VICTORIA - Go West, oil worker. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is telling employees who find themselves out of a job because of dropping oil prices that her province needs skilled workers.
Clark told delegates at the annual Truck Loggers Association convention on Thursday that governments and businesses worldwide are concerned about dropping oil prices.
But she added that those declines won't sink B.C.'s targets for building liquefied natural gas plants, and weak oil markets could bring skilled workers back to her province.
B.C. needs workers for forestry, mining, construction and its proposed LNG plants, she said.
"Many workers from the oil sands who came from British Columbia will now be looking for work, so my call to them is come home," said Clark. "Come home, come home to your province where you were born and you want to raise your children."
Layoffs are expected in Alberta as energy companies start feeling the pressure of reduced oil revenues. Oil prices have fallen 50 per cent since last summer amid a glut of supply and 40 per cent just since the end of November.
The premier said the B.C. government is considering placing billboard advertisements at the airport in Fort McMurray, Alta., calling former B.C. residents to return home for jobs.
"We are a poorer country when oil prices are low, but having said that there is an opportunity in it," said Clark.
"Many workers from the oil sands who come from B.C. will now be looking for work. We need them in forestry. We need them in mining. We need them in construction and soon we will need them in LNG."
Despite falling oil prices, Clark said her government remains confident B.C. will have at least three LNG export plants in operation within five years.
At least 18 LNG proposals are in the works in B.C., but no company has made a final investment decision to proceed with an LNG export plant. Clark's government says the LNG industry could create up to 100,000 jobs and could be a trillion-dollar economic opportunity with the potential to earn billions in revenues for the province.
The premier acknowledged energy companies are eyeing their bottom lines with concern as oil prices drop. But she said she remains convinced LNG will proceed in the province, and the government's target of three plants operating by 2020 will be met.
"When you look at declining oil prices, one of the things that we see is the script that we had for LNG is not going to proceed ... in the way that we'd expected it to," she said. "It could change every week. We are still on track to meet our goal of three LNG plants."
The Opposition New Democrats said in a statement that Clark's previous boasts about LNG goals and targets are proving to be more hot air than reality.
The New Democrats pointed to a February 2013 statement from Clark that said: "The money is going to start coming in 2017, and we're going to have three plants up and running by 2020, the first one by 2015."
Clark said her government will table its third consecutive balanced budget next month. She said the budget will not include LNG revenue forecasts.
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