BUSINESS
08/17/2011 05:23 EDT | Updated 10/17/2011 05:12 EDT

B.C. premier travels to Asia as part of a jobs-building mission

VANCOUVER - Premier Christy Clark says she's sticking with a "prudent," two-per-cent, economic-growth projection for B.C.'s economy, despite some tough times in North America and around the world.

Clark made the announcement Thursday during a news conference in which she said her government is working on a job-creation plan to be released sometime this fall.

She refused to give too many details about that plan. Her announcement comes just weeks after the Business Council of British Columbia downgraded its own economic-growth projection for B.C. to 2.2 per cent from 2.8 per cent.

"We're being very, very prudent," said Clark. "We have to be because people expect us to manage their money as well as they manage it themselves.

"I'm committed to balancing the budget and you don't do that if you start building in false expectations about economic growth."

Clark said B.C. last year projected 2.4 per cent growth but actually saw four-per-cent growth.

She said she hopes to create jobs by focusing on Asia-Pacific trade and ensuring B.C. gets its fair share of federal procurement dollars in industries like ship building.

She said she'll likely lead a trade mission to China and India, starting in the second week of November.

Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer of the B.C. council, said the government's two-per-cent projection is prudent, adding that his organization downgraded its projection because of a slowdown in the U.S. and global economy.

He said the government's projection means job creation will slow and families will see only muted gains to their incomes.

"There isn't a tremendous amount that the provincial government can do, in my opinion, to spur a rapid increase in job growth in British Columbia," said Finlayson.

However, he said the provincial government can speed up the permitting process for resource- and land-based industries and ensure the province gets its fair share of federal procurement dollars.

Finlayson said the province must also make sure it doesn't "fritter away" its competitive advantage in areas like relatively low tax and power rates and it must ensure it keeps the public finances in order.

Adrian Dix, leader of B.C.'s New Democrats, criticized Clark for not revealing many details about her job-creation strategy.

"I think this is a government that's clearly out of gas and a premier that aside from, you know, a very skilled sense of self-promotion doesn't have a plan to address the issues facing this province," he said.

Dix said there's no question that the U.S.'s economic issues are a problem for B.C., but he said the government needs to ensure B.C.'s workers have the training they need to take advantage of future opportunities.

The government, he added, could spur economic growth and save energy by promoting home retrofits.

Dix said the government could also ensure workers have the training they need by ensuring post-secondary education is more affordable.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to appear before the Commons finance committee Friday to talk about the economy as fears mount that the market turmoil and the slumping American economy will squeeze the Canadian economy and undermine the Ottawa's deficit fighting plan.

Flaherty will be followed by Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney and Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Tiff Macklem.