Bennett compared the burgeoning LNG industry to the work of W.A.C. Bennett – to which has no relation – in this region, and pointed out that he also faced public doubt and criticism of the need for the dams on the Columbia and Peace Rivers.
“They were probably right at the time; they probably didn’t need that power, but that’s not why W.A.C. Bennett did what he did,” he argues. “He had a vision for what British Columbia could be, and he knew that eventually, with the access to electricity, that those dams created, that businesses would start up, industries would flourish, and we would use that electricity today.”
It’s that same perspective that Bennett says is driving the provincial government towards the LNG industry, which he admits is still a long way from being realized.
“We’re building it because we have faith in British Columbians, we have faith in Canada, we have faith in you,” he told the crowd. “If we give you the opportunity to tap into that electricity, if we give you the opportunity to tap into that natural gas, we build those pipelines over the west coast, we liquefy that natural gas and we ship it to Asia, we’re confident that B.C. is going to be more prosperous.”
He also credited Senator Richard Neufeld, who was in the room, with helping the government understand the opportunities presented by unconventional natural gas.
Going off his script, Bennett also touched on the Site C dam, maintaining that the government is waiting to hear what the Joint Review Panel has to say. He says he places the project in the same category as W.A.C. Bennett’s dams, and the LNG industry, and the government hopes the answer is yes.
“I would be dishonest if I stood up here and said there’s not going to be any impact if that dam gets built, because there will be impact upstream from that dam and there will be impact on communities as well,” he concedes, “but if you look around the province, and you want to build a large hydroelectric facility somewhere in British Columbia, this is the place to do it.”
He qualified that by pointing to the two existing dams on the Peace River and the Williston Reservoir as having already created an environmental footprint that can be used for the Site C dam.
After his address, Bennett spoke to local media about recent comments he made in the Vancouver Sun about using natural gas to produce cheaper electricity in the province. He says he threw the idea out to spur a debate, and points out that B.C. Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan would allow for it.
“I think there’s been an interesting public discussion about using more gas for electricity,” he says. “This isn’t a revolutionary concept; B.C. Hydro’s long-term plan already allows for the use of more gas for electricity, but we haven’t had a gas plant built in B.C. in many, many years, so I thought it was worth throwing the idea out.”
It would likely be easier to be built in the Horn River or Liard area where there’s less transmission, but Bennett says it’s for the marketplace to drive its location, not the government.