Bill’s Weekly Report July 28, 2010Posted by admin in : Bill Bennett , comments closed
I spent last week travelling around BC’s vast north. Started on Sunday in Terrace talking to the folks up there about the $450 million NW Transmission line that will open up NW BC to independent power production and to new mines. The potential there is breathtaking and the people in the NW really deserve some economic action. We’ve been fortunate these past 10 years in the East Kootenay. They haven’t seen much happening and they’ve lost their forest industry almost totally. The NW Transmission line will go from Terrace to Bob Quinn and then a second project will take it to Iskut. Bob Quinn is where the hydro line from Alta Gas’s Forrest Kerr IPP project will intersect with highway 37 and the NW line. That’s also where the Galore Creek mine project comes out to the highway. Iskut is a little Tahltan town on highway 37 where Imperial Metal’s access road cuts off for their Red Chris mine project.
On Monday, myself, members of the Tahltan leadership, the two provincial mining association, BC Hydro rep’s and the brass from Imperial Metals flew charters to Dease Lake from Terrace and then helicopter into Red Chris mine site. Red Chris will start as an open pit and then may change into an underground mine. Copper and gold grades are relatively high and there is a world class size deposit at the site. Red Chris may well be the next Highland Valley or Sullivan Mine in BC, in terms of its longevity and impact on the provincial economy. It is very exciting for the Province and the region. A mine like this one can generate hundreds if not thousands of jobs over many decades. It will be a true economic engine and the environmental impacts are manageable. I spent several hours with Tahltan leaders and despite some concern about what the development will do to their lives, they agree that their people want the good jobs and that we will all work hard to make sure the mine project is a positive thing.
On Tuesday morning, I flew from Vancouver to Fort St John and spent the rest of the week in the NE. I visited FSJ, Taylor, Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson and met with the mayors and the regional district reps from all NE communities. It was a getting-to-know-you tour. I am the first Energy minister not from the NE in 10 years, so I have some proving to do. I spent a fascinating day in the Fort Nelson area. That’s where the Horn and Liard natural gas basins are located. These two basins contain major world class natural gas plays, the size and scope of which is matched only in one or two other places in the world. Last month, my ministry sold $404 million worth of gas tenures up there. I couldn’t help but think that young people in BC would do well to consider the area for a future. There will be many millionaires created in this area over the next 10 years. Any one of able body and mind, who wants to work in this province, has opportunity in the NE.
I also toured some of Encana’s sites, a drilling operation and a gas processing plant. I enjoy learning how the industry works, must be the engineer in me. It is fascinating how the industry gets the gas out of shale formations and non-porous sandstone formations. Just five years ago, there was no technology to acquire this gas and today, this technology is underlying a huge industry that will drive BC’s economy for decades. The communities in the NE receive millions every year from their Fairshare Program, a possibility for the Elk Valley if the coal bed gas industry ever does take off there. FSJ alone received $15 million in cash from the program last year!
I gave a speech to the FSJ Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night that seemed to go over fairly well. They are curious about the new Energy minister. And on Friday, I spent a few hours with the Oil & Gas Commission. Surprisingly, I am the first Energy minister to spend time meeting with the OGC! I guess the guys before me figured they knew enough about the Commission’s work but OGC staff sure appreciated my being there discussing the issues they encounter. They are the regulator for the oil and gas industry, including the coal bed gas industry in our area. They have a large photo prominently displayed of the wooden drill platform that is now located outside the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. The Flathead oil exploration was the first in BC! They also have a full record of all the gas, CO2, and oil drilling that has taken place in the Elk and Flathead Valleys over the years. Interesting how Wildsight has insisted that gas exploration in our region is “new” when our region has the longest history of it in the province. In any case, BP has sold its Canadian assets to Apache. I will in due course meet with senior Apache rep’s to determine their intentions for the Mist Mountain project. In the meantime, Storm Cat continues to work on its CBM project north of Elkford. This gas project has been going since 2000, permitted by none other than the NDP government! With BC’s strict rules disallowing any discharge on to the land of water produced from gas wells, companies are probably thinking twice about spending money on CBM exploration. The low price of gas is also a factor. But some day, it is likely that the clean natural gas that lies within the coal seams in the Elk Valley will be of serious interest to the world.
I came home Friday night to my patient, supportive wife, Beth, and went fishing on Saturday with Beth and Dylan. We hiked into a little lake we’d heard about a year ago. It was a beautiful, secluded little lake with some small rainbows in it. We fished it hard but only caught one fish (Dylan, the keen fisherman caught it of course). We ended our day with some cold pizza and a cold beer at a picnic table on Cherry Lake as the sun set over the Purcell Mountains, the end to a busy but satisfying week. This coming week I am in Vancouver and Victoria until Wednesday night, then Calgary. On Friday, Beth and I fly back east to visit family and do some fishing for a couple of weeks. You might not hear from me now for a few weeks.
Bill’s Weekly Report July 20, 2010Posted by admin in : Bill Bennett , comments closed
Last week was certainly a memorable one. Cabinet met in Kelowna for 3 days, we had the Ministers of Finance and Healthy Living & Sport in the Riding; and of course, I had a couple of days of controversy over an email sent inadvertently by my office. Never a dull moment!
Starting with the last and least important first, the email was a rough draft that used a radio story of urban environmentalists still clamoring for a park in the Flathead as an example of how these groups are never satisfied. The email referred to them in a very derogatory way and I took responsibility, despite not sending it personally. Naturally, the PC forces were all “outraged” as they often are with me. I appreciate all of you tax-paying, voting British Columbians who, as you always do, rallied to my defense.
On a more positive note, our cabinet had 3 great days in Kelowna to discuss our strategy and policies going forward. In addition to many good substantive policy debates, we had some very interesting and valuable exchanges about what we did wrong around the launch of HST and how we can earn back the trust of the people. It will take considerable effort, but all of us BC Liberal MLA’s have one thing that unites us…we will all do our utmost to stop the NDP from ever forming government again in BC!
On Thursday, Minister Ida Chong came to Cranbrook. Jennifer and I hosted her at Rotary and wouldn’t you know it, Rotary needed a speaker so Ida was pressed into service. She talked about how her ministry (Healthy Living & Sport) has many initiatives to address preventative healthcare issues; smoking, diet, exercise, chronic disease management and so on. I think she was a big hit. In the afternoon, Ida and I toured the new Disabled Athlete & Conference Centre in Kimberley. What a beautiful facility and attraction that will be for athletes from around the world, and included is a terrific, large conference centre as well.
On Friday, Finance Minister Colin Hansen spoke at a Chamber Breakfast in Cranbrook and at a well attended luncheon in Fernie. His message was positive. Canada is leading the world on economic recovery and BC is poised to lead Canada. We British Columbians can be proud of our strong fiscal management…the rest of Canada and the world envy our economy, our prospects and our life style.
Take care and we’ll talk again next week.
Bill’s Weekly MLA Report July 5, 2010Posted by admin in : Bill Bennett , comments closed
Last week was back to school for your MLA. With Thursday a holiday, I gave Jennifer and Brenda Friday off to recover from their anti-HST woes in the Cranbrook office and I committed myself to 5 days of briefings and meetings in ministry business. The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources covers a wide range of issues, including surface and underground mining, mineral & coal exploration, oil and gas development, energy, BC Hydro, alternate energy sources, First Nations, environmental & community issues.
I won’t bore you with many details, but of relevance is the newly passed Clean Energy Act. This new Act establishes that BC intends to be self-sufficient in electricity and that we will also aim to export power to increase our export revenues for tax payers. BC has been a net importer of electricity for 8 of the last 10 years and for a province blessed with our potential to generate clean, affordable electricity, this is a travesty. BC Hydro has been charged (sorry for the pun) with putting together an Integrated Resource Plan over the next 18 months, to determine what we need to do to become self sufficient and then eventually to also develop enough “insurance power”.
As for export, we will first need to identify secure markets. My senior staff was just in California with the new CEO of BC Hydro. I will be going sometime this summer myself to explain to California legislators how they can replace some of their aging, dirty power plants with clean hydro electricity from BC. The Clean Energy Act requires the province to pay for any new generation directed at the export market from export profits, not from domestic rate payers. This is an essential commitment that you must know about. When you hear people say that independent power projects for export will drive up the cost of your electricity, you can safely and confidently tell them they are wrong. No doubt electricity rates will go up over time as our existing aging heritage assets need upgrades. However, the cost of developing export generation will not be connected to domestic rates!
Other than a fascinating half day briefing with BC Hydro in Vancouver, I also met for two days with mining and oil & gas companies, all of whom have ideas for investing in our province and creating jobs. My ministry has the most positive things going on in it of all ministries so you can expect me to be out in the media over the next year talking about the good things happening around BC. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this ministry provides well over half of all resource revenues that your government receives. It is an honour to have this opportunity and gives Kootenay East lots of opportunity for influence.
On Wednesday when I was in Vancouver, I had two meetings with senior political junkies, both of whom have been involved in provincial and federal politics since the 70’s. They are both federal Conservatives and BC Liberals and are of course worried about the impact that our disastrous handling of the HST file will have on the next election. I am also receiving emails from a few people who have voted for me three times and are questioning whether they will do so again. As upset as some of our supporters are, with some justification too, we will all need to pull together to avoid turning this beautiful province over to the NDP. I tell you in all seriousness, I sit across from them in the legislature 6 months of the year and they are not simply moderate BC Liberals. They actually believe that government “knows best” and that’s coming from a group that is comprised of a few teachers, no business people, and the rest largely unburdened by higher education or experience at meeting a payroll. I’m not sure where they get their bizarre ideas about all business being evil and profit being a dirty word but if given the opportunity, they will set BC back just as they set us back in the 1990’s.
We need to remind our friends what the province was like 10 years ago. We had the highest income taxes in the land, our neighbours were moving to Alberta and our kids left and never came back. Real disposable income has gone up every year we’ve been in government, whereas it went down every year the NDP were in power. Our income taxes are the lowest in Canada. BC is predicted to lead Canada in economic growth. We should all take a breath, set HST aside for an hour or two, and celebrate the success of our blessed province, fresh off the most successful Olympic Games in history, the greatest exhibition of Canadian pride ever. We are still the Best Place on Earth! But in British Columbia, that can change over-night with a return to the NDP. I will work my tail off to do my part. Thanks for your support. Keep your chin up!
Have a great week.