More than a thousand people used to work here.
But now it’s just a skeleton crew at the old Elk Falls pulp and paper mill.
But if you look beyond the empty production plants and warehouses, and past the rusting overhead spider web of conveyor systems, you might just catch a glimpse of the future.
That’s what Teresa Wat was looking for when she toured the former mill site Wednesday. Wat is the new MLA for Richmond Centre and she’s also B.C.’s first-ever Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism.
That’s a mouthful for anyone, especially a first-time MLA. But there are some big expectations for the Hong Kong native who’s fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese.
“I know Asian culture really well,” she says with a smile.
Wat will undoubtedly be a key player when she joins Premier Christy Clark’s 13-day trade mission to China, Korea and Japan, due to arrive in Beijing Nov. 22. And one of the central themes of the mission is to meet with investors interested in B.C.’s natural gas.
More specifically, liquified natural gas (LNG) which is why Wat is touring the former mill site with representatives of Quicksilver Resources Canada. Quicksilver bought the mill site this year from Catalyst Canada for $8.6 million and promptly renamed it Discovery LNG.
The plan is to build an LNG plant on part of the 400-acre industrial site and ship LNG to Asian markets. The main hurdle though is building a new and bigger pipeline.
A natural gas pipeline is already in place on the Island (it crosses over from the Mainland at Texada Island), but it needs to be larger in order to make it financially feasible to build an LNG plant in Campbell River. Building a new pipeline and a LNG plant will require hundreds of millions of dollars. Asian investors have the cash and they also have the appetite for LNG which sells for a much higher price overseas than it does in North America.
Presumably, Quick Silver will also be invited on the trade mission, but it’s Minister Wat who will act as “point man.”
“I speak their language and I know how they do business,” she says. “There’s a lot we have to sell to China and government relations are extremely crucial.”
Wat’s own business background is in media. She was president and CEO of Mainstream Broadcasting Corporation, and has also served as the news director at Channel M Television (now OMNI-TV).
Wat was instrumental in the launch of the first-ever live Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi daily television news programs in B.C. and presently sits on the board for the UBC School of Journalism.
She’s also interested in a lot more than LNG. In fact, Wat has been touring all sorts of industries across the province in order to better familiarize herself with what B.C. has to offer Asia.
In addition to the Quicksilver site, Wat also visited Campbell River’s Flurer Smokery Ltd., the Shelter Point Distillery in Oyster River, and Coastal Black Estate Winery in Black Creek. As well, she began the day with her first-ever tour of a fish farm.
“We went to a Mainstream operation and learned how great aquaculture is…and Asian people do love seafood,” she says.