Editorial: Adding up B.C. resource revenue realities

Pacific NorthWest LNG’s decision to proceed with its $36 billion liquefied natural gas project moves B.C.’s LNG ambitions closer to reality. However, questions from investors over government regulatory and project development approvals remain, as do questions from other LNG proponents over residents’ appetite for natural gas development in the province.

Evidence that their appetite is limited in some quarters, regardless of a proposal’s upside, is underscored by opposition to Pacific Oil and Gas’ Woodfibre LNG project.

As outlined in last week’s Business in Vancouver, the $1.7 billion plant would generate approximately $2 million annually in taxes for the District of Squamish and create hundreds of high-paying jobs in the area.

It would also be located on the site of a former pulp mill, use electricity from the grid rather than burn natural gas to power its operations and involve a multimillion-dollar environmental mill-site cleanup. Yet there’s still much local opposition to the project.

Former forestry town Squamish has deep roots in resource industry realities. However, its residents and those in other B.C. communities appear to have lost sight of how important resources are to the province’s economy.

For instance, recent Coal Alliance figures show that, from 2010 to 2014, coal mines and terminals spent roughly $5.2 billion on local products and services in B.C., including close to $1 billion in Delta and $461 million in Vancouver.

According to a new labour market analysis from CareerBuilder.ca, oil and gas extraction will be among Canada’s fastest-growing industries for job growth over the next five years.

Green aspirations are admirable. But the economic foundation upon which B.C. communities are built and maintained still requires dirt-under-fingernail pursuits. Many small towns in the province’s hinterland now face uncertain futures in the wake of the pine beetle infestation that has destroyed area forests and eliminated the raw material for local job creation.

There’s no quick-fix replacement for resource industry riches there.  The repercussions of that economic reality will soon be felt far beyond B.C.’s outback.