Clark talks LNG, BCTF and Bennett in Cranbrook speech
While dozens of B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) union members and supporters lined the strip in front of Cranbrook’s Heritage Inn July 10, protesting the province’s treatment of teachers, Premier Christy Clark touted the importance of the fledgling liquefied natural gas industry as needed to ensuring vital services remain funded in the province.
Clark opened her speech to about 160 Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce members and Rotary Club of Cranbrook members by offering Rotary Club president Laurie Goodlad “a happy dollar” because she was so happy to be back in Cranbrook.
Clark leaned into humour on occasion during her 15-minute address to a packed conference room.
Pointing out her son is “half Dutch” she explained they had been rooting for the Netherlands in the World Cup. As the team fell to Argentina in the semi-finals, she quipped, “It’s been a bad year for the guys in orange,” referring to the Dutch team colour and BC NDP.
Clark said a combination of “good luck and hard work” have resulted in British Columbia remaining a vibrant province, economically and socially.
“When you combine good luck with hard work, it is amazing what you can accomplish,” she said, relating a story about her Scottish grandfather who came to Canada at the age of 16 “without two nickels to rub together.”
He landed work at Hudson’s Bay Company but in a few years found himself back in Europe in a Canadian Expeditionary Force uniform and fighting in the First World War.
“He fought for three or four years; we’re not sure (exactly how long) because he never spoke about the war,” she said, noting he had “good luck” to come home when so many didn’t.
More good luck awaited on his arrival home. HBC had the noble practice of continuing pay for employees who enlisted in the armed forces and when he returned home to Canada he had “more money than he’d ever had before” and applied those funds to education, enrolling in medical school. He would go onto become one of the top civil servants in Canada.
Her grandfather is proof that good luck and hard work will pay off, Clark said.
B.C. has the good luck of having an estimated trillion dollars in natural gas reserves.
Natural gas “is an opportunity like one we have never seen before,” she said.
Because natural gas is being found all over North America, the market here isn’t great. But liquefying it and shipping it to Asia means the market is much more lucrative, Clark said.
“If we don’t do it, there isn’t much market for what we have now,” she said.
The Premier pointed out that a bolstered liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry would create 100,000 “dependable, high paying jobs” and the tax spin off to the province would be enormous.
“It is a chance to pay off the debt for ever for our children,” Clark said, noting key decisions are coming fast, such a possible $36 billion in investment by PetroMas which could be finalized by December.
Clark said there are currently a dozen corporations, Canadian and international, ready to invest $250 billion.
Clark then turned to B.C.’s current fiscal affairs and proudly noted, “We’ve balanced our budget for the first time since 2008.”
A key player in balancing the provincial books is Cranbrook’s own Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, she said.
Bennett not only balanced his Ministry of Energy and Mines budget but as Minister of Core Review he has found ways for the province to save money, or transfer to other more needed areas.
“Bill has met all his targets in the core review,” Clark said.
Bennett’s voice is vital in Victoria, especially for rural British Columbians, Clark continued.
“Bill has a credible voice – a voice people listen to in the press gallery” and elsewhere inside the capital. He is a connection between rural and urban B.C., she said.
“People need to know where it is they get the money for those lattes,” she said of the Lower Mainland population mass. Two out of every three dollars in B.C. come from rural B.C’s resource sector, she explained.
With that in mind, a continued focus on building the resource sector economy, not just LNG but mining, forestry, agriculture and more are a must, Clark said.
“You can’t build an economy on ‘no,’” she said, adding, “Not many of you would refer to Bill as a ‘yes man’ but he’s all about finding a way to get to yes.”
In turn, Bennett spoke glowingly of his boss. “We are extremely lucky Christy Clark appeared on the scene when she did,” Bennett told the luncheon audience. Who thought we were going to win in May of 2013? Christy Clark did,” he said.
Following Clark’s speech, she fielded a number of questions, the first being the anticipated question about the ongoing BCTF strike, which appears destined to begin anew in September.
Clark defended the province’s education record as the best in Canada.
“It is not perfect by any stretch,” she said, suggesting that “years of bickering” between teachers and the Ministry of Education have led people to believe otherwise.
Clark said she doesn’t see what else the province can do to satisfy the BCTF at this time but is hopeful a solution can be found.
We’ve put about $1.2 billion on the table” for wages and class composition support, she said. “It’s significant” but the BCTF wants $2.2 billion more.
“My bottom line is I believe teachers deserve a fair raise” but classroom conditions must also be improved, she said.
“We have to find a way to get kids out of the middle of this. There is nothing more frustrating than a fight between adults that hurts kids and it is time for that to end,” she declared, noting she’d like to see 10 years of labour peace come from this.
On a side note, Clark told the audience that her government is well aware of the need for provincial government funding for the Cranbrook Salvation Army shelter and they are working to try and fund some support.
“I don’t underestimate Bill’s ability to get it done,” she said.
Following her lunchtime visit to Cranbrook, Clark headed to Kimberley and Fernie for more appointments.
Chamber president Dave Butler president the Premier with several gifts on behalf of the community following her speech.
Lead image: Premier Clark, centre, with Devon Kennedy – 2014 Sweetheart of Sam Steele and Kendall Bostock, 2014 Princess of Sam Steele.