B.C. First Nation buys land from province ahead of projected LNG boom
by Robin Rowland, The Canadian Press
Land in Kitimat, B.C., will be home to mixed commercial-residential development as LNG industry takes off
KITIMAT, B.C.—Premier Christy Clark travelled to the northern British Columbia town of Kitimat this week to mark the sale of land to a local First Nation and extol the virtues of liquefied natural gas (LNG) the same day the federal government approved a controversial pipeline that would end in the community.
Clark appeared at an event in Kitimat, where the Haisla Nation has reached a deal with the province to buy the site of a former downtown hospital, which was demolished in 2005.
The land has sat idle since then, although it is now considered prime real estate with the growth of industrial projects such as the $3.3-billion Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. Kitimat Modernization project at the aluminum smelter, as well as proposed LNG developments such as Shell Canada Ltd.-led LNG Canada and the Chevron Corp.-led Kitimat LNG projects.
“It’s time for economic development,” said Clark. “It will be such a big part of creating lots of energy, lots of jobs in the community but it’s really a demonstration of the partnerships that we’re going to have to have to make LNG and prosperity work in British Columbia.”
While Clark hopes Kitimat will one day be in the heart of a booming LNG industry, it is also the proposed end-point of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry oilsands crude from Alberta to a coastal export terminal.
Ottawa gave the project conditional approval this week.
Clark’s government has set out five conditions for her support, including a “fair share” of the benefits, and she reiterated that so far no project, including Northern Gateway, has met those prerequisites.
Her environment minister said the federal approval of the pipeline doesn’t change that assessment.
On the other hand, Clark said proposed LNG projects are meeting her conditions.
“The companies that have invested in natural gas here in British Columbia are going to show the country that you can do business in British Columbia and we do it in a way that protects our environment and respects First Nations,” said Clark.
“We are proving we can do it, because we’re proving we can do it with LNG.”
Clark noted there are more than 13 LNG proposals at various stages of development,
Ellis Ross, chief counsellor of the Haisla Nation, attempted to contrast the aboriginal opposition that has overshadowed the Northern Gateway process with the land sale in Kitimat.
“This is an example of how things should be done,” he said.
“Case law dictates how consultation must take place and if you respect and abide by them, I think it proves we can actually come to a solution.”
The Haisla Nation reached an agreement with the province to purchase the former Kitimat hospital site in May.
The First Nation will now enter negotiations with the District of Kitimat to develop the land.
Ross said the plans include a hotel and condominium, a restaurant and a shopping centre, to be built with private sector partners over the next few years.
Ross did not put a cost on the project, since the first step is to do a survey for environmental remediation of the site.
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