Premier Christy Clark and her B.C. Liberal government have pitched liquefied natural gas (LNG) to British Columbians as a generational opportunity. They promised 100,000 jobs, a $100 billion dollar prosperity fund and a debt-free province. But, B.C. is late to the LNG game.
Not only are jurisdictions like Qatar, Australia and the United States way ahead of us, we need frack our way to the gas play’s in the northeastern B.C. Fracking for gas increases pollution and earthquakes and only about 1 in 4 British Columbians support it.
The Malahat LNG project proposed for the Saanich Inlet is marginal at best. Steelhead LNG officials speculate a market for their product might appear sometime in the 2020’s, but the forecast is fragile as there is an oversupply of gas and new supply coming online.
The floating LNG facility at Bamberton needs a new 75 km sub-sea gas pipeline and shipping access to the Inlet through a tight, shallow and environmentally protected Satellite Channel that is surrounded by high value real estate. Steelhead LNG’s proposal is not compatible with the established communities surrounding the Inlet.
Residents of the Saanich Inlet scoff at the proposal and it is generally accepted that the project will never happen. Nevertheless, the project is happening. Steelhead LNG has been hosting public sessions, sponsoring events and asserting their commitment to submitting a Project Description, officially starting the environmental assessment process.
B.C has missed the generational opportunity, if it was ever real. The 100,000 jobs and billions in prosperity from an LNG export market is unlikely to ever materialize. From a global perspective, LNG in British Columbia is an afterthought.
The few hundred jobs and hypothetical economic benefits promised by Steelhead for their absurd Malahat LNG proposal are an unfortunate distraction that has us looking back to the 20th century, rather than looking toward the future.
I grew up on Tsartlip, I know there is need for employment opportunities in the WSANEC communities and having sat at the Central Saanich Council table, I understand the need to create complete, resilient communities with diversified, local economies.
One example is the YYJ Prosperity initiative which is attempting to bring local governments and First Nations together to coordinate regional economic development. They have highlighted opportunities in the ocean sciences & marine, life science & health, post secondary, aviation & aerospace, agri & aquaculture, manufacturing and construction sectors.
The Malahat LNG proposal is in the wrong place at the wrong time. As E. Hunter Harrison, CEO of CP Rail said this week, “I think … that fossil fuels are probably dead. It’s going to take a long time to transition.” Rather than taking a step back in the Saanich Inlet, let’s take a step forward and start that transition now!
Let’s enhance tourism and sell our region as a nature’s playground. Let’s invest in becoming a premier destination of choice for visitors from around the globe.
Let’s strengthen our knowledge based and high tech sectors. Let’s invest in leading a 21st century economy, rather than being laggards in the 20th century race to the bottom.