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BC government puts LNG development high on the priority list

VICTORIA (NEWS1130) – Premier Christy Clark says she wants British Columbians to cash in on the trillion-dollar development potential of liquefied natural gas in the province.

In its throne speech today, the government announced a new BC Prosperity Fund that could accumulate between $100 billion and $260 billion in revenues from LNG royalties and business taxes over the next 30 years.

The Liberal government promised in its September 2011 jobs plan the development of three LNG plants in northwest BC by 2020, and that figure has since been upgraded to five plants.

The government says the main focus of the Prosperity Fund will be to reduce the provincial debt, currently at $56 billion, but it also suggests the fund could help eliminate the sales tax and invest in education and communities.

Recent estimates of the impact of LNG development in BC’s north includes the creation of 39,000 jobs over the nine-year construction period and 75,000 new full-time jobs if the five facilities reach full production.

But Political Scientist Hamish Talford says it is not something that can be done overnight.

“To sort of stake your future on natural gas, I’m wondering, doesn’t seem like the best possible bet. I’m sure they’ll be called on it in the days to come.”

Talford says making note of funds going into health care and the reduction of child poverty which are strengths of the NDP shows the government isn’t worrying about any other party as competition.

Talford notes the party essentially abandoned her families first platform which could hurt the party.

The throne speech also says the Liberals will start work to create a school of traditional Chinese medicine at a BC post secondary institution.

The NDP’s John Horgan is not impressed with what he heard today. “It seems to me, that we were away from the Legislature for eight months, and what we got was a 30 year plan with a fund that has nothing in it.”

He doubts a new government will proceed with the kind of prosperity fund announced in the throne speech.

Horgan says the Liberals are running out of gas. “If you go back to governments on their last legs, issuing throne speeches, you’ll find talk of a new innovative fund that will change the future. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.”

Some Liberal opponents are worried about environmental risks that could come from liquefied natural gas development.

BC Green Party Leader Jane Sterk is worried about fracking, she says that will hurt our fresh water supply.

She points out other potential consequences. “Damage to human health, and the soil and our air sheds.”

“We should be putting a moratorium on additional natural gas plants and we should be transitioning our economy to one that is based in renewable energy… not one on fossil fuels.”

The BC Conservative Party says the liberals are looking at natural gas as a win-fall with nothing to document it.