The B.C. Liberal government is counting on natural gas to fuel the provincial economy and erase the province’s debt.
In a pre-election throne speech, Premier Christy Clark announced plans to establish the British Columbia Prosperity Fund.
The fund is expected to raise about $100 billion dollars in revenue from taxes on liquid natural gas exports, natural gas revenues and corporate taxes.
“It’s an interesting concept,” Stikine NDP MLA Doug Donaldson, said.
“But it seems like they’re putting all of their eggs in one basket.”
What northern B.C. needs, Donaldson said, is a more diverse economy.
“We’ve seen the boom and bust with resource-based economies before,” Donaldson said.
“It shows a lack of understanding of northern economies.”
Donaldson also said at first glance, the Prosperity Fund doesn’t have any mechanisms that would see some of the money raised go to local communities.
The expected revenue is based on the assumption five LNG terminals will be built to process natural gas for shipping overseas.
In addition to paying down the province’s debt of $56 billion, monies from the fund are earmarked for personal tax reductions and investments in community infrastructure and services such as health care and education.
“Our LNG industry is quickly developing. Large industry players are investing millions of dollars now to prepare for the opportunity ahead,” Energy, Mines and Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman said in a press release.
“We owe it to British Columbians to create the greatest economic return possible, so we can ensure this opportunity delivers benefits to our citizens for generations.”
Although the Liberal government is counting on natural gas to solve many problems, Donaldson noted none of the proposed LNG plants have yet to undergo an environmental assessment.
Although, the throne speech is meant to outline a vision for the upcoming year, Donaldson said much of the speech, including the proposed Prosperity Fund, highlighted promises too far into the future.
Absent from the throne speech was mention of initiatives or support to develop agriculture or tourism, two areas important to the Bulkley Valley economy, Donaldson said.
Investment in agriculture and tourism would help diversify the regional economy and consequently help buffer against ups and downs in resource-based economies and the global economy.
Given the anticipated increase in mining activity in northern B.C., Donaldson is surprised the throne speech didn’t mention a skills training program.
“There wasn’t a lot in the throne speech around important things for the daily lives of area residents,” Donaldson said.
“No mention of skills training so local people can have the best chance of benefitting from an increase in mining activity.”
Donaldson did commend Premier Clark for highlighting a program designed to address bullying and a program to establish a senior’s advocacy office.
“It’s a good step,” Donaldson said.
“I think these are things that will benefit Stikine overall.”