B.C. premier touts Western growth in Kelowna

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says it’s time for Western Canada to step up and make its “greatest” contribution to Canada—helping its economy by exporting the region’s natural resources.

Clark, in an impassioned speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting in Kelowna Monday, said with B.C.’s liquified natural gas reserves and her government’s plan to facilitate the export of LNG to Asia, B.C. is in a strong position to help change this country forever.

“We want to step up,” said Clark to a standing ovation. “We all really believe this is our time.”

Clark told the Canadian chamber delegates her dream for this country is that all British Columbians and other Canadians who want to work and who can work, have the opportunity to do so.

And that is why, she said, skills training has become a focal point for her government. “You cannot create an economy without the people to work in it,” said the premier.

Clark touted several provincial programs aimed at improving skills training to meet an estimated one million skilled jobs expected to materialize over the next 20 years.

Clark will travel to Toronto this week to meet with New Brunswick Premier David Alward and other business leaders to discuss Canada’s labour market needs and skills and training.

Clark’s keynote speech came at the end of the Canadian chamber’s meeting, a gathering that attracted an estimated 400 delegates from across the country and pumped an estimated $725,000 into the local economy, according to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

It was also the culmination of 18 months of work for the local chamber, which organized and hosted the event.

“We’re delighted to roll out our very special Okanagan red carpet for everyone,” said Kelowna chamber CEO Caroline Grover.

Following Clark’s speech, the premier sat down for a question and answer session with Canadian chamber president Perrin Beatty.

Beatty asked Clark about both LNG and the controversial proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline across Northern B.C.

On LNG, Clark said there has been great interest from several large multi-national companies eager to ship LNG to markets like China, a country willing to pay much more for the Canadian LNG than the United States.

She said while allowing Canadian oil to be exported to the world via the Northern Gateway Pipeline would help the national Gross Domestic Product grow by $8 billion, the export of LNG, even if the price fell by 50 per cent in Europe, would help the Canadian GDP grow by $20 billion.

As for the Northern Gateway Pipeline, the premier said she feels progress is being made on having Enbridge, the company that wants to build it, meet the five conditions the province has set for its support of the project.

Those conditions include passing an environmental review, world-leading practices for spill prevention and response on both land and in the waters off the B.C. coast, respecting First Nations’s rights, and a “fair” share of fiscal and economic benefits for B.C.

But the final approval of the pipeline project, which has widespread opposition in B.C., will rest with the federal government.

However, Clark said the pipeline is not just a B.C. or even an Alberta issue, it is a national issue because of the impact it will have on the entire country.

“This is not about the feds verses the province,” said Clark. “This is an issue for Canada, for growing its economy.”


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