VICTORIA—New Democrat leader John Horgan says he wants to ensure British Columbians are the central focus of the Liberal government’s proposed development plan for liquefied natural gas (LNG), expected to be introduced in the legislature next month.
Horgan said he will tell municipal leaders attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention that LNG’s benefits must flow to B.C. residents in the form of jobs and not to energy companies through tax breaks.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong has said the proposed LNG legislation will be introduced when the legislature resumes sitting on Oct. 6.
Last February’s budget included details of a proposed two-tier LNG income tax that started at 1.5 per cent and could escalate to seven per cent once a plant is running, but energy companies have said seven per cent is too high.
Horgan says he will discuss the NDP’s four-pillar approach to LNG at the annual convention of municipal politicians.
The four pillars include jobs for British Columbians, involvement of First Nations, benefits to communities and the world’s greenest LNG sector.
“The four elements we want to ensure are, firstly, that the jobs that will be created from an expansion of our natural gas sector go to British Columbians and we’re appropriately trained and we don’t see a massive influx of temporary foreign workers,” Horgan said.
Horgan said a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling granting title to 1,750 square kilometres of land in the Nemiah Valley southwest of Williams Lake to the Tsilhqot’in emphasizes the requirement of governments to include First Nations in resource development decisions.
The Kitimat, B.C., area Haisla Nation has been an active participant in proposed LNG developments in northwest B.C. as have Tsimshian First Nations near Prince Rupert, B.C.
The Liberals have also introduced programs and initiatives to work with and consult First Nations on LNG developments.
Horgan said the Opposition intends to hold the government to its promise to ensure B.C.’s LNG is the cleanest in the world.
Environmental groups say permitting LNG plants to operate with natural gas rather than electricity will elevate green house gas (GHG) emissions and contribute to global warming, but Premier Christy Clark has said B.C.’s proposed gas-burning LNG plants will ultimately reduce pollution in Asia because natural gas is better for the environment than coal.
“Commitments that were made before the (May 2013) election that our LNG industry will be the greenest in the world has to be abided by,” Horgan said.
He said he will also tell municipal leaders that they are not being treated properly by the Liberal government.
He cited recent comments by Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman telling municipalities to go easy on industrial tax rates.
Horgan said municipalities were also rebuked by Transportation Minister Todd Stone about their recent report citing economic hardships caused by increases in BC Ferry fares.
Horgan also questioned the timing of the leaked release this month of a government-commissioned report that concluded municipal governments were not properly controlling the wages they pay unionized and management employees.
“It’s just surprising how little respect that level of government has been given by this (provincial) government,” he said.