Despite these troubled economic times, the provincial Liberals have tabled a balanced, pre-election budget, and continue to develop overseas relationships that are helping drive the B.C. economy.
So says Premier Christy Clark, who discussed government’s accomplishments and priorities at a Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday at Crown Isle in Courtenay.
“When I became premier two years ago, I said I was going to balance the budget,” Clark said. “I wasn’t unique in that. Every premier across the country said they were going to balance the budget two years ago.”
However, B.C. and Saskatchewan are the only provinces to do so this year.
“We got there because we have worked hard over 12 years to look after your money,” Clark said, noting the BC Jobs Plan, controlled spending and frozen salaries for senior public sector managers. Selling “non-strategic surplus government assets” and proposed income tax hikes on business and higher-income earners will also help.
Clark said “sound fiscal management” has enabled a new regional hospital, a new trades training centre at North Island College and a new francophone school in the Comox Valley.
“I very firmly believe that the best thing you can do for families is make sure our economy is strong and people have jobs to go to.”
Since the economic downturn, Clark said government has fared well in terms of job recovery, and opened new relationships with Asian countries that are helping drive the economy in the gas, mining and technology sectors.
“That’s how we’ve been able to do more than many other jurisdictions around the world,” she said, noting a “bit of envy” when she considers what oil has done for the Alberta economy.
“Think about the heritage fund created four decades ago. We have that opportunity to bring the same thing home for our kids here in British Columbia,” Clark said, noting the potential of shipped liquefied natural gas. “We have been safely recovering this resource in the northeast of British Columbia for over 50 years … We can earn five times as much if we can get if off the continent.
“We are at a crossroads here in British Columbia, right now. We have this huge opportunity ahead of us, but we also have a tremendous risk if we don’t stay on our path. We have to make those right decisions today, or that opportunity will be lost to us. If our doors are closed, they will go somewhere else and they will never come back. This is our chance to grow our economy.”
She proposes to invest more than $100 billion over 30 years into a B.C. Prosperity Fund in an effort to rid B.C. of its debt.