TERRACE, B.C. - B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark says northern British Columbia is booming again and a Liberal government will make sure the communities that will pay the price for that boom will collect some of the cash.
Clark was in the Skeena Valley, on the final day of a whirlwind northern tour to sell her plans for B.C.'s future.
She ended her day with a rally in Richmond, B.C., where she announced she'd like to see a school of traditional Chinese medicine built.
"The northwest is becoming a boomtown again," Clark said after a rally in Terrace, a bustling city nestled in the mountains along the Skeena River and the oil and gas starting gate of the race to the B.C. coast and the markets of Asia.
Hydro power projects, mining, forestry, liquefied natural gas and just about anything else that can be put in a pipe — if it can be floated to China, there is a project online, underway or in the works somewhere nearby.
Clark announced Friday a Liberal government would negotiate a rural dividend plan that would see communities along a project path benefit directly.
Details have yet to be worked out with rural leaders, she said, but money would come from the Prosperity Fund announced in her throne speech to help fund infrastructure in communities that will see, Clark hopes, a flood of workers and activity.
"The communities that produce the resource experience growth and real change, and they have trouble managing it," Clark said on the third day of a whirlwind northern campaign tour.
Clark said the dividend would be about $25 million a year starting in 2015-2016, with more to come from LNG revenues.
She said the money will be set aside like the Prosperity Fund, but the fund would not be open to the "squandering of future governments" that she warns of in her stump speech.
Clark said her LNG plans for the province are not a pipe dream.
"This is real. There are eight or nine companies — major international companies — looking at British Columbia," she said told supporters in Port Edward.
She said it may be similar to the Fair Share program that sees taxes collected from oil and gas activities in the Peace River region shared with municipalities that cannot directly tax developments.
The dividend may help Clark's Liberals sell their LNG and resource plans in an area where the pace of development has been staggering.
It's also an area currently represented by New Democrats and one that would be bisected by the Northern Gateway pipeline — a proposal that has divided the province.
The city councils of both Terrace and Prince Rupert have passed resolutions opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline and some area First Nations have expressed concerns about LNG pipelines and other developments.
Later in the day in Port Edward, Clark toured the community school — an example, she said, of the kind of spending a government can undertake with a strong economy.
From the exit of the school gym, in the distance on the edge of the ocean, Petronas has proposed one of at least a half-dozen LNG projects in various stages in B.C.
Port Edward Mayor Dave MacDonald is excited but knows all to well that the province's big energy dreams are just that — dreams — at this point.
"Right out there is where it's going if it comes," he noted. "We've seen dreams of people come before and go and we're hoping that this is the one that does fulfil itself."
MacDonald said he was pleased and to hear Clark announce her rural dividend plan.
"We should be getting some benefits," he added.
Clark said her position on any new pipelines has not changed. She reiterated the province's five conditions for approving Northern Gateway or any pipeline proposal.
Despite more than a year of public hearings and a long list of promises from the company and 199 draft conditions issued by a joint federal review panel, the premier said nothing has changed.
"We don't feel any more comfortable now about the safety of the proposal than we did at the beginning," she said.
Clark also reiterated her support for a multi-billion-dollar oil refinery project proposed by newspaper magnate David Black.
Black announced Thursday that a Chinese bank is the financial backer of the project.
"There are a lot of things that need to be worked out," Clark said. "But a refined product is a lot easier on the environment than the non-refined product that Alberta currently proposes to send off our coast."
In Richmond, Clark addressed the Chinese community with a sentence in Cantonese, promising a Liberal government equals lower taxes.
The premier also announced she'd like to see a school of traditional Chinese medicine built locally.
"We believe that there's more than one way to do things," she said. "And we won't be just limited by Western styles of medicine. That works, but there are a lot of other people in our multicultural society that want to look to different ways."
Clark said the Liberals want to respect and honour that and ensure the opportunity is available.
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