Friday, March 29, 2019

Ghost of Pacific Northwest LNG project floated in Legislature debate this week

Todd Stone recounted some of the Liberal government's  engagement
with the North Coast during the earl days of LNG development, the Liberal
MLA spoke Wednesday as part of debate related to the
 NDP Government'sBill 10 to create Tax Credits for LNG companies

MLA's took to the debate this week on themes related to Bill 10 which the NDP government is moving forward as the LNG Canada project continues to make its forward momentum towards development.

The Bill is designed to provide for a Natural Gas Tax Credit for qualifying corporations

As part of the discussion through the week, Former Liberal Transportation Minister Todd Stone spoke to some of the atmosphere for potential investment that had been found not too long ago in the Prince Rupert area that made for the background to the now canceled Pacific Northwest LNG project.

Framed as part of the current progress for the development of the LNG Canada project in Kitimat, Mr. Stone first paid tribute to the work of then Haisla Chief Ellis Ross, who now sits as a Liberal MLA for the Terrace-Kitmat region.

Underlying those negotiations, underlying those tough moments of back-and-forth and underlying those many moments, I'm sure, of the member for Skeena, his colleagues, negotiating team and his people wondering if any of these projects would ever happen, if they would ever be able to actually realize the potential on behalf of their kids and grandkids…. It's all coming to fruition. 

 I again want to thank the member for Skeena for the leadership, the vision and the unwavering commitment that he has demonstrated to not just his people but to all Indigenous people and, indeed, to all British Columbians, that, again, the best poverty reduction plan strategy to meet the objectives of a poverty reduction plan is to have people working, to create good-paying jobs for people.

The Prince Rupert and area focus came about midway through Mr. Stones  expansive address to the Chamber on Wednesday afternoon, in among some of his themes was an interesting observation as to how the Pacific Northwest eventually did not move towards development ... but then offering up the added note that perhaps one day in the future it may move forward

Now this brings me to, again, my time in Transportation and spending a lot of days and weeks up in the northwest and along Highway 16 and in Terrace and Kitimat and right through to Prince Rupert, meeting with mayors and councillors, meeting with First Nations chiefs and councils, and being introduced to their communities, and being told over and over again the realities that they were experiencing in their communities, which was generally no growth. 

That was generally reflected in their young people graduating high school and then leaving town, leaving their community. It was largely reflected in small businesses struggling to barely make ends meet. It was largely reflected in walking down through downtowns like in Terrace and certainly in Kitimat and Prince Rupert — and every second or third door or window reflected a vacant space because the town had clearly seen better days — and talking to these folks about what life will be like when these kinds of projects finally get the go, when people are finally put to work and when people can finally see that there is a reason to be hopeful and optimistic about the future in their particular community. 

I remember going in to meet with the Lax Kw'alaams. It's a nation about 30 kilometres north of Prince Rupert. I believe I visited there first in July of 2015. I was there, again in a context of good faith on behalf of the province, to announce a number of projects we were partnering on with the Lax Kw'alaams. I remember the journey in, on Tuck Inlet Road. It was a gravel road, but it was pretty dusty. It was full of potholes. The bridges were one-lane bridges. You really didn't want to probably go over them at night, certainly not in fog. It was a challenge to get goods, not to mention their people, in and out of their community on a reliable basis. 

We were there to work in partnership with them, which resulted, in part, in a sweeping benefits package, a benefits deal, that was signed. We were there to announce that Tuck Inlet Road would be paved, and it has been. We were there to announce enhanced ferry service for the ferry that takes people to the start of Tuck Inlet Road. 

Those improvements were all made. I remember talking to the mayor of Lax Kw'alaams at the time. He was trying to express to me how important those infrastructure investments were for his people. He was trying to impress upon me the importance that jobs represented to his people. He said: "Let me take you down to the fish-processing plant, and you'll see what opportunity looks like." So we did, and there were a whole bunch of his people working hard, making some good money. He then took me to the recreation centre. I was immediately struck. It was this beautiful building, complete with basketball courts and a huge swimming pool that rivalled anything that I had seen in my own community in Kamloops. 

This was, again, a small community of barely 3,000 people. He said: "You know, those jobs helped pay for this swimming pool." The swimming pool was important because, frankly, as he said to me — and this is me paraphrasing: "We had a very serious issue of suicides, our youth in our community, because our kids were hopeless. Their parents weren't working. The kids had nothing to do." They had tried all kinds of different things, but the community made a big, bold decision in supporting his idea to put this rec centre up and this pool. He said: "You know, the best part of it is when those doors opened, in the several years since, we haven't had a single suicide in our community." 

That's the value of people working. That's the tangible benefit represented in investments in a community that are possible because people are working. That's how you can change lives in a community, a remote community. 

Now, of course, that particular project, didn't go — Pacific NorthWest LNG. It may still one day. 

It didn't go. It's unfortunate that it didn't go. But I use that experience that I had in that community to reflect the experience that I had in so many First Nation communities and non–First Nation communities throughout the northwest, as just a way to underline the importance of moving ahead with these kinds of projects, the importance of doing what it takes to ensure that there are projects like these that will provide good-paying, family-supporting jobs, particularly in rural and remote communities across the province.

Stone wrapped up his thirty minute presentation with some thoughts on the path ahead for LNG development in the province and the importance of the moment that the industry offers ahead.

Last but not least is the issue of transparency. We will be canvassing very thoroughly in committee stage the rationale in this bill for basically eliminating the requirement to bring an agreement like this one to the floor of the Legislature in its entirety for all MLAs to see and all British Columbians to see. We believe, as a fundamental principle, that that requirement for transparency is important and must be respected. 

That is why we brought forward the Pacific NorthWest agreement into this chamber, and it's why we think that this agreement with LNG Canada and any subsequent agreements should also be brought before this House.  

With that, I say this is an important moment for British Columbia. We've got to get this right. I am proud to have long supported the LNG industry. I look forward to the debate that's going to take place in this House in the coming days and weeks of this particular bill with respect to LNG Canada's project.

The full presentation and other discussion themes on Bill Ten for the day can be found from the legislature Archive here. Mr. Stones comments commence at 16:30PM.

The Liberal MLA's extensive notes can be viewed from the Legislature Video link starting at the 16:30 PM mark.

For more items of note from the Legislature see our archive page here.

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