BY BILL PHILLIPS
Liberal leader Christy Clark says a Liberal government will help northern B.C. deal with any economic downturns that may be coming.
While she specifically mentioned the ongoing softwood lumber negotiations with the U.S. as a cause for concern, an impending decrease in allowable annual cut levels could also impact a northern economy that is seemingly being left behind by a booming Lower Mainland economy.
“We’re in one of the economic cycles that’s always tough for the North,” Clark said in an interview during a campaign stop in Prince George Friday. “My job is to make sure that we bridge these communities through low commodity prices until they bounce back, and bridge communities through the softwood lumber dispute that is emerging.”
She said the goal of a Liberal government is to try and make sure residents in northern communities can stay in those communities until the economy bounces back.
She pointed to the Liberals’ Rural Economic Strategy, announced a month before the election, as part of an overall plan to help rural communities. Clark claims the strategy will create 26,000 jobs in the North. One of the big planks in that strategy is $40 million for improving internet access to rural and remote communities.
“Part (of the strategy) is connecting all communities across the province,” she said. “That is a multi-million plan … We want to put people to work and we want to rural communities places where people can work in the tech industry, if that’s what they choose to do.”
Speaking to about 250 people at the campaign offices of Liberal candidates Shirley Bond and Mike Morris, Clark rallied the troops with calls for economic growth.
“We don’t need bigger government, we need a bigger economy,” she said.
She pointed to the government’s pledge to continue work on the Cariboo Connector, four-laning Highway 97 from Prince George to Cache Creek and slammed the NDP.
“While we’re busy figuring out how we can put another $200 million into the Cariboo Connector, the NDP are trying to figure out how they’re going to milk you to pay the tolls down at the Port Mann bridge.”
She criticized the NDP for saying that will take money out of the province’s Prosperity Fund to help offset the elimination of tolls on Lower Mainland bridges.
“They’re going to take the $500 million that we have set aside in our childrens’ savings account, the Prosperity Fund, they’re going to drain the Prosperity Fund dry,” she said. “They’re going to take that money from our kids and they’re going to blow through it in just two years in order to pay for those tolls on the Port Mann bridge.”
Even though it took Clark until Day 11 of the provincial campaign to make her way to Prince George, she slammed NDP leader John Horgan and Green leader Andrew Weaver for not making their way north yet.
“John Horgan hasn’t been north of Merritt,” Clark said. “Today we’re in Prince George, the other day I was in Dawson Creek, Fort St. John. I’ve been to Kitimat, I’ve been to Rupert. I’ve been to Terrace. I’m going to those places because they are all so vital to our economy. Vancouver is the biggest lumber town in the province and we need to connect people in Vancouver with the resource economy.”
She added she will be back in Prince George before the May 9 election.