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Lessons from LNG

Yes, you CAN build a pipeline in this country – despite what must have seemed like Canada’s best efforts to prove otherwise

It’s good news all round. LNG will mean thousands of jobs, millions in revenue to government, and hope for First Nations communities who have waited far too long for prosperity.

There is one other potential payoff: that the LNG Canada project will change the view that Canada is among the hardest places in the developed world to get anything done.

Sadly, this single LNG project won’t be enough – at least, not on its own.

In Canada, trade and foreign investment are essential to job creation. Population-wise, we are a small country. There just aren’t enough people here to buy all the things we can produce. If we want jobs – and the taxes they generate – we must sell our products to other countries.

Nor does Canada have enough money to finance the huge projects that create the most jobs. LNG Canada’s $40 billion investment is the single largest private sector investment in Canadian history. It’s too big a bet to be financed by Canadians alone. We need foreign financing to make these sorts of big job-creating projects come to life.

Nonetheless, we seem determined to scare them all away.

Yes, we finally got LNG Canada off the ground, and the NDP government deserves credit for staying the course our government set. But consider this: it took six and a half years of work just to get to the stage to even consider a final investment decision.

Yes, the process was slowed by the global crash in oil and gas prices, but the required work was long and intensive regardless.

LNG was the priority file for every single cabinet minister. Getting it to yes consumed thousands of hours of work for many ministers.

Everyone knows Rich Coleman was instrumental as our minister for LNG, but most people don’t know that Shirley Bond, as minister for skills training, spent years on the strategy to build the workforce we’ll need to construct it.

With John Rustad, we all travelled the north meeting with chiefs and councillors to craft the First Nations agreements that will guarantee those communities see the jobs and revenue that come from being partners.

Mike de Jong and Mary Polak worked with companies like Shell, spending tremendous energy crafting tax and environmental regulations needed to govern an industry that is brand new to our province.

And throughout this work, both the project proponents and government confronted protesters at every turn.

Critics said we were wasting way too much time on LNG. I suppose if the new government hadn’t continued our work, they would have proven themselves right.

Instead, all that work has turned out to be a wise investment of time and energy.

But the point is, it was an awful lot of work that took a very long time – even with a provincial government that was a squarely focused on getting it done.

All that makes the LNG Canada deal both an encouraging sign for investors – and a cautionary tale.

Yes, it’s possible to get a pipeline project approved here, but it takes an almost Herculean effort.

If we want this project to be the first of many, all levels of government are going to have to roll up their sleeves and change directions.

No more new taxes.

No more piling on regulations and process.

And, most important of all, governments have to stand up and fight for resource development in Canada without apology.

No more government officials winking at well-financed protesters dedicated to chasing resource investment away.

Our resource sector is the very best in the world. Rather than standing on the sidelines and hoping the private sector will be able to find its way to approval on its own, governments – federal, provincial and municipal – need to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.

And fight like hell to make resource development happen.

Christy Clark was the 35th Premier of British Columbia from 2011 - 2017