B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark travelled to B.C.'s north coast to warn that an NDP government would derail the opportunity for a liquefied natural gas industry to take off.
The potential development of LNG has been the central theme of Ms. Clark's campaign, whether she is in urban ridings or touring a gas plant in a hardhat and coveralls. "There won't be a single liquefied natural gas job to be found in British Columbia if the NDP have their way," she told a small rally in Kitimat on Tuesday with the blue water of the Douglas Channel sparkling behind her.
The NDP's finance critic, Bruce Ralston, said the Liberal attacks are not sustained by facts. "It's just a blatant falsehood," he said in an interview. "We're very supportive of LNG."
Earlier in the day, Ms. Clark visited Spectra Energy's Fort Nelson gas plant in the northeast corner of the province, saying the NDP would slap a $200-million carbon tax on natural gas emissions, killing the industry that holds the key to creating LNG.
The Spectra plant, built in the 1960s, hasn't been running at full capacity for years – since natural gas prices in North America tanked. The company has been building up its infrastructure anyway – with 250 kilometres of pipelines and a new $1-billion plant to the north that fired up just weeks ago – in the hopes that LNG will take shape, opening up more lucrative markets.
"We've got so much gas here, with nowhere to go," said Bill Streeper, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.
This is the "connect the dots" stretch of the B.C. Liberal Leader's tour: If voters reject her party on May 14, she said, an NDP government would mean that "this opportunity would stop dead in its tracks."
The NDP would broaden the carbon tax to include natural gas emissions – but would not raise the tax in the first year, Mr. Ralston noted. In the second year, the tax would be expected to collect $35-million in taxes, rising in subsequent years.
The Liberals are planning to impose a new tax on LNG, but Ms. Clark said that is different from the NDP plan for the carbon tax because her government is consulting with industry.
"We want to make sure we get the best deal for the people of this province. But at the same time we want to make sure the deal we get doesn't sink the business case and send all that investment somewhere else," she said. "We're certainly not talking about imposing that without ever having exchanged one word of discussion with the investment community that's planning to bring those jobs here."
But Dan Pawlachuk, Spectra's area business leader, said a change in government is unlikely to dramatically alter the future of the province's natural gas sector. "Nobody is going to shut off the tap," he said in an interview after leading Ms. Clark on a tour of the Fort Nelson plant, the largest sour gas plant in North America. "Industry is a little nervous" about the prospect of an NDP government, he added, but natural gas prices are dictating the plant's operations.