BC Natural Resources for Sale | BCBusiness

BC Natural Resources for Sale | BCBusiness
Selling off our natural resources to offshore companies – is it the smartest option?

B.C.’s natural resources are prized around the world. Selling our resources to offshore companies to make a quick buck, however, could have serious consequences.

Asian interest in the B.C. resource sector is growing. Petronas, Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company is acquiring Progress Energy Resources Corp. in a sale worth $6 billion. The Calgary-based company has a large gas property in northeastern B.C.’s Montney shale gas region. Progress shareholders and others stakeholders have already agreed to the sale and approval from the federal government is the last step to closing the deal. Approvals are expected to come quickly.

Petronas isn’t the only Asian firm stalking Canada’s oil and gas resources. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has a $15-billion offer on the table for Calgary-based oil and gas player, Nexen, also operating in northeastern B.C. Then there’s Royal Dutch Shell, Houston’s Apache Corp, U.K.-based BG Group and ExxonMobil, all property owners in northeastern B.C., who want to develop a liquefied natural gas sector for export offshore, primarily to Asia. Last February, Japan’s Mitsubishi bought a 40 per cent share in Encana’s Cutbank Ridge gas property for $2.9 billion. Finally, we mustn’t forget the various players involved in proposed pipeline projects, pipelines that would run from Alberta to B.C.’s coastline. Without a doubt, offshore buyers are here to stay, and they’re buying our B.C. and Alberta energy out from under us.
On the pro side, offshore investment does bring money in, positively impacting our stagnant economy. And there’s nothing endemically wrong with foreign ownership. On the con side, it’s questionable whether this is the smartest way to go in the long run. At least with joint ventures, we retain some control of our resources and their future, and benefits like royalties go to the people who live and work here – not just to governments. But when we sell out completely to offshore companies, we’re also selling any control we might have tomorrow.

It seems that under this system, after the energy is all played out in a few decades, or even a century, the foreign owners will move on, and we’ll be left with nothing but a lot of empty holes in the ground. Sure, the province (or some of its residents) might reap the rewards for a while, but after that, what next? Do we then become some world backwater, a place where our resources are spent, and the rich move to Vancouver just to enjoy the scenery?

China, Malaysia, and many other Asian countries have plans for the future – they’re going to be manufacturers for the world. Apparently we’re the suppliers. But shouldn’t we have a plan for our economic future, one that involves more than selling off our raw resources? Yes, B.C.’s history is one of resource development, but do we always have to chase the quick buck?