VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark’s government launched its fall legislative session Monday with a speech from the throne offering progress on resource trade, partnership with aboriginal people and labour peace with public school teachers.
The speech described B.C. following the same path to Asia for liquefied natural gas as it did in expanding lumber trade when the U.S. housing market declined.
“Like forestry, B.C.’s natural gas industry has relied on exports to the United States,” said the speech, read by Lt. Governor Judith Guichon. “But the American shale gas revolution has meant the export south has dried up – and is never coming back.”
The gas industry employs 1,700 people in the Fort Nelson area alone, and can be maintained only by reaching Asian markets. The speech notes that Chinese LNG consumption rose by a fifth in the first half of 2014.
“This is a chance – not a windfall,” the government notes, after one of the leading investment groups warned of shifting conditions that could delay its participation.
Clark told reporters after the speech that talks continue with Petronas, leader of one of the largest of 15 current LNG proposals, with a pipeline and gas export facilities planned for the B.C. north coast.
“We are good at negotiating in this government,” Clark said. “We’ve got a good record. We’re going to keep negotiating hard.”
The government plans to table framework legislation this month to define the environmental standards and tax structure for the industry, which has more than a dozen international players considering LNG development.
NDP leader John Horgan said it’s been a year since the government first promised a tax structure for LNG, and now with a deadline looming at of the end of October, Clark is trying to back away from 2013 election promises to retire B.C.’s debt and slash taxes based on LNG revenue.
“I think we gave away our bargaining power when it comes to liquefied natural gas,” Horgan said. “Everyone in the sector knows that the premier is way out on a branch and made commitments that she cannot keep.”
The speech described the recent six-year labour agreement with B.C. teachers after a strike that stretched from spring to the early weeks of the fall school term.
“British Columbia can look forward to five years of labour peace,” the speech said. “This is unprecedented. We cannot let this opportunity pass.”