By Brad Bennett, OBC
On February 12, Premier Christy Clark’s government introduced a visionary idea that we should all seriously consider – a B.C. Prosperity Fund that would ensure the bounty from our natural gas revenues is protected for future generations.
A tremendous opportunity stands before British Columbia – the creation of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry. Successfully attracting LNG plants to northwest BC can be transformational for our province.
Natural gas companies have already invested billions in natural gas development and pre-development work for LNG. Shell, Chevron, Petronas (a Malaysian energy giant), and British Gas are already on the scene. The scale of just one of these plants eclipses the largest private sector investments ever made in BC. Projections by industry experts and finance officials are staggering in terms of the economic potential for B.C.
That means jobs and opportunity for our children and grandchildren – throughout B.C. It also means a lot of new revenue to help make B.C. a better place to live.
We could put this potential revenue into day to day government operations and watch the size of government grow, much like Alberta where they squandered resource wealth on bigger government.
Or we can, as Premier Christy Clark suggests, steer new resource revenues into a Prosperity Fund that address inter-generational equity – a fund that ensures that what we leave behind for our children and grandchildren is a stronger, better B.C.
One way we do that is to have the Prosperity Fund pay down B.C.’s debt, which would reduce interest payments, help make life more affordable for B.C. families, and enable greater investments in health care and education.
Premier Christy Clark’s visionary idea opens the door to a broader discussion about the future of resource development in B.C. – new mining opportunities, growing our forest industry, and developing clean power with the Site C hydroelectric dam – and steering more of our existing resource wealth into a future-focused Prosperity Fund.
Now is the time to talk about the idea of the Prosperity Fund.
We need strong government leadership to realize this LNG opportunity. The B.C. government must be wholly committed to getting this done as we are in a worldwide race to meet Asia’s demand. While the first plant might not break ground until later this decade, the decision to proceed will be made very soon. Leadership matters and an election is coming soon.
At this critical time, the BC NDP IS sitting on the fence – afraid to commit strongly to LNG and all the steps necessary to realize this opportunity. Fence-sitting will not build these plants and we risk these opportunities passing us by. Slowing down the process in B.C. is just what our competitors in Australia, the U.S. and the Middle East want.
British Columbia is more than just natural resources, but our natural resources are still our ‘core business.’ It allows us to dream big and to address long-term priorities like diversifying our economy and providing for future generations.
Dreaming big also means opening more doors for First Nations economic opportunities and developing our resources with the best technology and in the most environmentally responsible way possible. We should be global leaders in how to produce LNG, and I believe we will be.
These are important legacies we can leave for future generations. Our legacy is growing the economy and leaving a better B.C. for future generations, not taking the proceeds of resource wealth to simply grow the size of government.
We have a premier who gets our core business and she has a vision how to turn that to our future advantage. The BC Prosperity Fund is exactly what we need to capture and protect the bounty from LNG and other natural resources. It’s a brilliant idea.
This May, we have the opportunity to support a Premier who is demonstrating the leadership qualities necessary at this critical time. Her vision and determination is what we need to seize this opportunity now for future generations.
-Brad Bennett is a Kelowna businessman, director on the boards of private and public companies not-for-profit organizations, and former Chair of the University of British Columbia.