Supporting responsible growth in the Northwest

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen's view on LNG proposals on the north coast.

In almost 12 years  as your Member of Parliament for beautiful Skeena-Bulkley Valley, I have come to appreciate two important things about how to help create good jobs in our region.

Firstly, bringing local communities into a project from day one is absolutely critical to achieve the best technical design and obtain the broadest public support. Fifty years ago this wasn’t much of an issue.  Now, it is essential.

Secondly, we must at all costs avoid pitting the natural environment that has sustained us for millennia against potential jobs. It’s a mug’s game to sacrifice one in the promise of another and hope that in the end we’ll come out ahead.

Last week, residents and contractors took to the streets in Terrace to voice their support for LNG projects broadly, and with an immediate focus on the Pacific Northwest LNG project on Lelu Island.  Federal environment minister Catherine McKenna’s decision on the project was due by March 22. She had not released a decision as of March 18, the day I submitted this piece. [Editor’s note: A three-month extension was granted on March 19]

From the very start, many in the region wondered why Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned energy company, and the federal and provincial governments chose Lelu, a site that is much more expensive to build on and much more damaging to wild salmon habitat and the entire Skeena River system.

Two weeks ago, more than 130 scientists penned an open letter to Minister McKenna refuting the weak and cynically narrow science the company financed and the federal government accepted without question. These experts appealed to the minister to reject the “flawed” environmental draft report for the proposed $36-billion project, identifying five primary scientific shortcomings, including disregarding research not funded by Petronas.

Like many people in the Northwest, I support smart industrial development that meets the standards of rigorous science and has First Nations and community backing.  I supported the AltaGas LNG proposal in Kitimat that was unfortunately halted last month due to poor global economic conditions and energy prices.  I also support LNG projects proposed by Royal Dutch Shell and the Haisla near Kitimat.  These projects have gained support of local communities and do not pose a threat to wild salmon. And I have publicly offered to help avoid further conflict and court battles for the Petronas project through an expedited process on a new and safer site, possibly Ridley Island.

Our tradition is to work together here in the Northwest. We work within the natural limits of this beautiful land that sustains us as we carefully construct a diversified economy that will sustain many future generations. I truly believe that smart and carefully selected LNG projects can create thousands of solid, family-sustaining jobs in our built-in-the-Northwest economy.  Along with thousands of Northwesterners, I welcome proponents interested in developing a modest LNG economy here that plays by our rules.