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Confront tough times with confidence: Campbell

Premier Gordon Campbell told a gathering of business leaders this afternoon that British Columbians must restore their confidence and continue to build strong leadership to confront the current state of the economy.

“These are challenging economic times,” he told the crowd, who paid $125 a plate for the meal and chance to hear the premier speak at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

“We are not immune to what’s taking place in the world, but we are prepared to reach out and take advantage of the opportunities it creates.”

Throughout the speech, the premier offered much praise for the gathered business leaders.

“This is the one jurisdiction that is the best prepared to handle the challenges we face because you stuck with it, you created the economy, you drove new jobs, you drove new private sector investment.”

The premier also commended his own economic record over the past eight years, including tax cuts, job creation and avoiding large deficits.

Government can continue to help the economy with increased trade, he said, by “thinning” the border with the United States, removing trade and labour mobility barriers with Alberta, and implementing an Open Skies Agreement for the airline industry.

At the same time, Campbell called on British Columbians to have confidence and make investments during the difficult economic times.

“It has to start with someone saying I am going to take a little bit of a risk, I’m going to step up,” he said.

In his speech, the premier announced that the income threshold for small businesses will rise from $400,000 to $500,000 next January and he said B.C. will have the lowest small income business income tax in Canada by April 1, 2012.

He also announced the Training Tax Credit limit for employers of apprentices will be doubled to $4,000 per employee in July.

With the announcements and frequent references to the upcoming election, Campbell often sounded like a politician gearing up for the campaign trail.

“I think it’s actually going to be a very tough election,” he told reporters in a scrum following the speech.

But he said the NDP "record in the 90s was abysmal" and criticized the policy announcements the party has made.

“We haven’t heard very much from them except for they’re going to have higher deficits, they’re going to drive jobs out of the province and that’s bad news for everybody,” he said.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Hook.

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