A banner behind the stage at Langley Events Centre said it all — “We won. It’s Christmas every day.”
This was the setting for Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman’s annual fundraising dinner, which raises money for BC Liberal campaigns across the province. In the last election, money from the event helped fund 30 campaigns.
Coleman, who was provincial campaign manager, was in a jovial mood Wednesday as he spoke to the several hundred in attendance. He reminded them that, one year earlier, he had said “Adrian Dix will be the most unhappy man in B.C. on May 15, 2013.”
Many, including many BC Liberal insiders and even his own brother, doubted his optimism. They were wrong.
Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, who introduced Coleman, said “Rich is a believer. There were a lot of doubters. He never was.”
While Coleman is clearly in a happy frame of mind, he is also concentrating on his job as minister of liquefied natural gas (LNG) development. He gave his dinner guests a very clear idea of what he has been doing and how the prospects for LNG development shape up.
He said his objective is to get investors to see that B.C. is the best option for their investment, as there are many possible sources of gas for the hungry Asian market.
He said B.C.’s strengths are the north coast ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert, which are 58 hours closer by ship to Asian markets than any other North American ports. Consistently cool weather there also helps, as it reduces the cost of liquefying gas by taking its temperature down to -160 Celsius. The gas compresses as a liquid and large quantities can be shipped on specially designed tanker ships.
Another of B.C.’s strengths is economic and political stability. Coleman is saying to potential investors that the B.C. government will work with them to design a fair tax regime that gives the province a fair return in taxation while giving them a return in investment that satisfies their shareholders.
The province will put these terms in legislation so that investments will be protected.
“I don’t think that government automatically is right (in determining tax rates) without sitting down and talking to proponents. Our objective is to find a ‘sweet spot’ that everyone is satisfied with.
“I believe our investment climate will get us the win.”
He has been criss-crossing the globe, meeting with companies interested in the LNG business. A number have already committed substantial funds to development work, including $500 million by Chevron and its partners in Kitimat. Shell is prepared to spend up to $1 billion to prepare the former Methanex site in Kitimat. Petronas, owned by the Malaysian government, is ready to invest a substantial amount in Prince Rupert, as is a British firm. Nexen, owned by CNOOC, a Chinese government entity, has agreed to buy property at Grassy Point north of Prince Rupert for a plant site.
Coleman said that he expects as many as five plants to be built on the north coast, with three smaller plants on old industrial sites on the south coast and Vancouver Island. Together, they could create up to 100,000 jobs.
Companies need to get to the point where they make a “final investment decision,” and he is meeting with them regularly to answer questions and promote B.C.’s investment climate. The final amounts of capital spending could reach $100 billion, he said.
If the plants go ahead, they will be built to the highest environmental standards, but even more important, he said, is that they will contribute to a lowering of emissions worldwide, by allowing natural gas to replace coal in Chinese power plants.
“China needs to fix its air to fix global air,” he said.
There will also be substantial investment and job prospects for First Nations people in both the northeast and northwest, he added.
If it all comes to fruition, and he said much more work remains to be done, B.C. will be able to pay its accumulated debt off within 15 years, and set up a prosperity fund that will help fund public projects long into the future. He said this will mean B.C. will be a better place for coming generations.