Christy Clark worked tirelessly to create a new industry in LNG during her six-and-a-half years as Premier of British Columbia. She led the negotiations with industry, investors, Indigenous communities and the federal government that led to the successful development of the first large-scale LNG export facility in Canada.
LNG Canada's $40-billion export terminal is currently under construction in Kitimat, British Columbia. It is the largest single private sector investment in Canadian history.
With the global LNG 2023 conference beginning today in Vancouver, Christy shares her experiences on how to attract investment in the LNG industry and what Canadian governments need to be focusing on now and moving forward.
Why was creating a LNG export industry so important to you as Premier?
Our government’s animating purpose was to create jobs. The biggest and most important element of that was creating a LNG industry for British Columbia and all of Canada. It was a new business to us, but British Columbia is rich in accessible natural gas reserves. We saw a rare opportunity to create a brand-new industry from the ground up. The bonus for us was that LNG has the potential to be a huge business in Canada, creating many thousands of jobs.
What specific steps did your government take to attract investment?
We started in 2011 and made building an LNG industry the key plank in our jobs plan. I formed a central task force of government that included every minister and deputy who would be vital to making it happen. It included advanced education, finance, Indigenous relations and environment. The task force met weekly to plan how we were going to deliver and had a mandate to move any obstacles out of the way.
We also went on eight trade missions to attract foreign investment—Japan, China, South Korea and India were key targets.
What is needed to make a jurisdiction an attractive place for investment in LNG?
Companies need the right royalty structure. They need access to power for their facilities, a qualified workforce and support from Indigenous communities affected by a project. And, they need a clear understanding of laws and regulations on carbon emissions and taxes. More than anything else, they need certainty.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in British Columbia?
There were two kinds of challenges. Some of the biggest ones were nonetheless ones we could address because they were within our control—things like the royalty structure.
Another was working with Indigenous communities, reaching out and building new relationships with B.C.’s First Nations. It was challenging, but it was probably the most rewarding experience of my entire career. Other than building the LNG industry itself, the outcome of building those relationships is a tremendous opportunity for all British Columbians as we work towards meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
What challenges were out of your control?
The ones that fell under the scope of the federal government. They also have a regulatory process that in many ways duplicates the provincial one. That added a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy. When we started in 2011, there was also a lot of federal skepticism about LNG. They just didn’t believe it was possible—perhaps because many of them didn’t know what it was back then. We had to work very hard to overcome that.
What is the biggest lesson you can share on LNG facility development?
My experience is that policy makers can't just sit back and wait for businesses to make LNG happen. Governments have to be fully engaged and doing their part with proponents to bring projects to life. This means communicating on a regular basis about mutual needs—and then delivering. Countries that are successful at building a LNG industry are countries that are collaborative with proponents and laser focused on doing the hard work it takes to get it done.
What did all of your work mean for you personally?
It was six-and-a-half years, and I was focused on it every day. It was intense and non-stop. I've never worked as hard at anything in my entire life, and I've never done anything so fulfilling in my entire life either.
What should Canadians be thinking about when it comes to LNG development?
Canadians and our governments need to remember that our contribution really matters to the world when it comes to energy. This is true more than ever now, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the destabilization of supply chains and the need for countries around the world to find sources of energy from trustworthy allies that abide by the rule of law. Canada is a huge potential partner for our allies on LNG. And as I've said, it's also a massive economic opportunity for us.
What should Canada be doing better in the development of a LNG industry?
Canada has what the world wants, but we need to do a much better job of getting it out of the ground and across the oceans to the countries that desperately need it. Proponents and investors need to see that Canadian governments are fully engaged in partnering to solve problems. The regulatory process and timelines for approvals need to be crystal clear. Our tax and royalty regimes, and the carbon pricing, need to offer certainty.
We can do this, but only with political will and substantive commitments to proponents and investors. It is no exaggeration to say that the world needs us right now.
The world needs Canada.