It was sunshine and standing ovations for B.C. Premier Christy Clark who spoke to a large crowd at the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce’s Your Voice, Your Vote leadership series on Monday.
Clark told the crowd of about 200 people that now is the time for B.C. to grow the economy to “something we’ve never seen before when we grow our exports and technology sectors.”
She is focused on the potential of Liquefied Natural Gas and increasing exports to China.
“There hasn’t been a chance like this since W.A.C. Bennett’s time,” said Clark, referring to when B.C.’s longest-standing premier gambled on creating BC. Hydro, building hydro dams and using water power when little was known about whether it would be a success or not.
The Chamber’s hope is to increase voter turnout in Langley by five per cent.
Among the many who came out to Newland’s Golf and Country Club were several MLAs, including Aldergrove-Fort Langley MLA Rich Coleman, Langley MLA Mary Polak and Surrey-Panorama MLA Stephanie Cadieux. Liberal hopefuls Peter Fassbender and Amrik Virk were also there, as well as numerous Langley municipal councillors.
Clark’s message was to build an economy strong enough for future generations to enjoy a debt-free province.
My son Hamish is 11 years old now. If we do things right, we can be debt free by the time he is 26,” said Clark.
“Let’s aspire for our children.”
She wants to see windfall revenues from gas exports going into a prosperity fund.
Clark detailed the Liberal successes of creating “47,000 net new jobs” with the B.C. Jobs Plan. She credits the Liberals for digging the province out of a $4 billion deficit it was “saddled with” when they took office in 2001.
She said B.C. was one of two provinces to table a balanced budget this year.
But she reminded the crowd that voting Liberal means there are tough times ahead, where they are going to have to say no to a lot of things to keep B.C. strong.
“I was raised in a middle class family in Burnaby. My mom started the first non-profit daycare out of our church and my dad was a school counsellor.
“There were six of us in a three- bedroom house . . . what was most important to my parents is that we were better off than they were and that meant saying no to a lot of things us kids wanted. It was hard at times but when my dad passed away he left the house mortgage free, he pre-paid his funeral expenses and left us debt-free.
“If it’s not OK to leave our children with mounds of debt, why would it be OK for government to leave children with mounds of debt?” she asks.
She said she doesn’t want to grow government, only the economy.
“I believe in low taxes, building the private sector, more trade, smaller government, supporting small business and cutting red tape,” Clark said.
Several written questions were taken from the audience, including on the “crisis” in transportation and transit funding and whether universal tolling is part of the answer.
“I don’t support universal tolling and road pricing. I don’t think it works,” said Clark.
“Bringing in taxes without consulting the public doesn’t work well so improvements have to be affordable,” she said. She doesn’t believe there is a “crisis,” but said she is confident issues with TransLink funding will get solved within a year.
Health care was also a topic of concern.
“Health care works well if you are are really sick,” said Clark. “When you aren’t urgently sick is when it doesn’t work so well. There are wait lists and huge expenses for procedures. We need to wrestle with new ideas. We’ve been shy to have these conversations.”
Despite its problems, B.C. has the best health outcomes in the country, she said.
“Alberta has the most expensive health care with the worst health outcomes.”
She said that she wouldn’t impose the business vote on local governments but recognizes that in some communities the imbalance of how much businesses pay for property taxes over residential is “way out of hand.”
She plans on keeping the municipal auditor general around because it’s important for local governments to be held financially accountable.