Re-elected Campbell to focus on strengthening B.C.'s economy
Labour leader fears jobs cuts in public service to keep deficit down
Gordon Campbell says reviving the province's economy is his main task as he heads into a historic third straight term as the province's premier but other issues — such as health care and the environment — are also on the agenda.
"The economy rests on the certainty that we can create with aboriginal people," Campbell said. "The health care system rests on the strength of the economy. Our education system will actually generate economic opportunities, but it requires a strong economy to be able to invest in it."
Campbell made the comments at a press conference Wednesday morning, hours after his B.C. Liberals won Tuesday's election. Voters gave the Liberals 49 seats to the NDP's 36 in the new legislature, according to preliminary results posted on Elections BC's website.
The Liberals focused on the economy throughout their campaign and warned voters against taking a chance on a new government in tough economic times.
Campbell's message likely resonated with people who cast their votes for the Liberals, leading to the NDP's defeat, NDP Leader Carole James said Tuesday night.
"It's clear the economy was an issue, and people felt they wanted somebody with experience who'd been in the premier's position already," she said.
Campbell said Wednesday he is not planning to slash jobs to keep the province's deficit down, but he will consider reviewing existing government services.
"I am confident in the budget that we laid out in February. We don't expect radical shifts or changes from that position," said Campbell.
"We've already seen some uptake in job creation in British Columbia. In April, we created almost half the new jobs in Canada," he said.
Campbell said he also still stands by his projection of a deficit no bigger than $500 million this year but that there are difficult challenges ahead and the government will have to examine how it delivers services.
"That does not mean we can turn away from the challenges we faced," he said. "We already identified $1.9 billion in savings we're going to have to find across the board."
Labour fears job cuts
While Campbell said he's not planning job cuts, Jim Sinclair, the president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said Wednesday that he expects Campbell will reduce the size of the public sector by a third, much like he did after winning his first election in 2001.
"He certainly didn't run this election telling British Columbians, 'Oh, by the way, if you elect me, I'm going to send another 10,000 people off the job,'" said Sinclair.
"You're going to hear from him, 'Look, it's all attrition.' That's not the point. If you live in Prince George, … [whether] it's attrition or a layoff, that job just left town, and that money just left town. So, it's not how they do it that's the issue; it's the fact that they're even doing it."
Sinclair said he would like to see a moratorium on layoffs and cutbacks in the provincial government.
With files from The Canadian Press