Opinion Column

Premier doubles down on risky LNG plan 0

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark speaks to journalists on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 31, 2014. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark speaks to journalists on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 31, 2014. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

The descent of the university into the marketplace reflects the lie in the soul of modern society. — Harold Innis, Canadian political economist

The best way to gamble is with other people’s money and the BC Liberal government betting on liquefied natural gas is as dangerous an addiction as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford with a crack pipe.

Premier Christy Clark is doubling down her bet on LNG in a world market that’s riskier than a casino, and it’s not just your money she’s gambling with — it’s also the future education of our children and grandchildren.

Clark’s recent breathless photo opportunity with energy firms Shell Canada, PetroChina, Korea Gas and Mitsubishi — creators of LNG Canada — is nearly meaningless without signed agreements to extract, process and export LNG.

Even LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz admitted potential projects “are challenged by significant financial investment and risks” and “a number of uncertainties to overcome.”

That’s a fracking understatement.

Recent LNG studies are clear B.C. is no sure bet.

And those “risks and uncertainties” make Clark’s other recent announcement even more disturbing.

Clark is forcing all post-secondary institutions to allocate 25% of their budgets to job training for “high-demand” occupations — and you can wager the three education initials they want to see are LNG, not PhD.

With $1.9 billion budgeted in B.C. for post-secondary education and only 10% earmarked for “high-demand” fields, Clark’s move is radical.

More emphasis on trades training is long overdue because B.C.’s apprenticeship training completion rate hovers around 40% compared to Alberta’s 78% and the national average of 50%.

But while LNG companies want skilled trades workers, other employers like Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing, say a generalized education gives flexibility needed for an ever-changing economy.

In other words, educate both pipe fitters and poets.

B.C. shouldn’t gamble with post-secondary education simply to provide workers for an unproven industry with an unclear future and an unknown commitment to job creation here.

Clark desperately wants her big LNG gamble to pay off — and taxpayers have to hope it does considering it is our money on the table.

When betting in a casino, remember that while you are sometimes dealt a great hand, in the end the house always wins.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.ca Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman

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