The provincial government introduced legislation Monday that paves the way for a proposed $45-billion liquefied natural gas project in northern B.C.
The bill provides the legal authority for government to enable a project agreement with Pacific NorthWest LNG and any other deals that follow.
The agreement with the Malaysia-led consortium, which was released last week, includes provisions to hold the line on industry-related taxes over the next 25 years.
Future governments would have to compensate the consortium for increases in the LNG income tax or carbon tax, and changes to the natural-gas tax credit or greenhouse-gas-emissions regulations.
“This is an opportunity for the public, for legislators to analyze and discuss the documents and the legislation that will breathe life into a whole new industry and a whole new era of opportunity in B.C.,” Finance Minister Mike de Jong said.
Opposition leader John Horgan promptly announced that the NDP will vote against the bill.
He said the Liberals failed to secure job guarantees, protect the environment or get a fair return for the people of B.C. “A 25-year deal? Who does that? Who does that in the 21st century?”
He said the project handcuffs future governments by granting a “25-year tax holiday to a foreign company” that will rely heavily on temporary foreign workers. “There should be local-hire provisions,” Horgan said. “There should be local-procurement provisions. If Australia can negotiate these arrangements, why can’t B.C.?”
Premier Christy Clark countered by announcing $75 million for trades training and promising that British Columbians will be first in line for LNG jobs. “My view — and I’ve expressed this to all the proponents — is ‘British Columbia first, Canada second and then start looking in the United States and other places around the world for temporary employees,” she said.
Pacific NorthWest LNG president Michael Culbert said the consortium is committed to hiring “as many local, British Columbian and Canadian workers as possible to support our facility in both construction and operations.”
Pacific Northwest LNG is composed of Petronas, Sinopec, JAPEX, Indian Oil Corporation and Petroleum Brunei. The companies plan to build a facility on Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert, that would liquefy and export natural gas, transported by pipeline from northeastern B.C.
The provincial government estimates the project will create 4,500 jobs at peak construction and generate more than $8 billion in provincial revenue by 2030. The project still has to pass a federal environmental assessment.
The government has recalled the legislature for a rare summer session to debate the bill. The house is expected to sit for at least two weeks. As debate began Monday, protesters disrupted Clark’s opening remarks with chants of “No consent, no LNG.” Security staff ushered them from the chamber.
B.C. Green party MLA Andrew Weaver, who represents Oak Bay-Gordon Head, called for an emergency debate Monday on how the province is responding to climate change. “It is sadly ironic that as our forests burn, snowpack melts and frequency of severe summer droughts increase, the government is forcing through its generational sellout embodied in the 25-year LNG agreement with Petronas,” he said.