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Campbell hammers economic themes, heads to Dawson Creek

Premier Gordon Campbell released the B.C. Liberal Party platform this morning with an energetic speech that hammered home his party’s attempt to frame the May 12 ballot box question around broad economic concerns.

“The real question is, who is best suited to guide us through these challenging economic times, so that we come out on the other side even stronger?” Campbell asked a rally of about 200 supporters at VanDusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver.

“Is it the B.C. Liberals, who have led the province from the worst economy in the country to one of the best economies on the continent?” he continued. “Or do we really want to allow the NDP to take us back to have-not status, to take us back to a time of heavy taxes and continuing deficit?”

Campbell stood before a banner that read, “Keep BC Strong,” and was flanked by three of his Vancouver candidates, all women: Moira Stillwell, Mary McNeil and Margaret MacDiarmid. He outlined the basic themes of his platform, which promises to create thousands of jobs, strengthen the economy and enhance critical services including health care, education, support for seniors and community safety.

The B.C. Liberal platform claims to be the first multi-media, digital platform ever released in Canada. Campbell said it includes 130 videos as well as hundreds of reports on his party’s accomplishments during eight years in power. The platform also claims to reflects ideas from more than 1,500 submissions that were made through an “open platform” web site.

The Tyee will publish a more in-depth look at the B.C. Liberal platform later today. Among the new initiatives highlighted in Campbell’s speech:

Double the Training Tax Credit for employers effective July 1, 2009 – providing up to $4,000 annually for businesses to take on trades apprentices.

Introduce a common transit U-Pass program for all post-secondary students in B.C. by September 2010 that will save students money as well as help meet B.C.’s climate change targets.

Significantly reduce taxes for small business including lowering small business income tax to the lowest rate in Canada by April 1, 2012, and raising the small business income tax threshold to $500,000 on January 1, 2010 – an increase of 150 per cent since 2001.

Work with the federal government to pursue new income benefits for seniors, including changes to allow the first $20,000 of seniors’ pension income to be completely tax exempt, increase RRSP contribution limits, and ease rules on mandatory RRIF withdrawals.

Campbell dived into a mob-like scrum of two-dozen reporters after his speech, and took more than a dozen questions. No reporter asked about the B.C. Rail sale or any of the other issues being pushed hard by the New Democrats.

Loud rock music played before and after the event. The partisan crowd exited Floral Hall to the strains of REM’s “Shiny happy people.”

Campbell’s black Freightliner tour truck was parked out front. The heavily customized truck bristles with plasma screens and provides mobile wireless internet access wherever it rolls.

Premier Campbell is headed to Dawson Creek today, where he will attend an evening rally with B.C. Liberal candidates Blair Lekstrom and Pat Pimm.

Monte Paulsen reports for The

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