A focus on liquefied natural gas is fuelling considerable political debate.
The Liberal government throne speech Tuesday calls for tax revenue from LNG exports to support social programs and pay down B.C.’s debt.
“Natural gas represents a significant opportunity for our province,” said George Abbott, Shuswap MLA.
The proposed B.C. Prosperity Fund would be bolstered by about $100 million over 30 years.
Abbott believes it’s essential that natural resources not only create employment opportunities but that they ensure British Columbians have access to critical services.
“There is a strong connection between resource development and funding excellent health care and education,” he said.
Tom Birch, B.C. Conservative candidate, isn’t sure the throne speech adds up.
“The opportunity from LNG is being grossly exaggerated to distract the voters from the economic mess our province is in,” he said.
“There is no plan to see $1 trillion from LNG in the next 30 years. We would need to have at least four times as many people working to generate that kind of income. How can anyone believe in a vision that has been so poorly cobbled together?”
Birch adds that there isn’t the infrastructure in place to realize benefits from LNG.
“We need 15 plants to get anywhere near $1 trillion in production. Currently we have five plants planned but most of them are in their planning infancy,” he said.
Steve Gunner, NDP candidate, says that while B.C. is planning an LNG industry, other countries have tapped into their resources and are meeting the needs of Asia.
“They are predicating future management of the province on LNG but the realities of the industry are far in the future,” he said.
“The whole throne speech was focused on a fantasy fund. They are unable to forecast LNG revenue in six months time. The logic leaves people shaking their heads.”
Gunner is also concerned by what he believes was missing in the throne speech.
“There was no mention of jobs training or the forest industry. The Liberals are out of ideas,” he said.
This was Abbott’s final throne speech before he retires in May when the provincial election begins.
“I have been 34 years in elected office and that’s more than enough in a person’s lifetime,” he said.