British Columbia

B.C. will balance budget in 2015, promises Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark says she expects B.C. will be one of only two provinces in Canada to table a balanced budget for the coming year.

Only B.C. and Saskatchewan expected balance budgets in the coming year, says Clark

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark speaks at the opening of the Association for Mineral Exploration BC's mineral roundup in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday January 26, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck (The Canadian Press)

Premier Christy Clark says she expects B.C. will be one of only two provinces in Canada to table a balanced budget for the coming year.

"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 on Monday in Victoria.

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.

The province tabled a balanced budget in 2014. In November, Finance Minister Mike de Jong upgraded the government's budget surplus to a forecast $444 million from the original estimate of $184 million last February.

In comparison the federal government has delayed presenting its budget until April because of falling oil prices.

Clark said along with balancing the budget, 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.

"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 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.

Clark noted that about 40 per cent of the province's exports go to Asia.

On Monday Clark promised to open a new office in the government to coordinate the permitting and inspections of major mining operations in B.C., saying she expects 10 new major mines to come online in the coming years.

Another testy session

Clark said the testy tone at the legislature could carry on from last fall's session when the Liberals and New Democrats were engaged in name calling over attendance records and relevance to voters.

Last fall 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."

In contrast, Clark 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."

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