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Former Conservative federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice in a Nov. 19, 2012, file photo.Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Canada's federal and provincial leaders must move quickly to work out new taxes and new ocean management practices to open the door for natural gas exports, former cabinet minister Jim Prentice says.

Mr. Prentice, who is now vice-chairman of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, has become one of the leading voices calling for Canada to embrace energy ties with Asia.

But in a speech to a B.C. government-organized LNG conference Monday, he warned that timing is critical.

"LNG growth is unfolding in real time, all around the world, and the biggest winners are far from being determined. For Canada, nothing is more urgent right now than getting in the game," he said.

He added: "The hard reality is that we are new to the global energy game – and frankly, despite our natural advantages, we aren't yet playing that game with sufficient skill, foresight or cohesiveness. LNG represents a chance to change all of that."

Mr. Prentice argued that Canada has a distinct selling point as a stable country that can be relied upon to provide energy shipments for years to come. But, he said, "the stakes are high and the challenges are formidable. This is no slam dunk."

To succeed with LNG, Mr. Prentice called on B.C. to quickly sort out its royalty regime and determine what kind of power – hydro or natural gas – should be used by LNG plants; all levels of government to boost the skilled labour needed to build projects; Ottawa to work with B.C. and first nations on a coastal co-management regime to oversee ocean traffic and emergency response; and the entire country to better understand how it can face off against the threat of LNG competition from the U.S.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said British Columbia is working on a fiscal and royalty regime for the LNG industry.

"We are at the negotiating table with the big proponents," she said after her speech to the LNG conference.

Ms. Clark said the LNG sector is an emerging industry in British Columbia, and it has already taken a lot of effort to get the ball rolling.

She announced that B.C.'s existing energy infrastructure royalty credit program will be renewed for 2013, providing a helping hand to LNG developments.

"There's no time to waste," Ms. Clark said in her speech. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime."

Meanwhile, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced that cabinet has approved a long-term export licence for LNG Canada Development Inc., a group that includes Royal Dutch Shell PLC and PetroChina Co. Ltd.. Earlier this month, the National Energy Board said it has granted LNG Canada the authority to export.