VICTORIA - A diverse economy will buffer British Columbia from declining oil prices that could affect investment decisions in the liquefied natural gas industry, says Premier Christy Clark.
Her comments follow Tuesday's delivery of the Liberal government's throne speech, which was mute on previous bold forecasts of an LNG bonanza but delivered the political agenda for the coming months.
Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan called it a half-hearted attempt by a government content to read a shopping list of old ideas that don't ease the burdens of British Columbians and help them make ends meet.
"That was a half hour none of us will ever get back," said Horgan.
The speech did not include estimates on future LNG plants, even though Clark said last month that B.C. remains on target for three such facilities by 2020.
"The price of oil will have a complex impact, some of it, I, think good for British Columbia, in some of the proponents cases perhaps not," she said after the speech. "But that (project) work is actively continuing behind the scenes."
Clark said 18 LNG export-plant proposals are on the books in B.C., but no company has reached a final investment decision.
Last year, proponents for two major projects, Petronas and British Gas, said they were taking deeper looks at their plans and require more time.
Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon said LNG is still a generational opportunity that could create 100,000 jobs.
In 2011, the government's jobs plan forecast "one LNG pipeline and terminal in operation in Kitimat by 2015 and three in operation by 2020."
Clark said in January that many energy companies interested in investing in B.C.'s LNG industry are re-examining their bottom lines as energy prices drop, but was confident about three B.C. export plants.
Guichon said the government has worked to ensure B.C. is a secure place to do business and is globally competitive.
"Global companies have already invested more than $7 billion to pursue their proposed projects, and they continue to undertake the work necessary to bring these projects to life."
Guichon said B.C., with its growth in forestry, mining, tourism, agriculture, technology and natural gas sectors, is better protected against economic declines currently faced by oil-dependent jurisdictions.
"Today, provinces with oil-based economies and indeed our federal government are forced to respond to the sudden fiscal impacts," she said. "We are fortunate in B.C. that we have a diverse economy and the people, working in diverse sectors, to build our future."
Clark said the throne speech sticks to the government's 2011 jobs plan and chided reporters who suggested few new items were announced.
"I might have to write a letter of apology to your editor that I can't help you come up with a news story," she said.
B.C. will join an exclusive club this month by delivering what will likely be the only balanced budget among Canada's provinces, Guichon said.
She did not mention possible changes to social-services payments suggested last week by Finance Minister Mike de Jong who said a larger-than-forecast budget surplus gives the government room to move on targeted initiatives.
De Jong is set to deliver the budget next Tuesday.
Guichon also announced plans to establish a Medal of Good Citizenship to recognize British Columbians who make extraordinary contributions by volunteering their time, money and talents.
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