Thursday, November 23, 2017

British Columbia's LNG competitiveness makes for debate in Legislature session

The debate over LNG development across British Columbia continues to make for an ongoing theme for the NDP government to address and much of the credit for keeping the topic on the front burner at the Legislature can go to Skeena MLA Ellis Ross.

As he has for much of this session, Mr. Ross has continued to gain some strong exposure for his work in the Legislature through his work on the energy files, with the Skeena MLA  recently the subject of a high profile review of resource issues last week in the National Post newspaper.

The topic of how competitive British Columbia remains when it comes to the global LNG industry made for a good portion of the afternoon Budget Estimates discussion of Monday this week at the Legislature. As Mr. Ross was once again the point man for the BC Liberal party on the issue, engaged in a lengthy discussion on the issues with Energy and Mines and Petroleum Minister Michelle Mungall.

As part of his line of questions, Mr. Ross noted that with a level of uncertainty when it comes to the NDP governments approach, some of the proponents of projects in the province are in need of answers, pointing towards the LNG Canada project in his own riding, as one project that needs to know what kind of measures the government may have in mind for the industry.

"Time is of the essence, especially for projects like LNG Canada, who want to announce an FID by 2018. That's when the next window of opportunity will be coming up for these multi-billion-dollar projects. So, can I ask, in relation to the previous answer, what the expected time lines are relating to these action items, whether it be a type of panel or a TOR or a report? And How soon can we act on those competitive measures?"

Towards those notes, the Minister noted that the government hopes to have "policy levers" to ensure British Columbia's competitiveness in place by the end of the calendar year, however any hopes for a public report on the issue, as requested by the Skeena MLA, will perhaps have to wait as some elements may be budget related.

"The short answer to that is: it depends. If they involve tax measures or any types of legislative measures, that would be a part of the budget process and released with the budget as well as with the legislative plan for the spring session. So it wouldn't be something available in January, for example. If our way forward is not either legislative- or taxation-based, then our intention would be to inform the public at this time."

In response to Mr. Ross's inquiries on competitiveness, Ms. Mungall provided a snapshot of the process in motion at this time.

In our discussion with the federal government, we're looking at, specifically, policy levers that are in the federal jurisdiction, namely, within the Ministry of Finance and Natural Resources Canada — NRCan, as most people will call it. 

We're working directly with very senior officials in those two ministries. I'll just name some of the policy areas that we're looking at — the fabricated industrial steel component, so the FISC duties, as well as the capital cost allowance. Those are the two main things and the most immediate, in terms of who's most immediate to FID, or final investment decision. 

As the member alluded to, LNG Canada…. That's definitely, in their case, the situation. We're also looking at other import duties. For example, and the member brought this up last time, the floating import duties, as well, for smaller potential LNG developments like Steelhead, which has now been renamed Kwispaa."

As part of her review of the government to government discussions on resources, Ms. Mungall also made note of the Skeena MLA's past experience when it comes to knowledge of the LNG industry in the Northwest, offering up the prospect of exploring some of his themes in the future.

"At this stage, our government-to-government talks, as well as our engagement with industry and First Nations communities and non-Indigenous communities as well as associations… They're at a confidential stage right now and for the reason I said earlier — that we don't want to be tipping off our competitors in terms of what we want to be doing here in British Columbia, what needs to be going on here in British Columbia. 

But I really want to extend an invitation to the member opposite. I truly value his years of experience on the LNG file from a community perspective, as a community leader. If he has anything that he really wants to make sure is in my filing cabinet, in my mind, about what some of the things are that we need to be considering, I would really appreciate it. Either a letter or we can have a formal meeting or even a conversation over coffee in the dining room. I would really appreciate that opportunity.

During the course of the thirty minute exchange on LNG and energy issues the Skeena MLA made a number of inquiries of the Minister, including questions related to First Nations consultations when it comes to LNG issues and what the government's thoughts on hydraulic fracking may be.

As well Mr. Ross explored such themes on carbon taxes and pipeline development to name a few.

You can review the full exchange from the Legislature Record here, starting at the 14:40 point.

The Video archive also features a replay of the discussion, you can access it from the Chamber Video for Monday afternoon, starting at 2:40 PM

You can review some of the previous themes on LNG and other issues raised by the Skeena MLA from our archive page here.

For a wider overview of notes from British Columbia politics see our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

No comments:

Post a Comment