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Clark confident BC will choose 'security over risk' at platform unveiling

Christy Clark's chosen wedge issues have yet to give her any traction in the polls. But the premier headed into the campaign Monday sticking to the two major themes of her pre-election talking points -- government debt reduction and the expansion of liquified natural gas production.

Speaking at the release of the BC Liberal platform, Clark warned that the NDP would drive away investment while boosting taxes and debt.

"We can grow the size of the economy with today's BC Liberals. Or we can grow the size of government with the NDP," Clark told reporters.

The premier said her party's goal is to create a debt-free B.C. in 15 years, largely through restraints on spending and a potential revenue windfall from LNG exports.

"Liquified natural gas is really the opportunity of a lifetime. We will seize it. The NDP would squander it."

Asked what in the BC Liberal platform could persuade voters to give her a second chance, Clark said British Columbians will eventually agree with her view that the NDP is a poor choice in difficult economic times.

"I'm confident that when we are surrounded by uncertainty and a fragile global economy, British Columbians will chose security over risk."

Clark continued to push debt as a key theme even though British Columbia has nearly the lowest taxpayer-supported debt as a proportion of its gross domestic product among all provinces, one of the smallest public sectors on a per capita basis and the lowest income taxes in Canada up to $120,000.

The premier charged that the NDP is a tax-and-spend party, although the two main parties recently moved closer on tax policy.

The BC Liberal budget in February raised the corporate income tax to 11 per cent from 10 per cent, while the NDP would raise it one point further to 12 per cent. The Clark government also increased the tax rate on people with taxable income over $150,000, which is also the NDP's threshold for a new tax hike. The BC Liberals have ruled out any reappearance of the corporation capital tax on banks and financial institutions, while the NDP would revive the tax.

"You can't talk about retiring the debt if you are always running deficits," said Clark about the NDP.

The BC Liberals ran four consecutive deficits and one balanced budget for two months, which the NDP faulted for being based on unrealistic projections of expenditure growth, plus the ill-advised sale of government assets.

The premier defended her government's predictions about the future of LNG, saying that $7 billion has already been committed to its production in B.C. and that her estimates on future growth are conservative.

"So we know for sure, with the size of those investments, that the private sector wants to come to British Columbia and is already here."

The BC Liberal platform calls for a freeze on personal income taxes for the next five years -- and the removal of the two-year hike to the rate for those earning over $150,000 as scheduled in 2016.

The platform also proposes to freeze the carbon tax at current rates for five years, reduce B.C.'s small business tax by 40 per cent and reduce corporate income tax rates to 10 per cent by 2018.

The platform proposes to use the B.C. Prosperity Fund to capture revenues from LNG exports and the proposed Kitimat Clean Refinery and dedicate the money to debt reduction until the provincial debt is eliminated.

The platform also pledges to dedicate at least 50 per cent of future surplus revenues to debt reduction.

The BC Liberals would also force Metro Vancouver municipalities to hold referendums on TransLink proposals for new revenue, including tolls.

Tyee election reporting team member Doug Ward formerly reported for the Vancouver Sun.

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