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At pre-election kick-off, Premier Clark pushes debt as key wedge issue

Premier Christy Clark told a crowd of BC Liberals today that her government stands for balanced budgets -- despite years of deficits under the same party -- while the New Democrats would keep the province mired in rising debt.

Speaking at a pre-election kickoff event in Vancouver, Clark made it clear that the balanced budget tabled this week in the legislature will be the cornerstone of the BC Liberals' election campaign -- and that her strategy is to turn debt into the key wedge issue.

The premier said that balancing the province's finances is a "basic core value" of her party and of British Columbians.

The premier mocked NDP leader Adrian Dix for saying he would balance the budget over the course of the business cycle.

"We need to ask ourselves, if you are not prepared to make sure you don't have a deficit and start paying down the debt in years when you have a surplus, when are you we going to be prepared to do that?"

Clark vowed to stick with balanced budgets in the same way her father, a middle-class Burnaby school teacher, made sure his family wasn't saddled with debt.

"When he died, he left us a house that was mortgage free, without any debt on any credit card or bank account, and he pre-paid his funeral expenses. And you know, I bet, when I look at this crowd today, everyone of you had parents like that.

"…If it wasn't okay for Jim and Mavis Clark to leave me and my brothers with a debt, why is it okay for our government to leave our kids with a debt?"

Clark told the crowd that the "New Democrats hide what they stand for" and "refuse to tell us what they would do."

The premier also indicated that liquefied natural gas -- "the opportunity of a lifetime" -- will be at the heart of her economic messaging during the upcoming campaign.

"We want to bring home the trillions in economic growth that is going to come from selling our surplus supply of natural gas at five times the price we do here in North America and selling it over in Asia.

"Do we want to create a prosperity fund for our children that will mean over $100 billion over 30 years, $4 to $8 billion in new revenue every year? Because if we do that, we will surely be changing the future for our children."*

Clark said LNG revenue could allow the province to shed its debt and get rid of various taxes.

Despite being consistently behind the NDP in the polls over the past two years, Clark remained upbeat about her prospects in the May vote.

"This is, have no doubt about it, going to be a hard-fought, close election," she told delegates to the BC Liberal provincial council meeting. "But every election can be won."

Doug Ward is a freelance writer in Vancouver, who was previously a reporter at the Vancouver Sun.

*Typo corrected Feb. 24

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