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In today’s economy, B.C. Premier Christy Clark should avoid gloating

British Columbia's Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, right, is greeted by Premier Christy Clark prior to the throne speech in the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on Tuesday.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

British Columbia's Speech from the Throne on Tuesday didn't resist the temptation to point out that B.C. is in better shape than other Canadian provinces, notably neighbouring Alberta.

Premier Christy Clark should avoid gloating. Much hope has been invested in B.C. liquefied natural gas, both recently and almost chronically in the past. Back in 2011, Ms. Clark's Throne Speech promised one LNG pipeline and terminal in operation in Kitimat by 2015 and three in operation by 2020. This week's Throne Speech still talked about B.C.'s potential to be "a clean energy superpower," but those timelines are no longer mentioned, perhaps because they appear no longer possible.

A federal environmental review of the proposed commercialization of B.C.'s LNG has been going on since April, 2013, inviting the comment "paralysis by analysis," from Robert Fitzmartyn of FirstEnergy Corp. in Calgary. It feels as if the regulatory process has bogged down. Major companies have spent huge sums on B.C.'s LNG, but none of them have made a final commitment, and none of them have actually started construction.

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Ms. Clark has had no small role in the difficulties of exporting Canadian energy eastwards to "tidewater" and beyond. For the Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project, she stipulated five conditions, and more recently applied them to the Trans Mountain project, too. None of these conditions were unreasonable in themselves, but Ms. Clark did not appear to actively seek to find good compromises that would benefit Alberta, and Canada as a whole.

Nor did the B.C. Liberal government help by imposing a whole extra layer of taxation for LNG companies.

Instead, a good case could have been made for very substantial compensation, from government and businesses alike, for the benefit of indigenous peoples of the LNG deposit regions and the areas of pipelines to LNG export terminals. But as things stand, the companies' offers have not been irresistibly attractive.

The phrase "social licence to operate" is not self-explanatory. Canadian governments and corporations should have been working harder to give it practical, mutually beneficial content.

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