I believe in democracy. I believe that governments have a responsibility to tell the truth. I believe that citizens have a right to that truth. But when it comes to building our province’s economic future around liquefied natural gas (LNG), any truth coming from government has been buried in the fine print.
With the tabling of the legislation to enable the development of the LNG industry in British Columbia, we are starting to get the real picture of what LNG actually offers our province.
Here are some numbers. Christy Clark promised there would be 10 to 15 LNG plants that would result in 100,000 jobs for British Columbians. She promised a trillion dollars in economic activity and an end to the provincial sales tax. She promised a $100 billion prosperity fund, and the first LNG plant by 2015.
But here are the real numbers. The tax structure for LNG, which was recently presented to the Legislature, lays out that if a plant were to be built, the new tax revenue to the province would be between $100 million and $125 million per year. But that revenue would only begin six to eight years after the plant was built and operating.
Now, $100 million sounds like a fair bit of money. But, when compared to other sources of revenue or other costs to government, you will see that there is no way that this level of revenue will get us anywhere close to eliminating the debt, replacing the provincial sales tax or building a prosperity fund.
For example, the current provincial sales tax collects $6 billion a year. The province’s debt has grown by $15 billion since Christy Clark became premier in 2011. Medical services plan premiums paid by British Columbians bring in $2.6 billion a year. When you are talking about billions, $100 million doesn’t go very far.
Each plant is expected to create 120 jobs. To put these numbers into perspective, Skookumchuk Pulp in the Columbia Valley, a relatively small operation, employs 290 people. And still, all talk of LNG plants being operational within this decade is purely hypothetical.
Where did I get my numbers from? All of this information is available in the government’s own documents. These are the facts that are missing from the Premier’s statements. This is not a partisan issue. This is democracy issue. Citizens have a right to know the truth.
Norm Macdonald is the NDP MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke. He can be reached by phone at 1-866-870-4188 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.