03/26/2014 11:24 EDT | Updated 05/26/2014 05:59 EDT

Central 1 predicts strong B.C. economy by 2016, if LNG projects proceed

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's economy will see healthy growth from 2016 to 2018, but Central 1 Credit Union says liquefied natural gas is the key to prosperity.

Central 1 has issued its latest economic outlook, predicting the B.C. economy will gain strength in 2015 and then take off, if LNG projects come online as planned.

The association, representing 133 credit unions across B.C. and Ontario, notes optimistic medium-term growth in British Columbia's provincial forecast depends almost entirely on those LNG projects.

Central 1 economist Brian Yu forecasts increasing strength in the province's trade sector, driven by a lower Canadian dollar and recovering U.S. economy.

He is calling for economic growth to average above four per cent from 2016 to 2018 as the LNG sector fires up across the northern half of B.C.

Central 1 is also predicting continued low interest rates, with a modest increase over the next five years, while Yu says the loonie will average 87 cents U.S. through 2018, but could go lower.