In a decision that the B.C. New Democratic Party shared only with federal regulators and its environmental supporters, the opposition has officially rejected the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG plant near Prince Rupert, saying plans for an $11.4-billion terminal on Lelu Island would generate significant greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and threaten the important Skeena River salmon runs.
The decision creates a clear political wedge now as the B.C. Liberal government has championed Pacific NorthWest LNG. The project, led by Malaysia's state-owned Petronas, is awaiting a decision from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). In a letter to CEAA dated March 10, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan and his environment critic George Heyman said the project is deficient because it threatens juvenile salmon habitat and would increase the province's GHG output by 8.5 per cent.
However, the decision puts the NDP at odds – once again – with some of its labour allies.
Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC Building Trades Council, was in Prince Rupert to talk with First Nations leaders about LNG job opportunities on Monday when he learned of the NDP's position only after B.C. Liberal caucus staff circulated Mr. Horgan's CEAA letter.
"I'm very disappointed. The building trades have been working hard with LNG proponents to try to develop the industry in British Columbia," Mr. Sigurdson said in an interview. Although the building trades unions are typically supportive of the NDP, Mr. Sigurdson has been critical of the NDP's opposition to the $9-billion Site C dam that is currently under construction – a project that is the province's largest public infrastructure project in history.
The labour leader said he hopes to meet with NDP MLAs next week to ask where the New Democrats would propose to support job creation, in advance of the May, 2017, election. "We're going to have that conversation with the NDP caucus."
The NDP has maintained it supports the development of an LNG industry. The Petronas proposal is the most advanced of the major LNG projects on the books in British Columbia.
The Liberal government has described the project, when the associated pipelines and upstream natural gas rights are included, as the largest private sector investment in Canadian history, worth a total of $36-billion.