British Columbia

NDP fires B.C. LNG advocate Gordon Wilson from $150K job

Former Liberal leader Gordon Wilson has been let go from his post as the province's LNG advocate. He was first appointed in October 2013.

Wilson first appointed to position in 2013 by the BC Liberal government

Gordon Wilson was being paid $150,000 a year to promote B.C.'s LNG industry.

Former B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Wilson has been fired from his post as the province's LNG advocate.

Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston says the NDP government reviewed Wilson's position and couldn't find any evidence of written reports submitted by him, rather they concluded that he had only made oral briefings. 

"It's very difficult to see that he accomplished anything other than to cash his cheques," said Ralston. "Simply given that amount of money, we just thought there were better uses for ... those kind of dollars."

"That was a position I think, frankly, that was tailored for him by the previous premier, Christy Clark. She was well known for taking care of her friends. Mr. Wilson was a friend of hers. She took care of him," said Ralston. 

Wilson's political career has been varied.

After losing the leadership of the B.C. Liberals to Gordon Campbell in 1993, he created his own party, the Progressive Democratic Alliance.

Eventually, he ended up crossing the floor and serving as a Minister in NDP Premier Glen Clark's cabinet.  

In 2013 he endorsed the Liberals, and Premier Christy Clark appointed him as LNG advocate in October 2013.

Wilson was paid $150,000 annually to promote B.C.'s LNG industry, making $550,000 over that time. 

He says he wasn't surprised to learn that he was fired. 

"Just because we don't have an FID (final investment decision), doesn't mean that there hasn't been a huge amount of money spent. There's been billions of dollars in this industry spent in the last four years. And to that extent we've been very successful."

"He's been in the job for three years, collecting a significant amount of money and we have no LNG capacity to show for that," said B.C. Premier John Horgan. 

Wilson was the leader of the Liberal Party of British Columbia in 1987 and endorsed Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals before the 2013 provincial election. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Depressed LNG prices

In 2013, the B.C. Liberals and ex-premier Christy Clark campaigned on a promise to generate 100,000 jobs through the LNG industry but a declining oil and gas industry tempered those expectations.

Oil and gas company Petronas announced in July it had cancelled its $36 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project in Port Edward, B.C., due to "prolonged depressed prices and shifts in the energy industry."

"They're not the first company to say that. They probably won't be the last. The market is awash in natural gas, not just here in North America but in Asia and around the world," said Horgan.

Horgan says an established industry, like softwood lumber, is a better place to focus resources.

Wilson says prices weren't the impediment but blames vocal LNG opposition for making it more difficult to get politicians to agree to tax reforms to make the industry competitive.

"The LNG industry in the United States in booming. In the time that we have tried to get one project approved in British Columbia, they've got two Brownfield sites ready to go, one already exporting, they've widened the Panama Canal and they're exporting into a very hungry China market."

An image from a promotional video shows an LNG tanker filling up at the once proposed, now cancelled, Pacific Northwest LNG facility near Prince Rupert, B.C. (Prince Rupert Gas Tranmission Project)

Wilson says despite his parting, he would be happy to prepare a final report on LNG. 

"We've got an opportunity. That opportunity hasn't gone away, but if we want to take advantage of it, we're going to have to start to bite the bullet and take a look at some hard economic realities," he said.

Ralston says, at this point, the current government won't have a similar advocate position available, yet insists the NDP is still committed to developing an LNG industry in B.C.