claim that the Temporary Foreign Worker program is in fact an immigration program, when she knows full well it isn’t. She is even trying to suggest that critics of the program are racist, which is deplorable.

Temporary workers brought to this province to work in LNG would not have a chance to build a life here. They will surrender their passport to their employer when they arrive, and get a return ticket home when their boss decides their work is done.

That’s why I support an LNG industry where B.C. workers, including new Canadians, are first in line for jobs.

And I think Minister for Natural Gas Rich Coleman was wrong when he called that idea — the idea that LNG should be for B.C. workers — “ridiculous.”

With construction still years away, this is the time for the B.C. Liberals to insist on jobs and training guarantees from LNG investors. And to put in place with LNG companies the training to ensure that every willing, qualified or trainable British Columbian helps build LNG, no matter what part of the province they come from, no matter whether they are first or second generation British Columbians or First Nations. But instead, the legislation they have introduced, which provides no express guarantees of jobs and training opportunities, shows that they have given up on B.C. workers.

In addition to promises of jobs for British Columbians in this industry, Premier Clark also said in the last election that our LNG would be the cleanest in the world. Now we know that she had no idea how to make that happen.

An LNG industry in B.C. needs to protect our air, land and water, and that means honouring our climate change commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the legislation introduced by the B.C. Liberals fails to address upstream emissions from natural gas production. It also gives liquefaction facilities loopholes, meaning that they do not have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now or in the future.

We have a legal obligation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020, but the B.C. Liberals are ignoring this important goal.

The truth is, you just can’t take Premier Clark at her word.

She has cut the LNG tax in half. She has abandoned her jobs commitments, giving up on B.C. workers, to focus on delivering low-wage workers to the industry. And she is giving the LNG industry a free pass on 70 per cent of emissions.

When it comes to LNG, Premier Clark says what she thinks people want to hear, then does what she wants.

This article originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun.