POLITICS

Clark's Liberals adjourn legislature dreaming about $36-billion LNG project

05/28/2015 04:25 EDT | Updated 05/27/2016 05:59 EDT
VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark says she is confident two huge projects with the potential to forge British Columbia's future for generations have taken major steps forward.

Clark singled out the progress on BC Hydro's $9-billion Site C hydroelectric dam and the proposed $36-billion, Petronas-backed liquefied natural gas plant as the government's top accomplishments in the spring session.

The B.C. legislature adjourned Thursday after passing a balanced budget and debating, amending and adopting at least two dozen laws, including liquor, worker and education legislation.

"If I wanted to look back on the last few months (Petronas) would be the biggest thing we've accomplished, along with the work we've done on Site C," Clark told reporters in Victoria.

"That is a massive public investment in infrastructure that is going to create thousands of jobs for people and long-term, low-cost, reliable clean power for generations of the province," she said. "Those are big accomplishments that I think people will look back at over the decades ... and say those things really mattered."

But Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan cautioned that both projects could be in for rough rides from the NDP.

The NDP has supported government LNG income tax legislation, but a deal with Petronas is far from complete, he said. Horgan said the NDP has concerns Site C is being pushed forward at a time when B.C. doesn't need the project.

"I don't believe that rate payers who are already looking down the barrel of a 28-per-cent rate increase can afford to sustain hundreds of millions of dollars in losses on a power project that's coming before its time," he said.

The government approved Site C late last year and construction is slated to start this summer, despite impending court challenges.

Site C will flood more than 5,500 hectares of land along the Peace River, create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir and provide enough power to light up 400,000 homes.

Last week, Clark and Malaysian energy giant Petronas signed an agreement that could lead to the construction of a multibillion LNG plant at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.

The premier said once Petronas-controlled Pacific NorthWest LNG secures project approval from its backers, she will recall the legislature to adopt legislation for the project, which would be the largest capital investment in B.C.'s history.

Government sources suggest the legislature could be recalled as early as this summer to deal with Petronas, which has yet to make a final investment decision on the proposed LNG plant.

There are at least 18 separate LNG project proposals in B.C. Clark has often said exporting LNG from B.C. to Asian markets represents a trillion-dollar economic opportunity that could create 100,000 jobs.

Horgan said the government recently amended legislation that ties B.C. into a fixed royalty-rate structure that favours Petronas.

"We did what we could for Petronas, we didn't do what we should for British Columbians," he said.

The New Democrats managed to rattle the Liberals in recent months, including over questions about a Crown land sale in Metro Vancouver to a Liberal party donor at a greatly reduced price.

The NDP also leaked an internal government report about dysfunction in the two-year-old Office of the Local Auditor General, eventually prompting the firing of the office's first local auditor.