Les Leyne: LNG-opportunities website is empty

Les Leyne mugshot generic‘Find Opportunities,” it says on the government’s LNG Buy B.C. website.

As a lot of Nigerian agents for wealthy families seeking to quietly move their assets know, I’m not one to let an opportunity go by.

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That’s the kind of enticing button that can change your life. Facing the bleak prospect of watching MLAs read talking points into the legislative record on Monday afternoon, I decided to explore it. A part-time professional-type gig in the $200,000 range might make a nice change. And Jobs Minister Shirley Bond is responsible for the site, so it’s not like it’s a scam or anything.

You can search by keywords and filter content by various sectors and regions of this land of opportunity. So I took a flyer on opportunities for “newspaperman” in “arts, entertainment and recreation,” a sector I am passionate about.

Nothing.

I tried “digital media and ICT,” whatever the hell that is, thinking I could sift through all the opportunities and fake it.

Nada.

“Retail Trade: Sports, hobbies, books” looked to play to my strong suits, so I tried that, but got nothing.

Maybe newspaperman is too limiting. I deleted that, and set out to explore “public administration,” “tourism,” “international education” and “other services.”

Zilch.

Maybe it’s time to get my hands dirty and make the big bucks. So I ranged through “mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction,” “agri-food” and “manufacturing: wood, paper, chemicals, plastics.”

Zip.

Using my journalism skills and the process of elimination, I determined that in all the exciting sectors in all the magnificent regions of B.C., there isn’t a single “opportunity” listed on the site.

Which is why the NDP Opposition raised a few queries about the site on Monday in the legislature. The primary one is: If LNG Buy B.C. advocate Gordon Wilson is pulling down $150,000 a year to promote opportunities, where are the opportunities?

NDP Leader John Horgan has been searching the site for two years and has concluded the only opportunity the website has presented went to Wilson himself.

That’s not strictly accurate. Because the Opposition requested the contract for the company that built the website and it shows they billed taxpayers more than $850,000 for the work. The firm also did work for the B.C. Liberal Party during the election.

The Opposition also turned up some progress reports from Wilson over the past few years about the LNG Buy B.C. website. There is a lot of emphasis on how he encouraged proponents to list opportunities on the site. But there are also notes about identifying impediments for B.C. business engagement. After the site went live, he noted general satisfaction at how easy it was to use, “but also some skepticism with respect to the posting of opportunities and real connectivity.”

LNG Minister Rich Coleman said the NDP negativity ignores the billions invested to date and the thousands working on LNG. And Bond said hundreds of businesses have registered on the site. But those are people who are looking for work. It’s the work itself that’s missing from the site.

There’s an enormously complicated back story to all this. It has to do with Wilson being the former leader of the B.C. Liberals, until his caucus mutinied and he walked the plank and formed a new party with the new love of his life, then-MLA Judy Tyabji — that lasted a few years until premier Glen Clark put him in his NDP cabinet. Wilson later even ran for the NDP leadership, before dropping out at the last minute.

By 2013 he had moved back to the B.C. Liberal camp, and blogged about why people should vote for Premier Christy Clark, even though he was an LNG skeptic. His wife, Judy, is writing a book about Christy Clark. But never mind all that.

A lot of B.C. firms have done prep work on LNG, but the big bucks won’t arrive until someone commits to a project. And whether or not that happens, nobody seems interested in using a website to get involved.

Just So You Know: One thing about that Opportunities button — it’s blindingly fast and responds to commands instantly. Because it doesn’t have to churn through a lot of content.

lleyne@timescolonist.com

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