VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark heralded her government’s blueprint for British Columbia’s first liquefied natural gas plant Monday as a moment destined to be etched in history as she attacked the Opposition New Democrats for opposing her plans.
“It really will be a historic debate, one that people will look back on for decades,” she said after the government introduced LNG legislation that NDP Leader John Horgan said he will not support.
“They are inventing numbers out of the blue,” said Clark, adding Horgan’s calculations of 70 per cent temporary foreign workers on a proposed LNG project are misguided.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” she said. “My view, and I’ve expressed this to all the proponents, is B.C. first, Canada second, and then start looking in the United States and other places in the world for temporary workers.”
Protesters chanting, “No consent, no LNG,” disrupted Clark’s opening statement in the legislature. She was forced to sit down as security officials removed the protesters from the building.
“We’re wondering why the province has called an emergency session to hold the door open for industry that will actually accelerate climate change,” said protester Anna Gerrard.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong introduced LNG legislation Monday, saying a proposed multibillion-dollar LNG plant near Prince Rupert would be the largest private investment in the province’s history.
Pacific NorthWest LNG, a joint venture backed by Malaysian state-owned energy giant Petronas, plans to build a plant at Lelu Island though it has not yet made a final investment decision.
Horgan said the NDP will vote against the legislation because there are no job guarantees for British Columbians.
“I certainly believe there should be guarantees in a project development agreement that’s giving a 25-year tax holiday to a foreign company, that we should get something back in return other than making a final investment decision in time for the next election.”
The New Democrats cited Petronas documents that forecast “Canadian workers may account for 30 per cent of the on-site workforce for the remaining two years of construction.”
B.C. politicians were back at the legislature Monday to debate a single piece of legislation geared to pave the way for the proposed US$36-billion LNG plant.
De Jong said earlier Monday that the Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act will serve as a tool to grant investors certainty from targeted tax increases and environmental regulations.
He said the law provides the company with a 25-year assurance specific to LNG-related income and ensures that energy and environmental taxes do not increase while corporate and sales taxes could rise.
In exchange, the project will create up to 4,500 construction jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenues, de Jong said.
He said the legislation is the last part of the puzzle the government has been putting together for years to attract an LNG industry to B.C.
All that’s left is a federal environmental certificate approving the project, de Jong said, adding Pacific NorthWest LNG is “anxious to begin.”