Originally published on August 21, 2015 on adamolsen.ca
Malahat LNG has uncovered the tremendous complexity in decision-making for our communities, province and country.
Firstly, I want to be clear that I fully support and advocate for First Nations increasing our economic capacity. But, that does not mean I will necessarily support or advocate for a project proposed by a First Nation and it won’t stop me from opposing the bad ones.
I am a member of Tsartlip First Nation. My sister is an elected Councillor for Tsartlip and I am fully aware of the dire financial situation of many First Nations communities. It is critical that First Nations communities find creative ways to free ourselves from the grip of the federal government and take hold of and determine the direction of our future.
Just because we have Aboriginal rights, and increasingly stronger legal precedents for successfully claiming title than ever before, does not mean every idea our elected leadership has is a good one. Despite my belief that Malahat First Nation has right to self-determination, I do not support their LNG proposal.
Over the past decade Christy Clark and Stephen Harper have flooded us with a very narrow narrative. Opposition to oil and gas extraction and transport, is opposition to the economy. According to them, opposing ill-conceived projects such as Malahat LNG in our neighbourhoods, means we are against prosperity for First Nations, prosperity for communities, prosperity for all.
Of course our economy is far more diverse than the narrow perspective than our elected leaders want us to believe.
With so much information about transporting and cooling natural gas for export, we hardly need to wait for a complete application to determine if Bamberton is a suitable place for a liquefied natural gas terminal. We know it is not. Just like Howe Sound and the Fraser River are absurd places for loading LNG tankers destined for international markets.
Our Premier and her Cabinet colleagues have been so successful in narrowing the scope of the British Columbia economy that the BCNDP are loathed to speak against a bad project, like Malahat LNG, for fear that the government will continue to paint them as “anti-business.”
It is messaging that the BCNDP Official Opposition perpetuate themselves with their actions, often playing right into the hands of the government. Being wishy-washy about bad LNG projects is bad business. Telling a proponent straight out that a project does not, and will not, meet the test well before forcing them to expend tremendous resources on it, is entirely appropriate and provides the certainty that business is looking for.
Investment is stifled more when an investor does not know, and has no way of knowing, what playing field they are on and what conditions results in a sudden change of direction. With the BCNDP approach it is impossible for a proponent to determine the test they have to pass.
What we have heard from both the federal and provincial NDP opposition is that ultimately projects such as Malahat LNG and the Trans Mountain pipeline can be acceptable if they go through a different process. In reality, the massive increases in shipments of diluted bitumen, liquefied natural gas and thermal coal in the Salish Sea, do not make more sense because of a different process. So frankly, Bruce Ralston’s comments in the TC about Malahat LNG are disappointing. It is obvious that Bamberton is not an acceptable location for an LNG terminal yet he just can’t say it.
On the other hand, taking the approach the B.C. Liberals have chosen, the gold rush mentality, offering British Columbia’s resources to eager corporations for pennies, is reckless and not the kind of “certainty” that respects the interests of British Columbians.
I am critical about the LNG business for social, economic and environmental reasons. I don't believe this industry should be subsidized by British Columbians and I am frustrated that Premier Clark and the Liberals are playing poker with all our cards face up on the table, and all our chips pushed in.
This does not make me anti-business, it is just common sense. Premier Clark's 2013 election campaign essentially handed all of our bargaining power to the oil and gas industry. She didn't hand it over for free, but rather traded it for direct benefit to the B.C. Liberal Party and not the Province of British Columbia.
First Nations communities, who are desperate to preserve their culture and build a hopeful future for their members, are being enticed to chase the LNG pipe dream with big dollar promises and hypothetical jobs. So far none of these promises have materialized and any hope the BC government may have for the LNG industry is based on a "generational sell-out". From my experience First Nations cannot afford the walk down this path to nowhere.
I am clear. I wish the Malahat First Nation luck in developing economic capacity in their community, but I will not support LNG in the Saanich Inlet. Furthermore, I do not support the “sell-out” of British Columbia by the B.C. Liberals or inability of the BCNDP to take a clear position as they search for whatever position appears to be politically popular.
British Columbia needs strong, principled leadership. We may be open for business but we are not for sale. We have two centuries of complex history to find solutions for. The hopes, dreams and limited resources of First Nations and non-First Nations communities need us to get this right. Our collective prosperity and well-being cannot afford these important decisions being driven by partisan political self-interest.