Locally in Squamish, LNG is quickly becoming a divisive issue with the battle lines drawn mostly in the environment versus industry and jobs axis. Setting aside the very serious environmental impacts and risks, many Woodfibre LNG supporters appear willing to overlook.
So, let’s focus on the economics and see whether LNG really is the way to the Promised Land for Squamish and BC.
Certainly 100 permanent well-paying jobs in addition to the $1.7 billion facility and tax revenues reminiscent of the resource industry glory days of Squamish’s past echo strongly. Unfortunately the facility is likely to be built in Asia and shipped to the site. We will gain new residents from the highly-skilled labour filling the positions and there will be compounding economic impacts for Squamish although no one seems to know how much.
Minister Rich Coleman responsible for developing the LNG industry has indicated that the province might cap the local property tax rates to maintain competitiveness. I am not sure where the wildly optimistic property tax revenue estimates stem from, but they certainly don’t seem to match Coleman’s direction. The province’s proposed a two-tier income tax structure (1.5 per cent and 7 per cent), which taxes on the net proceeds after the capital cost has been exhausted has already met with industry claims of not being competitive enough.
I have no doubt there is money to be made on LNG and that some financial benefit will yield as a result to Squamish. But the costs, in my opinion, far outweigh all the costs in a complex realm – social, economic and environmental along with lost opportunities.
Woodfibre LNG will have a very limited expansion potential thus capping jobs and taxes at their startup level. Our industrial land inventory is sparse and the gas industry operates on a notoriously low number of employees. We could be multiplying jobs per landmass by choosing a different industry from the array already here such as tourism, forestry, lumber, wood processing, rec tech, education, agriculture, research and science, high-tech, transportation, manufacturing and more.
And no, we didn’t and haven’t really tried to sell this site to alternative investment and yes, patience can pay off big dividends. I wan to see more yield to our community to truly multiply the economic impacts.
By saying no to LNG we say a resounding yes to so many who will see Squamish as the leader for a new resilient economy based on renewable resources, sustainability, knowledge and innovation.
It’s time for our community to speak up and demand a say in our collective future. And it most certainly is time for our Mayor and Council to recognize the need for securing the necessary social license from the community.