Clark touts budget at Burnaby Board of Trade luncheon

Premier Christy Clark greets attendees at the Burnaby Board of Trade luncheon on Thursday. - Wanda Chow/NEWSLEADER
Premier Christy Clark greets attendees at the Burnaby Board of Trade luncheon on Thursday.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NEWSLEADER

When promoting the latest provincial budget in her hometown of Burnaby, Premier Christy Clark drew on her memories of her late parents, Jim and Mavis Clark.

She told the pro-business audience at a Burnaby Board of Trade luncheon Thursday that she grew up on Forglen Drive as one of four kids living in a three-bedroom house with a used blue station wagon. Her mother didn't work and her dad supported them on his salary as a teacher at Edmonds school.

"As a basic bedrock value for my mom and dad was the fact they were not going to leave me, my brother and sisters with a penny of debt when they passed away," Clark said, adding when her father died, he was mortgage free, had no other debt and prepaid his funeral expenses.

"So it's not okay for Jim and Mavis to leave their kids with a debt, why is it okay for government to leave our kids with a debt? The fact is, it's not."

With that introduction to her budget presentation, held at the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, she added, "One of the things you'll notice about it is it's not one of those budgets with money falling off the back of a truck."

With the May 14 provincial election looming, she said the BC Liberals will not be spending their way to re-election. "We've decided to take the harder route."

The new budget will make B.C. one of only two provinces, with Saskatchewan, to have balanced budgets.

Clark only briefly mentioned the plan to sell $800 million in provincial land and assets to make it happen, a move criticized by the New Democrats as being unsustainable and void of longterm planning.

Instead, she mentioned the one per cent tax increase on corporate income taxes—which will still be 33 per cent lower than in 2001 when the Liberals took over from the NDP—and a 2.1 per cent hike in personal income taxes for people earning $150,000 and more, giving assurances there's a sunset clause so after two years new legislation will have to be introduced to continue it.

Clark also thanked provincial government workers who have gone four years without a pay raise.

"If we added just a one per cent increase over two years, for B.C.'s public servants, we would have added a half a billion dollars in debt for our kids."

The budget includes a refundable tax credit starting in April 2015 for up to $660 per child under the age of six to offset the cost of raising young children and $32 million over three years to create 13,000 more and better quality childcare spaces.

Clark noted the often-publicized proposal by some groups for a $10-a-day childcare system is not being considered because it would cost about $1.5 billion.

During the question-and-answer period, Clark said the BC Liberals have a plan to attract Asian companies to set up their North American headquarters here, tapping into the the province's diversity and ties to that region.

She said that B.C. having the lowest income taxes in the country is a selling point for international companies wanting to attract top talent to operations here.

On the B.C. film industry, Clark said the province could not match Ontario's recent $100-million in tax credits but said it is making significant investments in "growing creative imaginations," citing $113 million being spent on a new campus for Emily Carr University and $18 million on the recently-announced B.C. Creative Futures initiative, programs aimed at increasing youth participation in the arts.

As for health care, it will receive another $2.4 billion over three years and education will receive $210 million over three years for initiatives such as hiring 500 teachers and 400 teaching assistants.

Clark also touted liquid natural gas as British Columbia's answer to Alberta's oil boom.

"We have a surplus of supply of that energy in the northeast and it is going to absolutely transform our economy. It's going to put tens of thousands of British Columbians to work for decades."

She called it "clean energy" that could be shipped to Europe to displace dirtier forms of energy and to Asian markets where producers can receive five times what North American markets will pay. And if natural gas escapes, "it goes into the air."

A B.C. Prosperity Fund was presented as a panacea for the province's financial woes. Made up of revenues from natural gas, it would be funded to the tune of more than $100 billion over 30 years, or $4.5 billion to $8 billion in additional provincial revenue annually.

"The critics that say it'll never happen, they're right. If they were in government it would never happen because to make something like that happen, it has to happen today … This year, those decisions have to be made."

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