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B.C.’s new NDP government has scrapped an international conference designed to spur development of liquefied natural gas projects, the latest blow to the once-lofty dreams of LNG riches in Canada.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

B.C.'s new NDP government has scrapped an international conference designed to spur development of liquefied natural gas projects, the latest blow to the once-lofty dreams of LNG riches in Canada.

The BC Liberals under then-premier Christy Clark held three major LNG conferences in Vancouver in an effort to court global energy players.

But the NDP cancelled the fourth planned gathering, which had been slated for Nov. 28-30 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

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"Unfortunately, given the short time frame to act on, there was simply not enough time, with the change in government, to deliver a quality event this year. Future events will be considered," the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said in a statement on Thursday.

Cancelling the meeting is the latest sign of diminishing LNG ambitions in British Columbia. Market conditions began deteriorating in 2015 amid a growing worldwide glut of LNG. Today, the cost of producing and exporting LNG from British Columbia vastly exceeds what buyers in Asia are willing pay for the fuel.

BC NDP Leader John Horgan, who became Premier on July 18, formed a political alliance in late May with BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. That May move later resulted in the July ousting of Ms. Clark's Liberals.

This year's LNG conference would have been held as scheduled in November had the BC Liberals stayed in power, said Ellis Ross, the former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation who was elected as a Liberal MLA in the May 9 election.

The Energy Ministry said the process for scrubbing this year's LNG meeting dates back to June 13, but Mr. Ross said the NDP didn't want to carry on.

"I find it hard to believe that there wasn't enough time to put on a conference," he said in an interview on Thursday. "When you talk to people who participated in previous years, they talk about how it was a big event. The NDP have never really believed in LNG. They say it's a fairy tale."

The first three LNG conferences – organized by the provincial government and co-sponsored by the energy industry – were held in February, 2013; May, 2014; and October, 2015. The three-day event in 2015 attracted more than 3,000 participants and 300 exhibitors.

Ms. Clark's BC Liberals aggressively promoted the potential of LNG wealth and prosperity in the 2013 election, boasting that exports of the fuel would transform the provincial economy with the creation of 100,000 jobs.

But she played down expectations during the 2017 campaign as various proposals lost their lustre.

There have been more than 20 British Columbia LNG ventures pitched in recent years. Woodfibre LNG is the lone B.C. LNG venture so far to decide that it is worthwhile to build despite sharply lower prices for the fuel in Asia. Woodfibre LNG hopes to start construction in 2018 at its Squamish-area site, located 65 kilometres north of Vancouver.

On July 25, Pacific NorthWest LNG abandoned its plans to build an $11.4-billion terminal to export the fuel from a site near Prince Rupert on the West Coast. Pacific NorthWest LNG, led by Malaysia's state-owned Petronas, cited unfavourable market conditions as the primary reason for walking away from the project.

An industry source said Petronas officials visited Vancouver on July 24, and while the global glut of LNG swayed their decision, Mr. Horgan's lack of enthusiasm for the project's location was one of the contributing factors that sped up Pacific NorthWest LNG's demise.

While serving as Opposition NDP Leader, Mr. Horgan wrote a letter critical of the controversial venture in comments dated March 10, 2016, to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).

"It is clear to us, that for the purposes of the CEAA review, the Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal before you does not meet the condition of concern for First Nations objections based on the risk to the future of salmon in the area and the Skeena River salmon ecosystem," Mr. Horgan said in the letter, co-signed by George Heyman, the NDP MLA who is now the province's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

Mr. Horgan's partner in toppling the BC Liberals, Mr. Weaver, has been a long-time skeptic of LNG exports. Mr. Weaver has derided the LNG proposals as misguided endeavours, saying "B.C.'s future does not lie in chasing yesterday's fossil-fuel economy."

The federal Liberal cabinet approved Pacific NorthWest LNG in September 2016, despite concerns expressed by the NDP, environmentalists, some First Nations and a group of scientists.

An official familiar with Pacific NorthWest LNG said the backers believed they could meet environmental rules and even considered relocating the planned docking facilities as part of efforts to ensure protection of salmon habitat near the proposed liquefaction site on Lelu Island.

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