By Steve Smyth
I am delighted to see that Skeena – Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen supports industrial and commercial development in his riding.
Through his letter to the editor published last week, Mr. Cullen also recognizes that most, if not all, of his riding has been an economic basket case for the past 12 years and that industrial development is welcome.
No matter what side of the political spectrum or where you stand on LNG investment, development or the environment, no one has ever accused Mr. Cullen of being foolish or ill-informed. He is a gentleman and an intelligent politician and his reputation for not quite choosing sides carefully is almost legendary. Therefore, it’s quite refreshing to see him clarify his position on LNG development so clearly, no matter how late in the game that clarification comes.
As he pointed out, on March 22 a very large and vocal gathering took place in Terrace at the same time that two other larger gatherings took place in Fort St. John and Fort Nelson.
Municipal and elected First Nations leaders, business owners and working people from his riding stood up to speak and show their support for an environmentally sound, sustainable liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.
It is somewhat disappointing that it took this outcry and groundswell of support for him to respond and then to clarify his position on LNG development.
Anyone who has seen or investigated the facts, surveyed the sheer magnitude of the data and listened to the presentations by the proponents cannot say that they have not listened and done the required studies.
In fact, they have completed far more than was required. Using the example of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, some 28-plus volumes totalling well over 9,000 pages have been compiled, costing hundreds of millions of dollars (by the way, most of which was spent locally) in data collection, consultation, changes and engineering costs.
Three weeks ago, the spokesman for the “group of 130 scientists” opposed the location of Pacific NorthWest LNG on Lelu Island was quoted on CBC Radio as saying that this development “may” be harmful to salmon “wherever that is.”
It was quite clear he had no idea of the facts or even the details of the proposed location. How can that qualify as “peer reviewed” science? How is this science any better than anyone else’s science simply on the basis of who paid for it?
If industrial development and salmon runs are mutually exclusive, how to explain the fact that the delta of the Fraser River, which hosts one of the largest salmon runs on Earth, is nearly 100 per cent developed by industry, most of which was developed long before modern environmental legislation was in place.
How then to explain that some of the largest eelgrass beds supporting that run are in immediate proximity to Roberts Bank, one of the largest and busiest coal ports in western North America?
How to explain then that Pacific NorthWest’s studies of 50 and 100 year wind storms and tides show most likely less impact on Flora Bank than the current fishing and pleasure boat traffic that currently already shortcut across it?
Pacific NorthWest LNG’s studies are called biased and distorted because they are paid for by the proponent, yet studies paid for by opposing parties are to be taken as canon because they paid for by parties opposing development.
Neither myself or anyone I have discussed this with, and certainly nobody at the rally in Terrace, are advocating rape and pillage development at all costs.
Everyone I have talked to is concerned about irreparable damage to the Skeena and to the salmon run that is so important to all of us who live here.
But there must be a balance. This is not the 1900s where industry was free to destroy everything in the quest for a quick profit. We have standards that are set high to protect us and our environment.
But sadly there are groups, particularly well-funded ones, who state no standard is high enough, no study good enough and that no development is the only option.
If we had applied these same standards in the past, we would have never built Kitimat, the CPR or the St. Lawrence Seaway. These are projects that have defined our country, taking courage and vision, both of which appear to be in short supply these days.
Mr. Cullen offers to help avoid potential conflict and court battles by relocating the Pacific NorthWest facility to Ridley Island, with conditions. This seems akin to waiting until the neighbour’s house has half burnt down before rushing over with the garden hose to bravely offer assistance.
If we force Pacific NorthWest LNG to relocate, there is absolutely no guarantee that it will build on Ridley Island, in Prince Rupert, on the North Coast or indeed, even in Canada.
To ask investors to start all over again from the beginning, after spending millions and three years of studies and consultations is a sure way of chasing away or alienating what would be the largest private investment in Canadian history.
Pacific NorthWest LNG would create thousands of well-paid, mostly unionized, skilled trades jobs – jobs that our children and grandchildren need and deserve to have. It will be a life-changing opportunity for local residents, especially local First Nations who will have an incredible opportunity to benefit the most from trades training and contracting opportunities.
What a way to break the cycle of dependency and improve the standard of living for all northerners, including and especially First Nations people.
While the project will increase Canada’s GHG emissions, these emissions cannot be considered in isolation. Using our liquefied natural gas to replace the use of coal in Asia would have a significant effect on lowering global greenhouse gases.
According to most reports and studies, nearly 75 per cent of the world’s current GHG and pollution are produced in China and Asia.
Selling them our responsibly-produced LNG enables them to move away from coal and other high carbon and pollution emitters while allowing us time to develop green technology and move ourselves away from petroleum products in a safe and financially responsible way. We simply cannot just stop using petroleum products tomorrow.
Meanwhile our competitors in the United States and Russia would love to continue to hamstring our efforts to export our gas to any market other than the ones that they dictate. Anyone who runs a business will tell you who stands to benefit the most if you only have one customer for your product.
Many have criticized large projects, saying the majority of the jobs provided are temporary during construction. But that is and always has been the nature of the industry. If we were to utilize this logic, none of the employment generated by the building of the Alcan smelter, the Eurocan pulp mill or the Skeena pulp mill would have ever happened.
We would have sent those investors packing because all they offered were “temporary” construction jobs.
Is it right then to ignore the well paid and highly sought after legacy jobs after completion of Pacific NorthWest LNG and other projects?
The skills learned during the construction of one LNG facility are easily transferred to another one here, anywhere else in Canada or even the world.
Strong union people such as Jim Sinclair have been brought on board as part of an labour/industry coalition to ensure that First Nations, northerners, B.C. and Canadian workers are first to the table when it comes to jobs.
Mr. Cullen states he welcomes a “modest LNG economy” here. Why would we limit ourselves to a modest economy? Why wouldn’t we welcome all comers, providing that it is done in an environmentally and culturally sensitive manner?
Why wouldn’t we announce that northwestern B.C. is open for investment and business rather than chasing any and all developers away based on an unreasonable standard of development? Why not become renowned for skilled trades workers who would be universally sought?
Pacific NorthWest LNG has consulted and accommodated the largest majority of affected First Nations locally by far. It has the approval and blessing of the Metlakatla, Kitselas, Gitxaala, Kitsumkalum and Gitga’at and now most recently, the elected leadership of Lax Kw’alaams.
The majority of mayors and councils of most of the towns, cities and villages along the pipeline route are all onboard. Consultations and accommodations have resulted in significant and expensive design changes in both the facility and the pipeline route.
The facts are in. People want to work, to contribute and to raise their families without hardship, poverty, and handouts.
Sadly, we have all seen an entire generation of children forced to leave this beautiful place. Why shouldn’t they have the same opportunities to grow, raise children and to prosper and live in the same place that we did?
Safe, clean, sustainable industry is what this country and specifically this region needs badly.
Let’s not turn our backs on this opportunity. Let’s work together to build something rather than always tearing something down and waiting for the next handout.
Steve Smyth has lived all across northern BC since 1962 and is a past Director of the Terrace-Kitimat Airport Society and a current Director of the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce. He watches political and regional events from his home in Terrace.