Premier Christy Clark calls B.C. an economic 'safe harbour' at Burnaby event

B.C. Premier Christy Clark spoke to the Burnaby Board of Trade on Thursday. - Wanda Chow/NewsLeader
B.C. Premier Christy Clark spoke to the Burnaby Board of Trade on Thursday.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

Premier Christy Clark defended this week's provincial budget to a sold-out crowd Thursday morning, with enough jabs to appear like an early election speech.

"When my government has a choice between lowering taxes and increasing spending, we are going to lower taxes," she said to applause from the Burnaby Board of Trade audience at the Delta Burnaby.

"I will not raise taxes on families to fund pay hikes for public sector unions."

Clark highlighted tax breaks in the new budget, from a children's fitness and tax credit of up to $500 per child annually, to complement a similar federal tax credit, to a seniors home renovation tax credit of up to $1,000 a year for work that will help seniors live independently longer.

A new $10,000 temporary refundable income tax credit for first-time homebuyers purchasing newly built homes and allowing the HST rebate on new homes up to $850,000 will support residential home construction, one of the biggest economic drivers in B.C. she said.

A decision to eliminate the provincial jet fuel tax for international flights has also paid dividends, with Vancouver International Airport already securing commitments for expansion from 22 airlines as a result.

She noted that China Southern airline's three flights a week out of YVR contributes $3.5 million to the B.C. economy through up to 200 additional airport jobs and 31,000 additional visitors annually.

"It's that hard-earned reputation for fiscal discipline that has allowed us to remain a safe harbour during times of fiscal turmoil," she said.

"I will do everything in my power to keep this province a safe harbour."

Clark, who ultimately received a standing ovation from the business-friendly crowd, recalled the Occupy Vancouver movement and its call for greater support of the middle class.

"You don't do it by setting up a tent outside the art gallery," she said. "You do it by enabling the private sector to create jobs ... And when you make sure people have jobs you don't take away half their money through taxes."

In a thinly veiled reference to the New Democrats, Clark said countries such as Greece and France are suffering economically today due to years of high spending, debt and taxes.

"These are the same reckless and risky policies that British Columbia pursued in the 1990s," she said. "We learned our lesson then, let's make sure we don't try and learn it again. We simply can't afford it."

Born and raised in Burnaby, Clark made several references to her parents, a stay-at-home mom and a public-school teacher father.

"I was raised by my mom and dad to believe that government is the expression of our collective will to look after one another ... Without a thriving private sector and the revenues generated from that, without jobs that allow people to put food on the table for their kids, we can't look after each other and we won't be able to afford the social programs that British Columbians and Canadians value so dearly."

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