VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark had British Columbia's municipal leaders cheering as she announced labour peace with government workers, plans to accelerate major infrastructure projects and offered fighting words for Alberta on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Clark's keynote speech Friday at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention included the announcement of a tentative deal with the 27,000-member B.C. Government and Service Employees Union.
She also said her government plans to four-lane the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border, start work on replacing the congested George Massey Tunnel south of Vancouver and speed up road, hospital and sewer projects throughout B.C.
Clark said she will be in Alberta on Monday to meet with Premier Alison Redford to deliver the message that B.C. has serious environmental concerns about the proposed Enbridge Inc., (TSX:ENB) project, which "will not be built, period," if they aren't addressed.
British Columbia has already delivered to Alberta five requirements it wants met before it will consider supporting the project, which would see a pipeline built from Alberta to northwest B.C., for oil shipments to Asia in tankers moving along the coast.
"The bigger issue for us is how do we protect our environment," Clark told delegates at the convention. "We are not going to do it at the expense of our environment."
She said her government will add $509 million over the next 10 years to speed up the ongoing federal-provincial project to four-lane the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops east to Alberta. The province has already contributed $141 million over three years to the project.
The George Massey Tunnel, which funnels 80,000 people daily from Vancouver's southern suburbs into the downtown core, needs replacing, said Clark, especially with Vancouver's increasing population and port expansions.
She announced $207 million in new road, school and health projects throughout the province, including school improvements in Nanaimo, Campbell River, Houston, Surrey and Maple Ridge.
Clark said the money to pay for the $207 million in new capital projects came from government-wide savings.
"These are new projects, but this is not new money," she said.
Earlier this month, the Liberals announced a government-wide restraint effort to combat falling revenues in the natural gas sector.
Opposition New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston said Clark's project spending announcements are counter to what Finance Minister Mike de Jong said two weeks ago in a quarterly update that included plans to cut capital spending by $977 million over three years.
"It's a very different message from what the finance minister was talking about," he said. "If you accept what she says and interpret what she says, these are just ideas."
Ralston said funding the four-laning of the Trans-Canada-Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border is not in the government's three-year fiscal plans and the project extends to 2021.
He said the details of the George Massey Tunnel replacement are "nebulous."
Clark's speech comes one day after Opposition New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix announced he is preparing to dump the province's balanced-budget law if he's elected premier.
Clark has been through a particularly rough period lately, losing her former chief of staff, Ken Boessenkool, who left his post after admitting to an act of unspecified inappropriate behaviour.
Clark has lost several veteran cabinet ministers to political retirement and her Liberals are trailing well behind the New Democrats in public opinion polls.
British Columbians go to the polls next May.