Sturdy distances government from LNG

MLA also tells chamber that Garibaldi resort plan requires Squamish referendum

MLA Jordan Sturdy distanced the B.C. government from the liquefied natural gas industry in a speech Friday.

“There is some perception that this government has been about all LNG, all the time,” he told about 50 people at a Squamish Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Squamish Adventure Centre. “That is not the case. Yes, British Columbia is interested in developing an LNG export industry, but ultimately it comes down to a private-sector investment decision.”

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The remarks come as the federal Environmental Assessment (EA) agency is holding a public comment period for the Woodfibre LNG plant proposed for Howe Sound at Squamish. The provincial EA office is still reviewing the planned FortisBC natural gas line to the site.

The province needed to ensure the private companies “understand where they are investing” by providing the environmental, fiscal and social context, but the companies themselves will make the final decision, Sturdy stressed. “We are talking about forecasting demand 30 years out, we are talking about global competition,” he said, noting new technologies currently under development will also impact the companies’ decisions.

In his wide-ranging speech, the MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky also discussed the EA decision for the proposed Garibaldi at Squamish 22,000-bed, all-season resort. The provincial office gave the project the go-ahead, but the company has tough challenges ahead to make the resort a reality, he explained.

“Are there environmental impacts of this proposal and, to a lesser degree, socioeconomic impacts? … It took years to get an answer.”

Sturdy said the ministers concluded, “Yes, there are impacts, and yes, they can be mitigated.”

He noted concerns about Highway 99 congestion, competition, socioeconomic effects and the “viability of the resort overall.”

But for the Garibaldi at Squamish project to move forward, the proposal will need “essentially unanimous consent from the regional district board” on the regional growth strategy amendment. “That’s going to be hard to get,” he said. “This is going to be very interesting. That’s step one.”

Step two will be local government support, which could be critical to expand the District of Squamish’s borders, as “the province has been definitive about no new resort municipalities. No one is going to be dropping a new municipality in here,” he explained.

“It would be a District of Squamish issue, one would imagine, so there would have to be a referendum… so the citizens of Squamish will have to vote on whether to bring this into District of Squamish boundaries.”

After years of work to plan the resort, Garibaldi at Squamish will likely work to move the project forward, Sturdy said. “One would be hard-pressed to imagine that they will abandon it at this point.”

The MLA also discussed the provincial budget, climate change, the new variable highway-speed signs on Highway 99 and tourism. He noted with the rise in international visitors and the U.S. exchange rate, 2016 could be a big year for tourism. “With a little bit of good weather, I think we will see an incredibly busy time, especially in the Sea to Sky.”

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