VANCOUVER -- The Fraser Institute claims it has discovered a way to get oil out of British Columbia while keeping a greater share of the revenue pie.
According to the Vancouver-based think-tank, offshore oil and gas exploration could generate a net benefit of more than $9.6 billion over 25 years for the B.C. economy.
"Benefits of allowing offshore drilling in B.C. outweigh the costs and a majority of these benefits come to the provincial and the federal governments," said Joel Wood, the institute's senior research economist.
"It's money that could go to health care and education along with other government services."
To execute the plan, Ottawa would first need to remove an unlegislated moratorium on oil exploration off Canada's west coast before moving into offshore exploration.
BC Premier Christy Clark has waged a battle with Alberta over greater revenues from the proposed
Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Alberta, however, contests it doesn't need to share the revenues because the resource comes from the Prairie province.
Wood said his findings show economic benefits that would come to B.C. and could be similar to the growth Newfoundland has experienced since exploration began off its coast.
"Areas that have developed offshore, like Newfoundland, have seen large increases in employment and other economic spillovers," he added.
One BC MLA has floated the idea of exploring natural gas resources off the coast, but Nechako Lakes Liberal MLA John Rustad acknowledged we are a long way away from such developments becoming reality.
"The only way are we going to see the opportunity in the province to reduce our debt is if we can expand our GDP at a faster rate. Exploration of oil and gas will eventually have to be a question mark that is discussed," Rustad said. "But I don't think there is an opportunity in the next decade, it is something that is beyond that."