Exclusive: Clark was all LNG, all the time on Hong Kong, China mission

Premier Christy Clark's September 10, 2012, meeting in Hong Kong with tycoon Li Ka-shing was all about liquefied natural gas – despite the visit being ...

Premier Christy Clark's September 10, 2012, meeting in Hong Kong with tycoon Li Ka-shing was all about liquefied natural gas – despite the visit being pitched as an exploration of general trade opportunities.   

Briefing documents obtained by Business in Vancouver, via Freedom of Information, reveal that Clark planned with jobs, tourism and skills deputy minister Dave Byng and then chief of staff Ken Boessenkool to discuss nothing but LNG opportunities over tea with Li.

The meeting was held at the Cheung Kong Centre, the headquarters of Li's near-$100 billion, 53-country corporate empire that employs 270,000 people.

Li became majority shareholder of Calgary-based Husky Energy in 1991. His son Victor Li, who also attended the meeting, is Husky's co-chairman. Husky investments include northeastern B.C. natural gas fields and the Alberta tarsands.

Yesterday's throne speech to open the last legislature session before May's election was centred on Clark's dream to open three LNG plants by 2020 and make B.C. a major exporter.

The script for Clark's meeting with Li said, "We believe that the special connection between your family and B.C. can be deepened even further, through working together on new business opportunities that would provide value for your companies and the economy and people of the province.

"As you know, British Columbia has abundant natural gas resources, a competitive regulatory and fiscal framework and more than 120 active companies with extensive experience in natural gas development."

Clark, Byng and Boessenkool were joined by Ian Burchett, Canada's consul general to Hong Kong and Macau.

Li also has investments in six Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan power plants bought in 2007 from TransAlta Power. In the same year, Li bought equity in Vancouver's WEX Pharmaceuticals through his CK Life Sciences subsidiary.

The briefing documents also noted Li's 1988 purchase of Vancouver's former Expo 86 fairground for US$200 million, though the documents misspelled Concord Pacific and mistook the purchase for 1986.

Clark had two other high-level meetings during the trip with executives of state-owned Chinese energy giants.

Clark went to Tianjin, host city of the World Economic Forum convention, and met one-on-one with CNOOC general manager Fang Zhi on September 11, to "promote BC as a preferred investment location for the development of an LNG export facility, our vast natural gas reserves, deep water ports and proximity to the Asia Pacific."

CNOOC bough Calgary's Nexen for $15 billion. Nexen assets include a $700 million shale gas joint venture with Japan's Inpex in the Horn River, Cordova and Liard basins totaling 300,000 acres. CNOOC is also a partner witih Apache, Encana and EOG Resources (formerly Enron) in the proposed Kitimat LNG plant.

At the time, CNOOC was awaiting Ottawa's approval for the Nexen deal and the briefing note indicates Zhi was seeking Clark's support.

"Premier to confirm that B.C. will be responding positively and indicating support for the transaction," said the briefing document.

On September 12 at the Hilton Beijing Capital Airport, Clark and her entourage met with Xie Chunwang and Deng Jianling, vice-presidents of China Huadian Corp., Chian's largest end-user of natural gas. CHC is involved in the Ramshorn shale gas reservoir in northeastern B.C.

The briefing documents indicate Deng was seeking B.C. government support "in some key areas."

BMackin@biv.com

@bobmackin

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