Note to readers: The Honourable Richard Neufeld retired from the Senate of Canada in November 2019. Learn more about his work in Parliament.
My sincere congratulations to Premier Horgan.
I bet you never expected me — a Conservative Senator and former provincial Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources — to publicly congratulate the Premier? But I felt it was appropriate to give credit where credit is due.
Last week, the NDP BC Government announced, as part of a new framework for natural gas development, a revised fiscal policy that would provide LNG Canada — a proposed liquefied natural gas export facility on the West Coast — with relief from provincial sales tax and it would also eliminate the LNG income tax that had required LNG-specific tax rates.
In my view, this gives LNG Canada and its proponents a more fertile and welcoming environment to invest its $40-billion of private-funds into our provincial and national economies. I patiently await a final investment decision from Shell and its partners, and I remain hopeful that LNG Canada will chose to move forward with this major national infrastructure project. Perhaps, this would also encourage other proponents to greenlight their proposed LNG facilities.
Despite what naysayers may say, LNG from our province has the potential to displace the use of coal in major Asian markets and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. After all, the atmosphere has no borders — reducing emissions needs to be a global, concerted effort. Further, recent outlooks forecast a potential worldwide shortage of LNG in the mid-2020s as demand is expected to grow.
The government’s new framework will help our province widen its natural gas export market beyond the United States and, as a result, will likely increase the value of our resource.
As the government acknowledges, LNG Canada would be the least greenhouse gas emission-intensive, large LNG facility in the world. The project received the support of most First Nations in the area and the Government estimates that it will generate $22 billion in direct government revenue over the next 40 years.
“No premier or government can dismiss this kind of critical economic opportunity for the people of British Columbia,” said the Premier. “The LNG Canada proposal has the potential to earn tens of billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs for British Columbians over the life of the project.”
And yet, the Premier is willing to dismiss this same type of critical economic opportunity for the people of Alberta — his neighbours and fellow Canadians. Alberta, like BC, wants its oil to reach other markets and, to achieve that, it needs the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to be built without delays, distractions or disorder. The Premier seems determined to prevent that from happening despite the fact that the federal government, who has jurisdictional authority on this matter, has deemed this project to be in the national interest.
Alberta and Canada as a whole are losing millions of dollars every day because our oil is being sold at a discounted rate. In fact, a report from TD Bank recently highlighted that we are losing $28 per barrel due, in part, to the fact that the US is our only customer. The price differential has cost Canada about $117 billion in the past seven years.
Alberta deserves to get a better return on its oil, instead of being held captive to the United States. This, in turn, could provide more revenues to governments who can then pave more highways, build more hospitals, increase public transportation investments and retrofit more schools.
While I may support the Premier in trying to attract foreign investment into our province and develop our LNG industry, I find his government’s recent announcement hypocritical. In fact, how can he encourage BC’s LNG industry and increase economic activity in our province while wanting to hold hostage Alberta’s oil? He is denying that province, and all Canadians for that matter, of these same benefits.
Richard Neufeld is a senator representing British Columbia. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, the Senate Committee on National Finance and the Senate Committee on the Arctic. Prior to his appointment to the Senate in 2009, he served in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly from 1991 to 2008 as MLA for Peace River North. He was Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources from 2001 to 2009.
This article appeared in the March 30, 2018 edition of The Edmonton Journal.