BC Chamber Op-Ed: Tourism, gas exports can coexist

In the News, Op-eds & Commentary

The following op-ed was published August 19 in the Vancouver Sun:

By: John Winter, president and CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce

Is B.C.’s super, natural tourism industry threatened by the LNG sector?

Absolutely not.

Opponents to the development of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry would have us believe that everything we’ve come to appreciate and value about our province — including pristine oceans, clean air and safe communities — is at risk if LNG tankers join the marine traffic already travelling up and down our coastline.

Most recently, a handful of anti-industry activists waging war against Woodfibre LNG’s proposal for an LNG processing and export facility seven kilometres outside Squamish are taking their fight outside the regulatory framework and frightening mayors and municipal councillors — facing an election in a scant three months — into declaring their opposition to the project.

Unlike the proponents of the project who are held accountable for what they say through environmental, regulatory and permitting processes, these activists are engaging in their own brand of political spin, are not being held accountable for what they say and are being allowed to ram though decisions without proper debate.

We agree with West Vancouver — Sunshine Coast — Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston, who said elected officials have a duty to wait until they know what the concerns are, how significant they may be, and what can be done to mitigate them before voting on any resolution to support or oppose resource industry proposals.

Two municipal councils recently passed resolutions opposing the Woodfibre LNG proposal before thoroughly investigating the plan or even hearing from the proponent. Not to mention these resolutions seek to limit shipping in Howe Sound, when not unlike Burrard Inlet, shipping is happening safely, and has been happening safely, for decades.

We certainly don’t ask that environmental or community concerns be sidelined. In fact, we’d ask that current environmental assessment processes be respected so qualified experts and the public can provide their input on major industrial projects, their potential impacts and how these potential impacts could be reduced, managed or even eliminated.

But we’d also ask that jobs and economic value not be sidelined. The resource industry is the reason why, for generations, so many families have called British Columbia home. It’s also an important part of our future and our children’s future. Broad-based polling we’ve carried out consistently finds that the majority of British Columbians favour a “getting to yes” approach for resource projects. This approach calls for top-tier environmental and social practices but, critically, wants to see sound projects succeed.

Despite what anti-industry activists have been spouting, the Woodfibre LNG project has a lot of positives that are worth serious consideration. A pulp mill occupied the Woodfibre site for a century. The site is zoned for industrial use and is situated at a deep water port with access to the BC Hydro grid and natural gas pipeline, so it lends itself well to the proposed use.

The District of Squamish estimates the company will contribute somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 million-plus in taxes annually, which is a significant amount in a community where many homeowners have seen double digit increases to property taxes since the pulp mill closed in 2006.

Woodfibre LNG estimates it would provide about 500 construction jobs during two years and 100 full time positions during operations. Additionally, about $7.5 million is being spent to clean up the site with no guarantee the project will get the go-ahead.

Woodfibre LNG also has engaged key tourism operators in the region to discuss esthetic enhancements to the site. Moreover, if Squamish Terminals, which receives about seven bulk carriers a month, can successfully coexist with tourism and other marine-related industries in the Howe Sound, there is no reason why Woodfibre LNG can’t do the same.

The wealth that B.C. counts on and takes for granted — money that helps build our schools, hospitals, roads and social programs — is directly correlated to industry like LNG, which promises to create thousands of jobs and generate millions in tax revenue for communities across the province.

The resource industry is a major contributor to our province’s prosperity, and we’re urging British Columbians to support the development of LNG in B.C.