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B.C. throne speech: ‘Alberta lost its focus’

0 143 Government

by Russell Hixson

B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon addressed slumping oil prices, the province's LNG industry hopes and infrastructure spending in the government's speech from the throne. Guichon also drew distinction between Alberta and B.C., noting that B.C.'s economy leads Canada despite a fragile global economy hit by historically low oil prices.
B.C. throne speech: ‘Alberta lost its focus’

"Consider our neighbours in Alberta – a province of similar size, and also blessed with natural resources," said Guichon. "Over the decades, Alberta lost its focus. They expected their resource boom never to end, failed to diversify their economy and lost control of government spending."

She said B.C. must resist the temptation to spend its way into trouble. A major component of the government's plan is developing its LNG industry. There are 20 active projects at various stages of development. More than 30 investment partners are involved, and between them, they have invested some $20 billion.

So far, no projects have received the final green light to go ahead.

"There is no question that unforeseen global conditions are posing new challenges. Low global prices will have an impact on your government's initial timelines," she said, adding that government has done all it can to attract LNG investment. "Success is not for quitters. Success demands steadfast attention, and resiliency in the face of global challenges."

According to Guichon, the province must begin to export natural gas, or the 13,000 people who depend on the industry today will be out of work. She noted that as the world's cleanest-burning fossil fuel, demand for LNG will increase, and with it, the price.

The government also intends to set up a Prosperity Fund, to leave an endowment for future generations, to pay down and eliminate the debt, and to invest in the services and infrastructure.

In her speech, Guichon also addressed the need to balance infrastructure investment without pushing the province into deficit.

There is currently more than $7 billion dollars' worth of ongoing infrastructure projects – including the South Fraser Perimeter Road, Evergreen Line and George Massey Tunnel Replacement. She anticipates these infrastructure projects will create 150,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

Guichon said by focusing on key sectors of the economy and expanding new markets in clean energy and technology with British Columbia's Asia-Pacific partners, the government has the opportunity to eliminate the operating debt in just four years, paving the path towards a debt-free B.C.

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