Coleman optimistic for LNG, but towns should control spending until projects committed

Minister in charge of natural gas development in B.C. visits Kitimat.

The government know what Kitimat needs as it faces natural gas mega-projects over the next decade, but the minister of natural gas development says the community can’t count their chickens before they’re hatched.

“We’re aware of all that,” said Rich Coleman following a Kitimat Chamber of Commerce-hosted luncheon on September 4 about Kitimat’s infrastructure needs.

That being the case, he said he’s cautioned all municipalities that they should not go ahead on major projects before they know whether or not a company will commit to construct.

“Lets make sure we’re in the right direction, that we actually have the investment. You don’t just build infrastructure and hope they’ll come.”

He adds that front end infrastructure development will happen, but that is something that will happen at a later stage.

Job and training needs will also be fleshed out provincially over the course of the fall, he said, and government ministries — including education and advanced education — will meet with industry proponents to put together a list of the required jobs for the projects.

From there the government will figure out where gaps exist in current training.

“We know that we’re going to have to change how we do our training, we know we’re going to have a shortage of skilled labour, we need to train people over the next three to five years,” he said.

He said that the Liberals’ level of anticipated jobs — about 75,000 to construct all proposed projects — is realistic.

He points to the over 2,000 for the camp at Rio Tinto Alcan’s modernization project, a project billed at about $3.3 billion.

A liquefaction plant for natural gas could run between $9 and $10 billion by comparison, he said.

In short, it all adds up.

But to make this all happen, the government has to set tax rates and other details to make B.C. attractive to the industries.(Coleman said he’s set to have B.C. become the go-to place for natural gas projects over Australia, which have a number of their own projects.)

Those details, which the government will also finalize over the fall, include carbon tax rates, greenhouse gas emissions, royalties, and the base tax rate, all with an eye for beating the province’s competition to attract these businesses.

“We’ve got to make sure that we make sure this is solid for people,” he said.

Meanwhile, he told the Prince Rupert community during a stop there the day before his Kitimat visit that he believes employment could potentially reach 100 per cent.

“I do think we will get to 100 per cent employment and still have a need for workers. I believe the opportunity is that huge,” he told members of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce.

But approaching employment and training has to be done carefully.

“We don’t want to have happen what did happen in Australia, which is they couldn’t fill the skilled labour positions needed so the price of the projects climbed.”

He said if the province gets 13 projects going — which includes a number of smaller scale plants — he said that means $100 billion in economic opportunity, which could lead to a debt-free province.

– Files from Shaun Thomas, The Northern View