B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she is optimistic about federal cabinet approval of Pacific NorthWest LNG's proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal on the province's coast, following a report that the federal Environment Minister will bring the issue to her colleagues.
Bloomberg News reported that Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna is prepared to refer the proposal to cabinet. Her other option would have been to approve the project, with conditions, if she concluded it likely wouldn't cause significant adverse effects to the environment.
"Everything we hear from the federal government has been positive," Ms. Clark told reporters in Victoria. "They have been very much in favour of creating jobs in the country. In B.C., they know the impact LNG would have."
Indeed, the B.C. Liberal Premier said she has made the case for British Columbia's LNG projects to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in recent meetings.
Ms. Clark, echoing a point she has frequently made, said she told Mr. Trudeau that LNG would make British Columbia an economic powerhouse for Canada that also could help in efforts to curb climate change by offering China an alternative to using coal.
Also, she said it would bring prosperity to First Nations communities involved in developing projects.
"When I met with him and we talked about this, he understood how important this was for the country," she told reporters.
The $11.4-billion terminal, backed by Malaysia's state-owned oil-and-gas concern Petronas, is proposed to be built on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.
A February draft report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency concluded the project is "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects" to harbour porpoises and greenhouse gas emissions.
A spokesperson for Ms. McKenna said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday that "it would be premature, at this point, to speculate on whether the minister will refer this to cabinet." The spokesperson said the minister hadn't yet determined whether the project would likely cause adverse environmental effects.
Referring to the prospect of a cabinet review, Ms. Clark said, "[Mr. Trudeau] wants to make sure he protects the integrity of the environmental process as he should and they will make a decision at the federal cabinet based on what they see based on the panel. I am hopeful that it will be a positive one."
LNG development has been a key political priority for the B.C. Liberals. Ms. Clark has promised at least $9-billion in extra LNG revenue for the government by 2020, as well as tens of thousands of jobs. LNG is likely to loom large in the next provincial election, scheduled for May, 2017, in which the B.C. Liberals will be seeking a fifth consecutive mandate.
Ms. Clark has previously referred to federal support for LNG. In November, she said the new Liberal government had assured her that they would not remove a tax break for the LNG sector initiated by former prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government. That measure allowed a capital-cost-allowance tax break for the industry.
At the time, a spokesperson for the prime minister told The Vancouver Sun that the Liberal government would stick with the measure.
Bruce Ralston, a B.C. NDP spokesperson on LNG development, said the Canadian government is facing a "profound decision" on the project given its possible environmental impact. "It will have implications for the path that they choose on resource-development approvals in the future."
Mr. Ralston said the NDP conditions for supporting LNG include guaranteed jobs and training opportunities for British Columbians, a fair return for the resource, opportunities and benefits for First Nations and the protection of air, land and water.
The province, Mr. Ralston said, is less discriminating. "They are prepared to rubber stamp anything you put in front of them."