B.C. Premier Christy Clark says the government latest budget shows it has now dug itself out of the “fiscal hole” the province found itself in after losing $2 billion in revenues in 2009 as a result of the world financial crisis.
Earlier this week, her finance minister, Mike DeJong delivered the province’s second balanced budget in a row, prompting Clark to boast her government’s decision to cut spending instead of raising taxes was obviously the right way go.
Speaking to an audience of about 300 at a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce lunch on Friday, Clark said one of the biggest focuses of spending reduction for her government was to not give public sector employees any more money.
And she hailed labour contract negotiations with unions representing more than 70,000 public sector workers that were concluded without wage increases as key to that success.
Clark publicly thanked the workers for accepting the deals, noting the government has now made them “partners” inB.C. success by offering increases in future if the province exceeds its economic growth targets.
“We did it slowly, we did it deliberately and we did it carefully but we were determined to spend less,” Clark told her audience.
While touting the province as one of only two in Canada with balanced budgets (the other being along with Saskatchewan), Clark said she believes that economic recovery had to start with balancing the budget.
But she noted the length of time it has taken to achieve that.
The budget predicts growing surpluses in each one of the next three years.
But while Clark predictably touted her government’s latest budget, she also returned to familiar territory in pressing for support of the liquified natural gas industry that she wants to build in B.C.
She said even if B.C. is only successful in attracting one of the 12 LNG projects currently up for grabs, it will pay huge dividends for the entire province.
More than 100,000 jobs will be created by the arrival of KNG, she said, and she wants them to go to British Columbians.
But to be ready, the premier said the province must improve its trades training.
“And to do that we need programs that people use rather than what’s offered at post-secondary institutions—programs that people don’t use.”
Later she clarified her remarks saying it was not a swipe at universities because in many cases, the training people who will work in the LNG industry will need, such as engineers, will be offered through universities.
But she also pointed to other programs offered in university, such as teaching, saying 30 per cent more teachers are trained in this province than there are jobs for.
In recent years, the province has provided more funding for trades training programs and program infrastructure, such a major expansion at Okanagan College.
According to Clark that is an example of Victoria spending public money better given the type of jobs that will be available here in future.