Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A glimpse into the NDP's LNG policy?

One advantage of having the Bill Good show arrive in Prince Rupert to focus on the topic of LNG development is that politicians seem to enjoy sharing their thoughts with the CKNW talk show host.

Today's program which was focused on Port Development and the recent rush towards LNG development offered up a number of spots for politicians to share their talking points and review the concept of that development.

We already know that the Liberal party is championing the development of LNG in the province, the main interest for the North Coast  the proposed shipment terminals for the Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

In recent weeks, the Premier in particular has been rather effusive in her pursuit of LNG development.

BC Liberal Energy Minister Rich Coleman provided the view from his party to start the show from 8:30 to 8:45 AM, providing an update on the progress of the LNG file and delivering the talking points of the last few months that the Party appears to be banking the next election campaign on.

Mr. Good played a clip from a recent interview with SFU professor Mark Jaccard, who has concerns over the Liberal government's plans on development of LNG in the province, a critique of the Liberals plans that didn't deter Mr. Coleman from finding positives in the Liberal LNG agenda.

The NDP however, has been a little more circumspect when it comes to where they stand on the prospect of LNG development and shipment through the North Coast of the province.

On the Tuesday program however, we seem to have received a bit of a glimpse into the NDP's approach to the LNG question, with a number of guests from the party appearing on the show today.

John Horgan the NDP energy critic was first up on the agenda for the day, his appearance from 8:45 to 9 AM, offered up caution as a possible buzzword for the upcoming election campaign when it comes to LNG development.

Outlining how he welcomes the opportunity to increase the value of the provinces resources, but where he differs from the Liberal approach is that he and the NDP want to have a discussion on the downside of such development.

He outlined that before the we get too far down the road on prosperity funds and eliminating sales taxes and such, that a full review of the down side of the development of the resource is required.

One he would like to see in a frank and open format, consulting with a number of participants in the process from company, to community and First Nations.

He called into question some of the assumptions of the Liberals revolving around BC Hydro requirements for the Industrial expansion and perhaps anticipated subsidies for LNG development, as well as concerns over Green House Gas Emissions that could come from the LNG development.

Stressing that the NDP would have plans to hold a public review into the practice of fracking, the controversial method of retrieving gas and a process that much of the forward planning seems to revolve around.

His take on the prospect for job expansion didn't provide for a fixed number, though he did suggest that once the spurt of pipeline construction, Terminal development and gas field development was complete, the provision for permanent jobs from LNG wasn't as high as we would be led to believe.

The current MLA for the riding Gary Coons appeared from 9 to 9:15 AM on the program, he too offered up the thought that while excited for the prospects ahead, in his opinion, Rupertites were looking at the LNG option with caution, concerned over the impact that it may have on the environment of the region.

He expressed concerns over air quality, environmental impact and worries over fracking, calling for an environmental panel to examine all the aspects of the LNG plans.

He stressed that as a province we need to look at LNG development through an environmental lens.

Mr. Coons and Mr. Good also discussed Mr. Black's proposed Oil Refinery for Kitimat, a project that the outgoing North Coast MLA described more of a pipe dream, which he doesn't believe will come to pass.

As the former BC Ferries critic, part of the discussion of the fifteen minutes involved a look at Mr. Coon's thoughts on the current state of BC Ferries and what kind of vision he sees for the coastal transportation system.

Mr. Good asked if the NDP was ready to provide it's vision for the future of BC Ferries, though Mr. Coons couldn't provide a timetable as to whether the NDP view on BC Ferries would be revealed before the May election.

The most anticipated of appearances however, no doubt belonged to Prince Rupert City Councillor Jennifer Rice, who having secured the NDP nomination in January is set for the upcoming May election campaign.  Since her nomination she hasn't had much to say on many of the issues of the riding, especially the hot topic of the moment LNG development.

In recent days however, she has been a bit more active on her twitter feed and recently updated her website portal for the upcoming campaign. Still, for the moment it offers up more of a general overview than any dedicated examination of local issues.

Her appearance from 11:45 to Noon provided for what may have been her first public talking points on the LNG topic since gaining the nomination.

Her appearance touched on the nature of her quest for political office after just one term on city council.

From there, the conversation moved on to the prospect of change and development in the region, the Councillor advising that it was some of that change that spurred her on to run in the provincial election.

Of the nature of the perception of the NDP policies on LNG development, she was cautious and parsimonious in her thoughts on the topic, offering up that she was pragmatic on the nature of development.

Adding that there was room for LNG development on the north coast, though she called into question the nature of the number of projects that seem to be in the proposal stage of late.

One of the challenges according to Councillor Rice is that there is no plan in place for development, the current discussion more of a boom or a race.

She called upon a past marine planning process called PNCIMA (see website here)  an initiative she worked on, which examined development on the North Coast, expressing disappointment that it is a report that appears to have been tossed aside in the quest for development.

The closing moments of the show offered her the chance to express what she believes will be better for the community. She answered that she would like to have a better discussion on BC Ferries and how it impacts on the North Coast, though, like Mr. Coon's before her, she couldn't offer up any strong ideas on how she would change the nature of the Ferry Service.

She did express the concerns of residents on Haida Gwaii over the cost of groceries that are extremely high owing to freight charges to the Islands, an issue she wished to work on to improve for residents there.

To wrap up her session, she discussed the nature of the division in British Columbia and the need to better inform all regions of the province as to what each region has to offer. The topic of Tourism and the need to bring back Tourism BC was discussed as well through the filter of BC Ferries.

For those looking for a Universal declaration of support for LNG development, or a more detailed review of her thoughts on the issue, her appearance will no doubt be a little disappointing.

However, her nod towards such initiatives as the PNCIMA plan, might help provide those inclined to seek out more information with a helpful introduction to where she is heading on issues of development.

The nature of her appearance on the program will at least offer up the opening for those that want more information from the NDP on the topic of LNG development on the North Coast, looking for more detail and perhaps the blue print for it moving forward.

You can review all of the NDP's points on LNG development from the CKNW Audio Vault or the CKNW Podcast portal, using the time frames above as your guide through the day's programming.

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