LNG Development Creating Positive Social Impacts In B.C. Communities: GPAC Panel
Ensuring everyone benefits from LNG development in B.C. is a priority for the companies currently involved in planning and constructing projects, leaders from three companies told the Gas Processing Association of Canada (GPAC) breakfast forum in Calgary.
Each organization, in their own way, is turning abstract concepts like diversity, inclusion and equity into concrete reality.
“We’re taking an industry that doesn’t exist and a workforce that doesn’t exist and we’re shaping it together,” said Teresa Waddington, VP corporate relations for LNG Canada. What this means on the ground in Kitimat where the LNG Canada liquefaction plant is under construction is developing a workforce that reflects the make-up and values of the people who live there.
Kitimat is no stranger to large scale industrial development. The Rio Tinto aluminum smelter, which was the largest private industrial project ever built in B.C. when it came online in 1954, has been a long-time major employer in the coastal community. But the smelter was built at a time when women and Indigenous peoples weren’t usually part of the mainstream workforce.
This time it’s different, said Waddington. LNG Canada is taking a “hire local” approach and partnering with the community and educational institutes to ensure no one gets left behind. This includes training community members who have often been disadvantaged or chronically unemployed for available jobs.
One example is a program in place currently preparing 18 women and Indigenous people as power engineers to work in operations.
“When you talk about the positive impact the project is having in the community, it’s massive,” she said. People looking for career opportunities in the surrounding area are coming to Kitimat to take advantage of the opportunity as well.
The Coastal GasLink project is having a similar impact where it traverses the B.C. interior, said Kelly Howlett, commercial director for the project for TC Energy Corporation. The company has spent $1.5 billion hiring Indigenous businesses to build the project and has already invested $11 million in local communities. Seventeen of the 20 First Nations along the route have chosen to take an equity position in the pipeline.
“These aren’t one-time deals. They have a place at the table for the life of the project,” said Howlett.
Building and operating major infrastructure projects has changed, said Howlett. All stakeholders and Indigenous rights holders now have a say, and they have expectations to benefit throughout the project’s life cycle. “The world where it was one company, one project is over. It now takes all of us.”
In this new world, traditional infrastructure companies may not always lead projects, said Heather Christie-Burns, Pembina Pipeline Corporation’s VP for its Transmission Business Unit. Pembina is currently partnered with the Haisla First Nation on advancing the Cedar LNG project off the coast near Kitimat.
“Cedar LNG is the Haisla’s project. They’ve been working on it for 10 years. We stand with them, not in front of them,” she said, adding the Haisla is doing the consultation work with other First Nations while advancing the project through the regulatory process. “We’re assisting where we can, but everything is in their voice.”
Partnering on First Nations-led projects can sometimes involve a shift in values. The community’s environmental concerns and long-term development goals become priorities. Cedar LNG was planned to fit in its environment and limit its impact on the coastal ecosystem the Haisla depend upon. The facility is being built in Norway partly to limit onshore impacts as well.
“It’s designed for three million tonnes per year. It’s not a large project because it’s designed to fit in its environment in the Douglas Channel. Think of it as an industrial island,” said Christie-Burns.
It was also designed to meet the community’s development goals. “They want this project for economic development and for economic self-determination.”
The Haisla also see the project as providing jobs for the community, she added. There will be a workforce of 500 during commissioning, and up to 100 operational workers needed. “The idea is the facility will be run by the Haisla and it will provide careers for young people.”