Premier lists three priorities for her government

PREMIER CHRISTY CLARK speaks at a town hall meeting while MLA Don McRae listens. - Erin Haluschak
PREMIER CHRISTY CLARK speaks at a town hall meeting while MLA Don McRae listens.
— image credit: Erin Haluschak

Sticking with her promise of keeping an open government, Premier Christy Clark spent noon hour Tuesday in Courtenay answering questions concerning the Island's railway, the proposed Raven Coal Mine project and the HST at Crown Isle resort as part of a town-hall style meeting.

In front a packed crowd, Clark, along with Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell and Minister of Agriculture and Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, Clark fielded about 10 questions from the public.

Clark began the meeting noting three priorities: keeping an open government, families and jobs.

She defined an open government as listening to residents, and not just talking.

"It's about receiving information from you, not just sending information in the other direction," Clark explained.

"The second priority for our government — families. However you define it, that's what's important because it's families that sustain communities. It's the love and support network that makes our lives possible, and government needs to find ways to honour and respect that better than we often do," she added.

"The third (priority) is jobs. If there is anything that makes it possible for you to be a good family member or a good parent, grandparent or sibling, it's the ability to support those around you and those you love, and that starts with a good job."

When asked about the possibility of losing railbeds across the Island, Clark said the government must find ways to protect them.

"When your community is served by a railway ... you feel like you want to preserve that in case in the future there is a real growth and a real need to use it. We have to find ways to protect it, and we want to find ways to make sure the railway is working for the community here. I do think that there is potential for real opportunities for more freight to go on the railway," she noted.

Clark assured the crowd when asked about the Raven Coal Mine, that a full environmental review will be conducted independent of any political affiliations. Bell then reassured residents about protection of the aquaculture industry, particularly in Fanny Bay.

"I'm a big advocate for the shellfish aquaculture industry. It's one of the most sustainable industries in B.C," he said.

"First and foremost, I think about the importance ... and value that this industry brings. This project will be looked through the lens of a sustainable aquaculture industry, and we'll not allow that to be sacrificed for another major project."

On the topic of the HST, Clark admitted the way the tax was brought in by her predecessor Gordon Campbell was poor.

"It didn't work. So we've got what we've got, and we're trying to address it," she said. "We have talked in the telephone town halls to just over 300,000 people across the province. So now we're taking some information back, and we're looking at what can we do within the provincial jurisdiction ... to try and fix it for families."

She added the proposed changes will then be presented to British Columbians to decide the fate of the controversial tax.

"We want to make sure people are getting the information. The money that we're spending on the HST is not a snowjob; it's not a sales job. There's going to be a 'no' side and a 'yes' side that's going to duke it out with their partisan information," she added in a media scrum afterwards.

"This might be the single most important taxation decision that British Columbians have ever or will ever be asked to make, so we need to make sure they have access to all of the information they're going to need in order to make a good one."

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