LNG a hot topic for fall session

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett says government hoping to unveil taxation and greenhouse gas emission policy for LNG.

The B.C. government is sitting for a rare fall legislative session to tackle the issue of liquid natural gas (LNG) and the taxation policy behind it, according to Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett.

Read by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, the speech laid out priorities for the Liberal government, which includes legislation on the tax structure and greenhouse gas emissions on LNG policy.

“The speech talked a lot about opportunity,” said Bennett. “There was a really cool quotation in the speech from Thomas Edison, that said: ‘People often walk right past opportunity because it’s dressed in coveralls and looks like a lot of hard work.’

“That’s kind of the way we look at development of land-based or natural resource projects in the province, whether it’s mining or forestry or oil and gas or LNG or whatever.”

Bennett says developing the LNG industry will add an important source of revenue for the provincial government in a time where costs for everything seem to be increasing.

“We just signed a five-year deal with teachers that has an increase, there’s demands on health care, there’s demands on infrastructure and highways, local governments all want more money—there’s always huge demand on the province,” Bennet said. “One of the new ways we can increase our revenue, obviously, is through a new industry like LNG.”

On the flip side of developing LNG as a source of revenue is dealing with the greenhouse gas emissions that come it it, Bennett added.

“The second component that we’re dealing with this session that relates to LNG is what we’re going to do about the greenhouse gas emissions,” Bennett said, “not only from the LNG industry, but from all industry, so we’re also going to be passing legislation that deals with greenhouse gas emissions and that’ll cover off the LNG industry and all other industry as well.”

It was the shortest throne speech in Bennett’s 13 years of elected service, but it was also the most focused, he said. The short nature of the speech was also noted by Norm Macdonald, the NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke.

“It was a bit of a strange Throne Speech, particularly short,” Macdonald said. “But there was also a significant step back from what were really clear commitments on LNG.”

Macdonald says that during the last election campaign the BC Liberals promised a $100 billion prosperity fund, a trillion dollars in economic activity and 100,000 jobs, as well as a promise to get rid of the provincial debt and the sales tax.

“Now we are being told that those weren’t promises, merely “aspirational”,” he said.

“I said during the election campaign that those promises were likely removed from reality, a misrepresentation of the reality of opportunities available. There is opportunity but it needs to be put in the perspective of what is real.”

Macdonald also takes issue with the projected revenues generated from LNG, and says the B.C. Liberals over promised on the royalties and are now walking back because of the reaction from multi-national energy companies on the taxation policies.

“The government has put themselves in a real spot with promises made. The companies they are dealing with know the BC Liberals over-promised. We are hearing that the tax royalty structure has been presented and the companies are pushing back.”

Proof of that will come with the introduction of legislation this week, Macdonald says.

“We are hearing that bill dealing with royalties and taxes, which we expected today (Tuesday) may not come until the end of the month. They’ve had a year. If it doesn’t come this week, there is only one reason to push it back. They are re-writing it.”

While LNG is one of the top priorities for the Liberal government, there are also some items closer to home that Bennett would like to address, including health care, the Salvation Army’s affordable housing complex, and off-road vehicle legislation.

With files from Carolyn Grant.