British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell has vowed to reduce conflict, streamline regulatory processes and seek ways to open up the offshore to attract C$24 billion in new oil and gas investment over the next five years.
"We think there's huge economic opportunities that you have to take advantage of quickly," he told a conference of oil and gas executives in Vancouver Dec. 6, setting a target of 8,000 direct jobs for British Columbians and a doubling of government energy revenues from the C$4.6 billion collected in 2000.
With the rest of his province's economy — forestry, fishing, mining and tourism — languishing, Campbell indicated he is ready to do whatever he can to spur the energy sector.
He said his government is especially eager to overcome environmental and aboriginal opposition to lifting a 30-year moratorium on exploration of the Queen Charlotte Basin, where reserves are estimated at 9.8 billion barrels of oil and 25.9 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Campbell said he is hopeful a scientific report on the contentious issue of offshore drilling, due to be released Jan. 15, will show development can be done without excessive ecological risk.
In addition, he said the Ladyfern region of northeastern British Columbia, which he rated as the "largest single natural gas discovery in Canada in the last 15 years," is proof of the province's potential.
"There are more Ladyferns out there and what we have to do is to create an environment that encourages exploration," he said.
To speed approvals, he promised a single authority permitting agency that will allow the industry to fast-track development. "We want an energized economy, we want an economy that works for everyone here," he said.
But Campbell cautioned that development must be environmentally sustainable and that aboriginal communities must have a chance to share in the wealth.
He said a five-year draft agreement to improve communications with native groups has been signed with three First Nations in the Ladyfern area, where blockades have stalled exploration and pipeline construction. The government's objective is to involve other First Nations in that agreement.