12/31/2013 10:01 EST | Updated 03/02/2014 05:59 EST

INTERVIEW: B.C. Premier Christy Clark On 'Strangely Satisfying' 2013

When B.C.'s provincial election campaign kicked off in April, Liberal Leader and Premier Christy Clark was trailing by nearly 20 per cent in some polls. It seemed NDP Leader Adrian Dix was a sure bet to take over after a dozen years of Liberal government.

But Clark barrelled ahead, promising jobs and economic growth, fuelled by plans to build a liquid natural gas export industry in northern B.C.

And it worked. On election night Clark scored an overwhelming victory that left pundits and pollsters speechless, and the NDP searching for a new leader.

But at the same time Clark's win was marred by her failure to win her own seat in Point Grey she had to wait to win a byelection in Kelowna before she should take her place in the legislature.

Now reflecting on her win in a year-end interview with the CBC's Stephen Smart, Clark says she was less surprised than most people.

"Because I was out talking to people all those years where everyone was predicting my imminent doom and I knew that it wasn't as dark as everybody thought," said Clark, smiling.

"I also knew that once we got into the election campaign, and we really had a chance to go face-to-face on ideas, I thought that our ideas were better than the NDP's ideas, so I believed in the strength of that. I thought we would win the election."

When it was all over, she said, she felt relief more than anything.

"I think most people have had the experience in their lives — certainly lots of women I know have — where everybody said, 'You can't do it, you can't do it, you can't do it'. And then the chance to prove all those people wrong is a strangely satisfying thing."

Desire for growth led to victory

The premier is adamant the surprise victory can be attributed to British Columbians' desire for economic growth.

"I really do think it was a question of 'Who stands for what?' And we stood for — very clearly — economic growth," said Clark.

"I said we're going to grasp this liquefied natural gas opportunity, we're going to grow the number of mines in the province, we're going to support forestry and agriculture, we're going to build our tech industry — we are going to grow.

"And the NDP on the other hand, had this sort of muddy message that really amounted to...they didn't want to grow. And I think that's what it came down to at the end of the day."

The central plank of Christy's campaign message was a promise to invest in the infrastructure to convert natural gas to liquefied natural gas and use the resulting dollars to pay off the provincial debt and invest in its future.

Christy believes she has pursued the opportunity with the vigour and purpose she pledged — and says her efforts will pay off in 2014.

"[We're] getting close to final investment decisions, on billions of dollars of investments, so we've come a long way in a short period of time.

"In 2014, we need to close on some of those final investment decisions and I think some of the companies are in a position to do that."

Christy still anticipates the export of LNG will help the province pay down its debt, but also hopes deals are closed in 2014 to enable the construction of a pipeline and liquefaction plants and the creation of 100,000 jobs. 

"That's people working and putting food on their table for their kids and paying taxes, setting a good example. I mean, that's really the big payoff in this."

Pipelines fuel heated debate

Christy's unexpected victory also renewed the divisive debate over pipelines.

The NDP had promised voters to put the brakes on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast, saying the risks to the environment are too great and the economic benefits too small.

But Clark, who has previously clashed with Alberta Premier Alison Redford over the pipeline plans, says she's keeping the door open to Enbridge if conditions can be met in 2014.

"The folks doing the heavy oil from Alberta have to be... sensitive in working with First Nations, in making sure British Columbians get a benefit, in making sure it's environmentally sound.

"We have to do these things in an environmentally sound way or British Columbians won't allow it to happen."

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