VICTORIA — British Columbia’s diverse economy is its greatest asset, and Premier Christy Clark said that’s what is helping her government to present another balanced budget next month.
The premier boasted that B.C. is only one of two provincial governments in Canada expected to balance its books this year.
Clark said the balanced budget and the province’s economic diversity will be the focus of the upcoming legislative session, which is set to start Feb. 10 with the throne speech.
Drastic declines in world oil prices in recent months have delivered sharp kicks to the bottom-line forecasts of many governments, including in Alberta and Ottawa, but B.C. is in a position to weather the stormy period, the premier said.
“This session is going to focus on supporting all those diverse sectors of our economy,” Clark said. “Supporting film, supporting technology, supporting the forest industry and the mining sector, and of course continuing to move forward on liquefied natural gas. It’s going to be a range of initiatives.”
Clark noted that about 40 per cent of the province’s exports go to Asia.
In November, Finance Minister Mike de Jong upgraded the government’s budget surplus to a forecasted $444 million from the original estimate of $184 million last February.
The federal government has delayed presenting its budget until April because of falling oil prices.
“We’re in a unique position because, with perhaps Saskatchewan, we will be one of two provinces that balances our budget this year,” she said.
Clark said the testy tone of the legislature could carry on from last fall’s session where the Liberals and New Democrats were engaged in name calling over attendance records and relevance to voters.
Clark called the Opposition New Democrats irrelevant and ineffective, while the NDP said Clark spent too much time away from the legislature.
“I think with the NDP it will be the same old, same old, all politics all the time, no ideas ever,” Clark said. “That’s always what happens with those guys. I haven’t seen them come forward with very many ideas.”
She praised lone Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver, saying he puts forward ideas the Liberals may disagree with, but they are “principled, focused.”
Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan said he plans to monitor Clark’s attendance record at the legislature. He said he will deliver sharp responses to her claims of job creation and economic prosperity.
“I’m hopeful that the shaming she got from the public, Opposition and the media for her spotty attendance in the fall will see more of her here,” Horgan said. “When one is elected to be a member of this place you should show up and do that work.”
Clark said her government’s liquefied natural gas plans remain in place, even though the playbook continues to shift. She said she expects that three plants will be in operation in B.C. by 2020.