This week, an anti-liquefied natural gas organization is raising its eyebrows at the sponsors behind one of the largest gatherings of B.C. municipal representatives.
Monday, Sept. 22, marked the opening of the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ four-day convention in Whistler. One of the first items on the agenda was LNG in BC: Opportunities and Challenges — a topic that’s sparked heated debate in the corridor with a proposed Woodfibre Natural Gas export facility slated for Howe Sound.
More than 2,000 delegates attended the half-day session that outlined elements of the province’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy and reviewed global market conditions. They heard from spokespersons representing the provincial government, municipal governments, First Nations and labour and education-training stakeholders.
But rather than being informative, My Sea to Sky founder Tracey Saxby said the workshop was a push by the province to spoon-feed municipal officials pro-LNG rhetoric. This becomes evident when one looks at the “heavy” oil and gas sponsorship , Saxby said, noting FortisBC, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers were among the backers.
“This is quite disconcerting when you think about the fact that all these councillors are being exposed to the industry marketers only,” she said, noting the event was not open to the general public.
The union does not discriminate against businesses and industries when it comes to sponsorship, UBCM first vice president Sav Dhaliwal said. Not all the sponsors are corporations, he added, before highlighting the Green Communities Committee and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Defining who can and who can’t donate would create problems, he said. The sponsorship helps cover the costs of hosting the slew of workshops and clinics, which delve into everything from B.C.’s logging export policy to B.C. Ferries.
“[Politicians] don’t get easily influenced by sponsorship,” he said, noting people are exposed to corporate marketing on a daily basis.
The LNG session wasn’t so much to give representatives hard information, as it was to help politicians “get our heads around what is going on,” Squamish councillor Doug Race said.
B.C.’s energy minister Richard Coleman highlighted some big numbers, he said. Currently, the province is dealing with 18 active LNG applications and eying what could amount to $175 billion worth of investment within the province.
BC Federation of Labour Jim Sinclair told participants the projects would hire local first before considering temporary foreign workers. Sinclair added some of the positions will be filled by overseas experts. Race noted the same would likely go for Woodfibre if approved.
“All the speakers actually said this is a moment in Canadian history that could be as important as the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway,” Race said. “It is a game changer for Canada.”