Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Northwest MLA's look for more conversation on LNG in region

It was a one, two, three punch in the Legislature on Monday.  As Skeena MLA Robin Austin, Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson and North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, all outlined some of their thoughts and in some cases, concerns on the LNG files of the Northwest.

All three were looking to engage the Legislature  in a larger discussion in the future, one that will focus on the prospect of LNG development and the impact that it may have on local communities.

Mr. Austin for his part, had concerns on fracking and greenhouse gas emissions, two issues that he believes British Columbians need more information on

"I think the average person in British Columbia still doesn't understand what fracking is. If you start to bring up things like greenhouse gas emissions or fracking, very often, particularly from the minister on the other side, we hear: "Oh, you're anti-jobs."

Well, no, we're not anti-jobs. We're simply wanting to make sure that British Columbians understand how this industry can benefit British Columbians, and we think it's fair to have an adult conversation on the challenges that come about as a result of having a liquefied natural gas industry.

For her part, Ms. Rice, touched on the boom and bust cycle in recent years in Prince Rupert and how the interest in LNG development on the North Coast is also causing consternation in some of the coastal communities that rely on the fishery for their livelihoods.

"I also represent communities on the central coast — Bella Bella and Bella Coola and many First Nations communities. They have been sort of contacting me, anxious about the fact that once again another LNG proposal has come about into the media, and they're having a hard time keeping them straight.

Thus far, there are about 12 to 13 — depending on who you talk to or what newspaper you read — proposed between Kitimat and Prince Rupert, so they're getting a little bit anxious. These are communities that are primarily subsistence communities relying on hunting and fishing and harvesting resources from the sea — clams, cockles and shellfish.

They rely on the annual salmon run. They're concerned about what this increased shipping traffic is going to look like for their communities — an LNG carrier, along with possibly oil tankers, passing through their territories.

How are these impacts going to affect their ability to access their food? I too, am anxious to have that adult conversation that my colleague the member for Skeena proposed, because communities want to have this dialogue.

At first it just seemed like one or two proposals, but now we have over a dozen. There are a lot of things to take into consideration. With all the speculation, in my community particularly, I have people walking through my community office now about housing concerns. I've had in the last month three people come in to me who were recently renovicted. This is all based on the speculation of LNG.

Ms. Rice also outlined some of her thoughts on the impact that some of that speculation is having on Prince Rupert, with infrastructure concerns, as well as social and housing issues high on her list of

I live in Prince Rupert, which is a community that for over the last decade has been in the bust part of the boom-bust cycle and is anxiously looking for new industry to help support the community where we have crumbling roads and bursting water pipes that just get fixed on a band-aide basis. We have some of the highest property tax rates in the province due to the fact that we just can't support our aging infrastructure. 

We actually even have wooden water pipes still. So there are communities such as Prince Rupert that are really anxious for the benefits of the LNG industry to come to the community. 
A few years ago I was renting a house. I could rent a whole house, over 2,000 square feet, in Prince Rupert. You could rent a house in my community for less than $1,000. I remember negotiating $200 less than the actual price that this house was offered at. And the landlord just snapped it up right away because we had such vacancies in our community. It was a renter's market; you could just negotiate. 

Now the cost of renting a house in Prince Rupert is double that. Again, people are coming to my door saying they can't afford to rent houses or apartments. Part of the challenge in Prince Rupert is that we have some of the oldest housing stock in the province. 

Many houses are over 100 years old. If you know anything about Prince Rupert, we have the most amount of cloud cover in North America, and we have some of the highest precipitation in North America, at 259 days a year. 

So we do have this to take care of and to look at right now. I don't think we can wait until the market settles out which LNG projects are going to come to fruition, because right now I have a housing need in my community. 

This is a challenge that I would look forward to addressing with the other side.

MLA Donaldson also offered up his review of the current status of LNG development as it affects his riding.

All three of the Northwest MLA's called for further review and an "adult conversation" on the topic in the Legislature, looking for the Provincial Government to address some of their concerns and lay the groundwork to offer further conversation on the themes.

You can review the full exchange on Monday from all three through the House Legislative Archive, their string of observations starts at the 1105 mark of the timeline on the Legislature Blues.

The video archive of the Monday morning session also provides us with coverage of the LNG topic as reviewed by the Northwest MLAs,  you can examine their contributions starting at the 69 minute mark of the video player timeline.

We have more on events at the British Columbia Legislature on our Archive page.

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