Nation-building takes many forms. In the late 19th century, the completion of a railroad linking Eastern and Western Canada helped transform Canada from a concept to a fact. Similarly at the onset of the 21st century, the completion of pipelines and export terminals allowing liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be exported to Asia and around the world is viewed as a significant act of nation-building.
“It’s the new frontier,” says LNG Canada’s director of external affairs Susannah Pierce. “The proposed LNG projects provide a new market for the energy industry – in this case natural gas – which has the potential to be a significant revenue generator and job creator, benefiting all Canadians.”
Independent studies commissioned by the Government of British Columbia indicate that if five LNG facilities were operating in B.C. by 2020, it could mean more than $98-billion in new capital investment, 75,000 permanent new jobs, more than 39,000 average annual jobs over the construction period, and generate more than $100-billion in new government revenues over a 30-year period. All this is possible, says Ms. Pierce, because of the move away from a closed domestic and North American market to an international one where energy prices can be significantly higher.
The LNG Canada project is also significant in the high “social licence fee” the company is willing to pay to ensure that human and environmental needs are addressed during both the building and operational phases of the project.
“As much as possible, the plant is being built incorporating the comments and interests of the people who are potentially affected,” she says. In Kitimat, where the LNG export facility is proposed, Haisla Nation Chief Ellis Ross says the company has been as good as its word, preferring consultation to confrontation and extending economic development opportunities to the Haisla people. “They’ve been very upfront about the impacts and don’t apply for permits without consulting with us first,” he says, adding that the project offers so many benefits to his people that it has the potential to move the Haisla Nation away from dependence in economic matters. “If this isn’t the perfect example of reconciliation at work, then I don’t know what is,” he says.
In Kitimat, mayor Joanne Monaghan says the arrival of LNG Canada has transformed the community, renewing hope and revers- ing a long economic slide. “We were in a situation of doom, and now we’re having a boom,” she says. “We’re building new houses and renovating old ones, which is enhancing our neighbourhoods. We were down to two children on our street a few years ago, now we’re up to 20. There’s a renewed sense of optimism.” She adds that she has an extremely good rapport with LNG Canada. “I have their cell numbers. They always talk to me, they listen to our concerns and they’re always polite.”
Typically taking the call from people like Mayor Monaghan and other concerned citizens is Mary-Ellen Proctor, LNG Canada’s community liaison officer. Born and bred in the North, Ms. Proctor says she views the project as a kind of salvation for towns like Kitimat, one that will keep families and communities together by providing opportunity. “At LNG Canada, we like to think of ourselves as new neighbours,” she says. “We like what we’re doing, but we want people in the community to like it as well, so we’ve set up a system where people can come to us with their concerns.”
The LNG industry is still in an embryonic stage, and there are many hurdles to pass, but the way in which it has already been successful in building communities and renewing hope in the North speaks well of its ambition to be a positive force in nation-building in the years to come.
Visit the host publication or see more related articles below: