Tuesday, July 14, 2015

MLA Rice outlines her objections to the Petronas/Pacific NorthWest LNG agreement

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice
speaking on LNG issues as part of
Day One of the Review of the agreement
with Petronas/Pacific Northwest LNG
"The Premier promised us the moon with LNG, and she did so to win an election. Now we're being told that this is good enough, but I don't accept that. My opponents have criticized me for not standing up for the people in the north by opposing this agreement, but I assure you, Hon. Speaker, I stand here today doing quite the contrary. It's a bad deal for my community and a bad deal for B.C., and so I oppose this." -- North Coast MLA, Jennifer Rice wrapping up her twenty minutes of observations  as part of the opening day of discussion at the Legislature on the BC Government agreement with Petronas/Pacific NorthWest LNG

Monday, was Day One of the summer session for the British Columbia Legislature, a return to work for Members that will deal for the most part with issues related to the recently announced agreement between the Province of British Columbia and the Malaysian energy giant Petronas.

As expected, the first day of the return to work it would seem has set the tone for the discussion to come leading up to the vote on the agreement.

The opening remarks of the day followed the theme of the NDP opposition calling into question a number of facets of the agreement, while the Liberal Government has begun to focus its attention to the theme of the opposition seeking to scuttle job opportunities and investment in the province, with the Northwest a particular target for the government's observations on NDP policy.

Both Premier Christy Clark and Opposition Leader John Horgan outlined those themes in their introductory remarks to the Legislature on Monday afternoon.

The Premier's introduction of the Bill interrupted twice by protesters in the gallery,  the call of "sell out" and other commentary of opposition to the bill ringing through the Legislature until those that were protesting the bill were removed.

Global BC --  Rare B. C. Leg summer sitting to debate LNG (video)
Globe and Mail -- B. C. tables bill to lay guidelines for proposed LNG plant
CBC -- B. C. Legislature debates law on 25 year LNG deal
Vancouver Sun -- Party leaders stake their LNG claims
Vancouver Province -- NDP, Horgan following Liberal's LNG script perfectly
Victoria News -- B. C. politicians battle over LNG jobs
Victoria Times Colonist -- LNG deal not good for B. C., NDP Leader says as legislation introduced
Victoria Times Colonist -- LNG projects a balancing act for the Opposition

Following their opening reviews, the floor was turned over to a range of MLA's who followed party talking points right down the list for the bulk of the afternoon session.

Included in the lineup of participants on the afternoon was North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who delivered a twenty minute address to the Legislature, occasionally interrupted by Liberal members who challenged some of her observations on the nature of the agreement.

Her opening commentary provided for the main theme of her presentation, which suggests that the proponent, Petronas, is receiving a good deal, but that the agreement is not so much a good deal for the people of British Columbia.

"This project development agreement is a good deal for the proponents — namely, Petronas — but it's not a good deal for British Columbians. With a very pompous, obsessional LNG election campaign, the Premier of this province has put us in a very poor negotiating position. She's locked us into a 25-year deal at a time when natural gas prices are at historic lows. The deal contains zero job guarantees for British Columbians — zero. 

This deal gives foreign-owned corporations special lower tax rates through the natural tax credit"

As Ms. Rice had noted previous to her return to Victoria, some themes that she planned to address during her allowed time included First Nation engagement and the environment.

On the first, she offered up some observations on the nature of the agreement and she sees the Government's approach to that First Nation engagement.

While this government claims they are committed to partnering with First Nations on LNG opportunities, they have not reached consensus with a number of impacted First Nations regarding benefit agreements. Furthermore, the project development agreement between Petronas and the government does not envision First Nations as true partners. Instead, it stipulates certain obligations the province has to Petronas in regards to First Nations engagement. 

It's placed in the appendix of their project agreement. It's listed under "Other matters." Is this how the Premier and this government sees First Nations people in British Columbia, as other matters?

The North Coast MLA also outlined how the NDP believes the Liberal party needs to re-evaluate how it has consulted with the Lax Kw'alaam First Nation on issues of Lelu Island.

"We believe that in negotiating any LNG project, the government must respect and make partners of First Nations and recognize their right to share in any of the benefits that may flow from LNG. The government needs to do more than say they will consult with First Nations. Lax Kw'alaams First Nation in my constituency has outright rejected this Petronas proposal, stating environmental and cultural concerns override the financial benefits contained in this deal. They turned down over a billion dollars. 

Lax Kw'alaams have title claim to Lelu Island, the proposed site, and to Flora Bank, the salmon habitat adjacent to Lelu Island. Flora Bank provides a habitat for salmon to mature in the Skeena watershed. They are concerned that the facility poses significant environmental risks to the fish population."

On the theme of the environment, Ms. Rice then turned her attention to Flora Banks and some of the main aspects of her opposition to the development of the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal in that location.

"The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has halted this project three times with concerns to the fish and fish habitat of Flora Banks. 

These concerns are truly valid concerns. The Skeena River and its estuary is the second-largest salmon-producing river in our province. It's the largest undammed river in North America. Flora Banks is one of the most diverse and abundant life-producing eelgrass beds in our province, if not this continent. 

Without Flora Banks, juvenile salmon would have no place to acclimate to the salt water ocean, to hide from predators and gain enough weight to make them strong enough to go out to sea and become the big, beautiful, not to mention delicious, icons we are known the world over for, our salmon. 

Other proponents have already looked at and turned away from Lelu Island as a potential site based on concerns in their ability to construct an LNG terminal that wouldn't have adverse effects to fish and fish habitat. No doubt, the site poses an enormous environmental and engineering challenge for Petronas."

First Nations, commercial fishers and residents up and down the coast and along the Skeena River place tremendous value on the life-sustaining qualities the estuary provides. There is no dollar amount that can compensate people for the fisheries value it provides. Lax Kw'alaams has clearly stated this, and pushing through this project without these concerns addressed is completely disrespectful and plain wrong in my opinion.

Other points of the agreement that the North Coast MLA is troubled with include thoughts as to  how the BC Government has not taken the same path as Australia and Norway, when it comes to LNG development.

The MLA also recited a string of "facts" that she observed have been poorly negotiated by the Province when it comes to its LNG development plans. With Ms. Rice noting how Australia doesn't give tax breaks and protection from future tax increases for any length of time, highlighting how Australia makes a buy local policy a key aspect of development in that country.

To bring her commentary to a conclusion, she relayed the main thrust of the NDP themes of recent weeks, where the NDP has suggested that it supports development of LNG in the province, but with a number of conditions.

Conditions that the NDP believe need to be addressed by the Provincial Government, before any shovels might hit the ground.

The Premier has sold out B.C. families and B.C. workers for political purposes. We support the development of LNG for B.C. We have always said it needs to meet the conditions of a fair return to British Columbians, who own the resource — jobs for every British Columbian ready to work or train; protection for our land, air and water; and true partnerships with First Nations. 

The LNG project development agreement enabling act does not meet any of these conditions. 

That is why I stand here and object to this generational sellout of a deal. I want to see my community and the communities I represent thrive. I want to see British Columbians prosper without tremendous expense to the environment. I want to see First Nations respected and treated as true partners, not as an engagement box to check off in the appendix of an agreement.

The full text of her comments to the Legislature on Monday can be found from the Hansard record here.

Her time to the topic begins at the 17:52 mark and continues until just after 18:14.

You can review the video of the Legislature session from the Archive page, it can be found in the Chamber video section of Monday afternoon's session, following the same timeline as the archived text.

Introduction of the Bill and the full day's discussion begins at the 14:25 mark of the Legislature session.

Note: a copy of Ms. Rice's presentation to the Legislature of Monday was posted to the NDP MLA's video archive on Tuesday afternoon, you can review it below.

For more items on Legislature developments see our archive page here.

For further background on the Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal see our archive page here.

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