Thursday, September 29, 2016

Premier Clark test drives a few electoral themes for UBCM gathering

Premier Clark addressing the UBCM
convention on Wednesday
The Wednesday afternoon session of the UBCM convention was turned over to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, who took to the stage at the Victoria Convention Centre shortly after 2:15 PM to deliver the BC Government's annual address to the group.

This year with the Premier's schedule seemingly ever changing to keep pace with events related to the visit of the Royal Couple and their family, her speech came a few days earlier than the usual Friday morning spotlight that is normally provided, which in most years effectively brings the convention to a close.

It wasn't too long into the speech that a few themes for the upcoming Provincial election of 2017 began to work their way into her comments, with much talk about the middle class and the need to provide opportunities for them, as well as to remove barriers for those on social assistance looking to transition back into the work force or to seek training to improve their opportunities.

Other themes through the address included proposals to address the housing issues of the Province, initiatives related to Clean Water and Wastewater and the need to address some of the growing drug concerns in British Columbia, with a focus on the current crisis related to fentanyl.

As the speech rolled out, the BC Government was delivering background information on some of the key themes that the Premier was providing, you can review a few of their notes on those below:

B.C. commits over $148 million to Clean Water and Wastewater Fund

Through the half hour, the Premier noted some of the challenges ahead for the province, with forestry which she noted was still a lifeblood for many communities in B.C.  facing a number of issues, concerns that the government will continue to work on to ensure that it remains a key element of the BC economy.

She also noted some of the new industrial growth in the province, with a particular focus on the tech sector which the Premier observed was continuing to grow in many areas of British Columbia beyond the Lower Mainland.

For the Northwest there were a couple of moments of recognition, the first coming with the Premier offering a quick review of Tuesday's announcement from the Federal Government that approved the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project.

On that theme, the Premier put her focus towards how the British Columbia project could be instrumental in reducing the effects of climate change in Asia. On that theme Premier Clark observed that the introduction of British Columbia Natural Gas, which she said would be the cleanest in the world could see nations such as China, Japan and India reduce their consumption of coal, slowing the growth of the world's emissions.

She outlined some details on the governments work on the BC climate charter and how when it come to the carbon tax in BC, the government will return all of that revenue to the residents of the province in the form of lower taxes, noting that the government "won't be taxing the people of the province out of their jobs".

Calling revenue neutrality the government's guiding principle, the Premier announced that the province will recognized by the UN on Thursday for its work in fighting climate change, with the global organization honouring the province on its revenue neutral carbon tax and how the UN believes that the province is a model for the world.

Ms. Clark also proposed making British Columbia a hub for marine shipping, where vessels can fuel up on natural gas, a concept that would reduce global emissions than all of the emissions that British Columbia generates today.

She also committed the province to 100 percent renewable clean power for BC Hydro, reviewing the province's plans for the Site C project, noting that it has become an employment generator in the northeast region of the Province.

As part of her comments on that project, the Premier observed that as municipal leaders know, making hard decisions is part of the job and that it is impossible to make everyone happy when a decision is a tough one.

There was one shout out for the North Coast this year, with the Premier noting Tuesday's announcement on Pacific NorthWest.

Ms. Clark highlighted the nature of that investment and how the province made sure that the project would be done right.  Noting that "in places like Port Edward, dancing Dave MacDonald was doing a jig right now", a salute to the Port Edward Mayor in the audience and a reference to his efforts to see the Pacific NorthWest project move forward towards development in his community.

As she wrapped up her speech which clocked in at just seconds short of thirty minutes in length, she outlined how the government had stuck to its plan and been able to get to their finances in order, worked to create jobs around the province and worked to invest in putting British Columbians first.

Premier Clark then delivered a string of what appeared to be position statements for her and the BC Liberals for the coming election, calling on municipalities to join the provincial government as they:

Stay the Course, 

Let's make sure we Keep Getting to Yes, 

Let's create jobs for our citizens in urban and rural communities.

Let's invest in them so that they can change their own lives 

Her final thoughts for the audience reinforcing the call of "Putting British Columbians first" something which it would appear will be the position statement for the Liberals through the fall and into the spring election period.

You can view the address to the delegates from the Province of British Columbia's YouTube feed:

As her address to the convention was taking place, there were a number of comments through social media to applaud, and in some cases question some of the Premier's commentary.

The one are that generated the most discussion appeared to be the Premier's thoughts on how the proposed LNG project for Lelu Island would improve the conditions of climate change, something that didn't resonate very well  for a number of those watching Tuesday's address.

For her part, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice took to twitter offering up her support for a note from the press secretary to NDP Leader John Horgan, observing that the largest amount of applause for the speech appeared to be coming from BC Liberal staffers at the back of the room.

As for the NDP leader, Mr. Horgan was putting his focus towards Tuesday's LNG announcement, relaying through a statement on the NDP website of  his belief that the Federal announcement was really a reminder of the Premier's failure to deliver even one LNG plant to the province.

Calling the LNG promises by the BC Liberals as still empty, noting how they had failed to deliver even one LNG terminal to this point in their vision of a made in BC industry.

“Christy Clark promised British Columbians an LNG windfall during the last election. She promised to have one plant up and running a year ago, and five by the end of the decade. She promised 100,000 new jobs and to deposit $100 billion in a prosperity fund. None of that has come true,”

A number of other BC NDP MLA's also offered up their critiques of the Premier's speech, calling attention to areas where they suggest the Premier is merely recycling past promises and others where they believe she is suddenly changing direction on a range of issues with an eye towards the upcoming election.

More items related to the UBCM Convention can be found on our archive page here.

Notes related to Provincial politics and be found on our Legislature archive page or from our Political Portal Darcy McGee here.

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