B.C.’s economy will have ‘wind in its sails’ in 2016

Plus, an LNG proposal with a twist and a new service goes toe-to-toe with BC Ferries

Sunny days ahead
The B.C. economy has “wind in its sails,” thanks to the promise of one or more LNG export terminals and the Vancouver real estate market—according to a forecast panel hosted by the Conference Board of Canada on Tuesday.

While a number of the proponents—Petronas, Shell—have yet to make final investment decisions on their LNG plants, the construction of just one could boost the province’s GDP by 1 per cent, said Pedro Atunes, the Conference Board’s deputy chief economist.

As for the Vancouver housing market, while there’s “a fair amount of risk,” he is forecasting a stable 2016 bar a big interest rate hike. “We don’t feel there’s a bubble,” added Ken Peacock, an economist with the Business Council of B.C. who is forecasting a four per cent increase in consumer spending in the province in 2016 thanks in large part to the fiery housing market. And one group is benefiting in particular, he said, quoting a colleague: “real estate agents are making money like B.C. makes water.”

Molybdenum vs LNG
Kitsault, a North Coast town its new-age owner describes as “heaven on earth,” is now the site of a proposed multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. On Thursday, Kitsault Energy announced that the abandoned mining town, acquired by an eccentric software multimillionaire in 2005, has received an export licence from the National Energy Board. Such a licence would allow Kitsault, owned by Krish Suthanthiran, to export LNG via a terminal connected to a natural gas pipeline. Kitsault has looked into partnering with TransCanada to build the pipeline. You can read the wacky story of the mining town/eco retreat/site of a proposed LNG terminal here.

Connecting the coast
It’s no Persephone, but it beats BC Ferries. On Wednesday, a private company launched a passenger-only ferry service that connects Gibsons (kudos if you caught that Beachcombers reference) to Horseshoe Bay, putting it in direct competition with BC Ferries, which has a virtual monopoly on transportation between the Sunshine Coast and the Lower Mainland.

Operated by Pacific Ferries, a trip on the 45-seater costs $15 from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons and return. And while it’s the first to reach service, it wasn’t the only proposal for a BC Ferries-competing service across Howe Sound. There’s an ongoing proposal from a group called Holland Canada Line to launch, after a study, a passenger-only ferry service connecting destinations in and around Howe Sound. Its services would connect the Sunshine Coast to downtown Vancouver in 50 minutes, Gibsons to Squamish in 45 minutes and Gibsons to Nanaimo in around an hour. Farther afield, the provincial government has commissioned a study to look at a fixed link between the Sunshine Coast and the Lower Mainland that would likely nix the need for BC Ferries service entirely.