BRITISH COLUMBIA

Christy Clark, Liberal Caucus Meet

05/23/2013 05:03 EDT | Updated 07/23/2013 05:12 EDT
CP
VANCOUVER - Passing a balanced budget, going on a trade mission to Asia, and establishing labour peace with teachers are among B.C. Premier Christy Clark's top priorities as she announced she will recall the legislature this summer.

Speaking to her newly elected caucus members as well as defeated candidates for the first time since the Liberals' come-from-behind election win last week, Clark said the party must now make good on its campaign promises.

"So this summer, we're going to call back the legislature," she told party members in a hotel ballroom Thursday.

"We're going to pass balanced budget 2013. We are going to seize the vast opportunity that natural gas presents for our future both here at home and by securing markets for that overseas."

Clark said passing a balanced budget is the most pressing item on her agenda.

She campaigned heavily on balancing the books, while the NDP countered the Liberals' efforts by maintaining that their budget was actually $800 million in deficit.

Criticized by the NDP as a "fact-free budget," the Liberals' plan includes government-wide spending controls and some tax increases.

Clark also promised that a thriving liquefied natural gas industry would eliminate the province's debt and create tens of thousands of jobs. She said Thursday she is formalizing plans for a trip to Asia, where she hopes to find investors who can deliver on those promises.

She also repeated an earlier pledge to secure a 10-year-deal with the province's teachers.

The proposal, which includes indexing wage increases in line with other public servants, was scorned by the BC Teachers Federation last year as merely an election ploy and an attempt to interfere with the regular bargaining process.

"If teachers had agreed to that (deal) 10 years ago, they'd all be making more money today because they've lagged behind the average settlement for the public sector," Clark said. "We're a long way away from getting a 10-year agreement but if that's where we get to, it would mean more money for teachers."

Clark took time Thursday to congratulate and thank candidates before formally addressing them from a podium.

"We did it," she said later. "So many people said it could not be done. So many people said British Columbians would not choose a government that was going to put the economy first. So many people said the economy was not the issue for British Columbians. And they were all proven wrong."

The Liberals now have seats in 50 ridings, while the NDP ended up with 33 seats, despite widespread predictions that the election was the New Democrats' to lose. The Green Party elected its first MLA in the province and independent Vicki Huntington was elected for a second time.

The Liberals' victories included winning traditionally NDP-held ridings. The party also took back both seats in the Fraser Valley after losing them to the New Democrats in last year's byelections.

However, Clark was defeated by the NDP's David Eby in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, something she joked about as she thanked the candidates who were defeated.

"Even if you were not successful in getting elected in your riding — and I know a little bit about that — you certainly made a contribution to making sure everybody else did get elected," she said.

It remains to be seen which Liberal MLA might give up a seat so Clark could run in a byelection.

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