VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark says creating jobs ensures votes for her Liberal government, which is why she said she's leaving the legislature Thursday on a high note, despite her government's low standing in public opinion polls.
Clark says she's employing job creation as her best weapon heading into next spring's British Columbia election.
Recent statistics state British Columbia created almost 20,000 jobs last month, with the jobless rate dipping to 6.2 per cent, the lowest rate since January 2009.
Clark said more than 58,000 jobs have been created in the province since February 2011, when she was elected Liberal Leader.
"Here's what I'm banking on," Clark said at the conclusion of a four-month legislative session.
The session began with a budget in February that forecast a deficit of $968 million, but balanced books next year — just in time for the May election.
"I'm banking on delivering our jobs plan. On making sure we do what we said we were going to do — making sure that we are keeping up these jobs numbers, almost 58,000," Clark said.
She said despite public opinion polls that suggest her government badly trails the NDP, job creation will close the gap as the election date approaches.
Clark's jobs plan announced in the fall did not include job-creation targets but focused on liquefied natural gas developments in the province's north and opening eight new mines throughout the province.
"When we get to election day, people are going to ask themselves this: do we want to have a government that's delivering on protecting our economy or do we want a government that's going to put all of that at risk?" she said.
Clark said the Liberals were able to implement laws and regulations during the spring session that improved life for B.C. families and kept taxes low.
She said her government kept her leadership race promise to create a new Family Day holiday next February. The Liberals expanded the Amber Alert system to use social media and ensured BC Hydro rates will rise by less than two per cent next April.
The Liberals also passed legislation that unwinds the former harmonized sales tax and paves the way for the return of the previously used seven-per-cent provincial sales tax by next April.
But Clark's Liberals faced off with the province's teachers, and after a year of labour turmoil, appointed a mediator to attempt to reach a contract settlement that doesn't include a pay raise.
Clark said she's trying to remain optimistic a deal can be reached with the teachers, but the government has already said it is prepared to legislate a contract before the next school year starts in September.
The Liberals also lost two byelections to the New Democrats in traditional Liberal strongholds in Burnaby and Chilliwack.
The B.C. Conservatives, led by former federal Conservative MP John Cummins, have been challenging the Liberals on all fronts, refusing offers to join forces with Clark and scoffing at warnings that split votes between the Liberals and Conservatives virtually guarantees an NDP government.
The NDP handed the Liberals a failing grade on the session.
Opposition Leader Adrian Dix said Clark may tout her jobs agenda, but when it comes to providing training for skilled jobs, the Liberals have not done the job.
"We forced the government to acknowledge that skills shortage, and we forced the government to acknowledge the fact that their budget cut skills training at a time of a skills shortage," he said.
"We raised issues around the use of resources in B.C. We raised issues around the quality of health care and education services. We've been focused and we've been positive."
The session saw the legislature pass about 30 new laws.
What Each Province Gets In Equalization
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equalization_payments_in_Canada#Regional_fiscal_disparities_in_Canada" target="_hplink">Here's how much money each province will receive in equalization payments during the 2013-2014 year.</a> Source: <a href="http://www.fin.gc.ca/fedprov/eqp-eng.asp">Department of Finance</a>. (Alamy)
P.E.I. - $340 Million
Per capita: $2,350 (MICHEL VIATTEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
Nova Scotia - $1.458 Billion
Per capita: $1,342 (Tim BREAKMEIE/AFP/Getty Images)
New Brunswick - $1.513 Billion
Per capita: $1,985 (Luke Pinneo/Getty Images)
Manitoba - $1.792 Billion
Per capita: $1,353 (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jezz/">Flickr: Jezz's Photostream</a>
Ontario - $3.169 Billion
Per capita: $246 (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Quebec - $7.833 Billion
Per capita: $934 (Alamy)
Newfoundland And Labrador - No Payments
(<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/60548141@N00/" target="_hplink">Flickr: magnolia1000</a>)
B.C. - No Payments
Alberta - No Payments
(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Saskatchewan - No Payments
(<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy's photostream</a>)