WHISTLER, B.C. - Premier Christy Clark says she's putting her bold and audacious plan to bring economic greatness to British Columbia up against what she's calling the modest and secretive goals of the Opposition New Democrats in the coming election campaign.
About 1,000 delegates to the B.C. Liberal Party convention Saturday gave a rousing cheer for Clark when she told them she intends to seize opportunities that bring jobs and growth to the province.
Clark cited her year-old jobs plan, with its promise of at least three liquefied natural gas plants and 17 new or upgraded mines, as the blueprint of the province's economic future.
She said B.C. has created 57,000 jobs over the last year, more than any other province in Canada.
"It's my job to seize the opportunity," Clark told the crowd. "That's not modest. It is bold and that is always how B.C. has been built."
The premier's boldness declaration is viewed as a dig at NDP Leader Adrian Dix, who often says if his party forms government, British Columbians can expect a modest, stable approach to economic development.
Clark said the NDP has offered citizens few details about what its plans for the province include, other than scrapping the balanced budget law and raising corporate taxes.
"Our opponents can bob and weave, they can obfuscate, they can hide their plans," she said. "We have nothing to hide from British Columbians."
After her speech, Clark told reporters she was trying to issue a challenge of sorts to the NDP to reveal their plans.
"What I was trying to do today was make a call out for them to step up and be honest about it," she said.
NDP House Leader John Horgan, who attended the speech in Whistler, north of Vancouver, said although it rallied party members, the cheers will not resound beyond the convention floor.
"Good for her to keep the true believers excited inside the room, but I don't believe anything that happened in here today will have any impact on the streets of B.C.," he said.
Horgan said the NDP will release its election platform closer to the start of the May election campaign.
The prevailing attitude by delegates at the convention is that their party still has solid election promise — even as the opposition is far ahead in public opinion polls.
Clark said the coming campaign will be tough, but winnable.
"I'm a fighter," Clark said as Liberals chanted "four more years."
Kootenay Liberal Bill Bennett said the overly-confident NDP will discover that Clark is no pushover, drawing cheers from the partisan crowd with the Clint Eastwood line, "Go ahead, make my day."
Earlier in the day, delegates overwhelmingly rejected a call to eliminate their controversial carbon tax. The debate that ended in a show-of-hands vote that appeared to support the tax by a three-to-one margin.
The B.C. carbon tax, introduced four years ago to fight climate change, was hailed as a bold environmental and economic initiative, but many are now concerned the carbon tax puts B.C. at an economic disadvantage.
The Liberal convention motion called on the Liberal government to immediately repeal the levy and dismantle its revenue neutrality mechanism, where the estimated $1.2 billion in revenues cuts costs for families.
The B.C. carbon tax adds about seven cents to a litre of fuel and includes home heating oil and natural gas.
But former Liberal Party president Andrew Wilkinson said eliminating the tax kills the carbon tax review currently underway and puts the government in a financial bind of finding ways to replace revenues.
Taxpayers and businesses benefit from the carbon tax revenues in the form of income tax cuts.
"The delegates to the convention voted pretty clearly to keep the carbon tax where it is to support the government's policy of a freeze on the carbon tax and to review it," said Wilkinson.
"Part of the picture there is the carbon tax brings in about a billion dollars a year ands we would have to find a way to replace that to meet the balanced budget we're all after."
The Liberals also participated in a closed-door session with two Alberta election wizards, Don Guy and Stephen Carter, who helped Premier Alison Redford beat back a right-wing challenge and win the last provincial election.
The B.C. Liberals have faced serious tests of their free enterprise coalition from the B.C. Conservatives, but the party has been expressing more confidence lately as the provincial Tories spend time feuding among themselves.
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