The prospect of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in northwestern B.C. brought out some of the sharpest remarks of the evening during a federal election all candidates meeting held in Terrace last night.
When asked if he supported LNG development, NDP incumbent Nathan Cullen referred to the planned Pacific NorthWest LNG project, which is majority-owned by Malaysian state-controlled Petronas, on Lelu Island near Port Edward.
The choice of that location, which is adjacent to Flora Banks considered crucial fish habitat for Skeena River fish populations, is being heavily criticized by native and environmental groups.
Cullen called it the “least likely” location, one he said a Malaysian official told him was selected by putting a pin on a map.
“I said ‘good for you,’” Cullen recounted.
The problem, Cullen continued, rests with what he said was a “gutting” of the environmental review process over several years by the federal government which then left people leery of any results.
“We need to make it better so we can have that confidence again,” Cullen said.
Nesbitt responded, saying it was clear the NDP does not support a regional LNG industry because it doesn’t support fracking, the method used to extract natural gas.
“They say ‘oh, it’s the assessment’ or ‘it’s the location’ or it’s something else,” said Nesbitt.
He added that the number of LNG benefit agreements signed by First Nations along gas pipeline routes or for plant locations shows First Nations leaders “understand what it’s going to do for their people.”
The ‘N’ in LNG, said the Conservative candidate, stands for ‘Nesbitt’.
Using a rebuttal card which allowed candidates to respond to statements of others, Cullen responded: “I wish the Conservatives had the same passion for wild salmon and climate change.”
He said Nesbitt’s statements would seem to leave just two choices – clean air and water or jobs.
“They have this 1950’s outlook, it’s either the economy or the environment,” he said.
The world is shifting to renewable energy, something which Canada needs to do likewise, Cullen continued.
“That’s the way to develop the economy,” he said.
Cullen pointed to Norway with a $1 trillion bank account from energy developments and free university.
But Nesbitt said Norway also has high taxes and that it’s energy revenues come from offshore oil development, something he said the NDP would never support.
“I want to be known after four years of doing this as having brought benefits for people,” said Nesbitt.
The best way to deal with climate change, he argued, is to turn countries away from burning coal in favour of LNG.
Liberal candidate Brad Layton said he understood there were five locations under consideration by Pacific NorthWest LNG.
“Where are the other four?” he asked, saying there needed to be more transparency in releasing environmental reviews.
“How are we to know when the assessment is good?” he asked.
Layton also said he didn’t think Cullen answered the question as to whether he supported LNG development.