Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C.'S Liquefied Natural Gas Boom to Fuel $100 Billion Prosperity Fund

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C.'S Liquefied Natural Gas Boom to Fuel $100 Billion Prosperity Fund

Article excerpt

B.C. Liberals tout new Prosperity Fund

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VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark says her Liberal government's plans to embrace the trillion-dollar potential of exporting liquefied natural gas to Asia means making decisions today that won't pay off for many years.

The government's throne speech delivered Tuesday announced a new B.C. Prosperity Fund that could accumulate between $100 billion and $260 billion in revenues from LNG royalties and business taxes, enough to wipe out the province's current debt of $56 billion and eliminate the need for a provincial sales tax.

Opposition New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix charged Clark is asking British Columbians to trust a government that is making plans 30 years ahead when it hasn't shown much skill in forecasting six months into the future.

B.C. Conservative Party Leader John Cummins was even more blunt, saying the plan appears to be based almost entirely on winning a lottery-like windfall from liquefied natural gas or LNG.

Clark's throne speech highlighted both her government's political agenda for the coming year and its plans for the May 14 provincial election campaign. The speech focused on proposed LNG developments in northern British Columbia and what she called a generational opportunity.

Clark deflected concerns that her government was focusing too much of its economic energies towards LNG projects that at the moment are more blueprints than reality.

The first LNG facility is projected to be in operation in two years and most of the others are seven years away.

"We did not win the Olympics in 2010," she said at a news conference following the release of the throne speech. "We won it seven years before that."

Clark's throne speech said LNG export possibilities represent a possible $1 trillion boost to B.C.'s gross domestic product over the next 30 years, and a portion of that would go into the new B.C. Prosperity Fund.

"Future revenues will be designated to this fund, ensuring British Columbia families can benefit from the prosperity created by natural gas in our province," said Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, who read the throne speech.

Dix said the government's track record on forecasting natural gas revenues in its regular financial updates has been off the mark, leading him to have doubts about projections that look ahead years.

"They were dramatically wrong over six months in terms of natural gas revenues," he said. "A government that has over time ... been completely wrong and completely out of step on its estimates, one has to take its estimates with a grain of salt."

Clark would not elaborate on her government's plans to build the Prosperity Fund through a new LNG tax to generate revenues. She said sensitive negotiations are underway with the LNG companies and the timing isn't right to discuss the tax issue.

The throne speech emphasized that the prosperity fund can't be used as type of slush fund. …

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