It was that time of year again when the B.C. Natural Resources Forum rolls into Prince George and today (Jan. 29) was the most important day with the keynote speaker in attendance.
Premier John Horgan addressed attendees at a lunchtime forum, but there was much more activity around the Civic Centre before he took the stage.
He first held a media availability, where he echoed much of his remarks that he did last week when he was in Prince George about the economic opportunities that are on the horizon for B.C. despite the downfall in the forest industry.
"LNG, of course, is a success story," Horgan said.
"I'm going to talk about the extraordinary potential that we're seeing right now with developments along the corridor, in Kitimat particularly but also in communities right across the north. We're seeing economic prospects that have been dim for the past number of years, being improved as a result of the LNG investment. Forty billion dollars, the largest private sector investment in Canadian history."
"On the forestry side, there are challenges. These are acknowledged by everyone. They didn't arrive yesterday. They've been building over the past couple of decades. It's not just pine beetles, it's not just fires. It's about a value in British Columbia in the mining sector that was cultivated by social credit, by the New Democrats, by Liberals and that was to just harvest as much volume as you can when you can. Prices are high, hit the forest hard, prices are low and then you slow down. That's not sustainable in 2020. We need to ensure that we're adding more value to our wood products when we take them out of the forest and we need to make sure when we add that value, that we're including communities, Indigenous people and workers."
The premier was once again asked about the conflict between the government and Wet'suwet'en First Nation over the Coastal Gas Link pipeline project.
It's the second time in one week Horgan has been asked the question during his visits to Prince George.
"We are confident that there is a way forward," Horgan said.
"I believe the Hereditary leadership [of Wet'suwet'en] understands that nations to the left and the right of them, to the east and the west of them, see an opportunity for prosperity and an end to poverty as the result of a $40 billion private sector investment. Great jobs, great business opportunities for new startups within Indigenous communities."
.@jjhorgan once again reiterates his position on Wetʼsuwetʼen and the @CoastalGasLink project. He says he understands Hereditary Chiefs and their concerns. Pushes his stance a respectful and peaceful resolution will come #cityofpg #govbc #bcnaturalresourcesforum #bc @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/i6OmuTCXk2— jess fedigan (@jj_fedigan) January 29, 2020
"I don't expect the leadership to say tomorrow that they love the pipeline," he continued. "That's not my expectation, but there needs to be a legitimate understanding that the majority of the people in the region are going to benefit from this and that's what dialogue will produce."
For the second straight year, The North Matters held their roll-in rally outside the Prince George Civic Centre to voice their reasons why support is needed for the resource sectors, targeting their message at Horgan.
"Our saying is that we're building strength in northern communities," founder of The North Matters David Johnston said.
"By belonging and creating opportunities for these residents, all of its residents and we'd like to get the message out that we are the providers for production in our communities and by uniting and joining our residents in our communities and across B.C., we can stand up and tell outsiders who are paid to block our opportunities and invading our towns, because we don't need them. We got this."
"The division and misinformation is coming from these groups who are making their money off the backs of our resources family. We're getting a little bit sick and tired of hearing their misinformation and we're here to point out that misinformation and start telling a story about who we are and why we are the providers in our communities and we don't need your help. Let's start standing up in unity to ensure success for our communities and provide our country, because we all matter."
Horgan was offered an invite to the rally, but didn't attend as he had to give his keynote speech at the B.C. Natural Resources Forum.
Other politicians on-hand included Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and Prince George-Peace River-