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B.C. Premier says her jobs plan on slow pace, but expects to pick up next year

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is photographed during her annual year end interview at the Legislature building in Victoria,Monday December 9, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark says her goal to transform British Columbia's economy into one of Canada's top job-creation engines has hit a rough patch, but she's not about to ditch her jobs plan or call it a lemon.

Clark, in a year end interview with The Canadian Press, said she expects job creation to pick up next year as potential deals with liquefied natural gas companies reach the signing stage.

Clark refused to call her jobs plan a failure, but admitted it's been slow going.

"We haven't seen all the fruits of our labours yet, but we will," she said. "I hope in 2014, we'll get to some final investment decisions on some of the LNG plants. I hope we'll see some of the fruits of these labours, but it's just not the kind of thing that's going to happen overnight."

In the fall of 2011 when Clark announced her Liberal government's jobs plan, she set lofty job creation and economic growth goals to put B.C. on top in Canada.

The premier — who has placed much of the province's economic hope development of natural gas and export of LNG to Asia — said she wanted the province to strive for economic gold.

The jobs plan will remain in place, but the climb to the top remains formidable, she admitted.

"We've set a goal to create jobs, to grow the economy, to create economic development," Clark said. "You do not get to that long term goal without sticking to a plan over a good period of time, so, it's going to take a little longer."

The goals of Clark's "Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan:" include placing B.C. in the top two in Canada in gross domestic product growth and new job growth by 2015.

Other goals include, eight new mines in operation by 2015 and upgrades and expansions to nine currently operating mines; at least one LNG pipeline and terminal operating in Kitimat by 2015 and three in operation by 2020.

The plan also includes efforts to expand markets for B.C. products and services, particularly in Asia.

But the Opposition New Democrats have seized upon recent national jobs statistics revealing B.C.'s sluggish performance in creating private sector jobs.

Since the jobs plan was launched more than two years ago, B.C. has lost 6,700 private sector jobs, the worst record in the country and the only province to have suffered an absolute decline, said NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth in a statement last week after the release of Canada's November employment numbers.

The NDP said the numbers also show more than 14,000 British Columbians have moved to Alberta in search of work since the launch of the jobs plan.

Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong admitted last month that B.C. is not where it wants to be for job growth.

The government's second-quarterly financial statement, which updates the province's financial situation at the halfway point of the budget year, revealed employment growth in B.C. contracted by 0.1 per cent over the same period last year, translating to 2,600 fewer jobs.

"The reality is we are now living in a world where economic growth is slow," said Clark. "That's the reality of the Western world."

But she said her government has chosen to grasp an opportunity to develop the natural gas industry in northern B.C. and build pipelines and terminals in the Kitimat and Prince Rupert areas of northwest B.C. to export the gas to Asia.

The premier has said LNG development represents a trillion-dollar economic opportunity that could create up to 100,000 jobs and eventually generate enough tax revenue to pay off the provincial debt, forecast to hit $62 billion this year.

Clark, who is travelling to Kenya this Christmas with her son Hamish to participate in a Free The Children school construction charity project, said she expects B.C.'s determination to attract LNG investors will pay off next year as several deals will reach final investment decision stage.

Her government will table its LNG tax and royalty structure laws and regulations early next year. But Clark said the package is detailed and she doesn't expect it to be passed immediately into law.

"It's a very complex piece of legislation," Clark said. "But we're hoping that that will move some of these decisions to final investment."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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