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At UBCM Premier Clark promises infrastructure sooner and more blacktop

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark promised a series of infrastructure announcements and the expansion of a highway during her speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria today.

Clark committed $509 million over the next ten years, on top of $141 already committed, to expand 280 kilometres of Highway 1 from Kamloops to the Alberta border from two lanes to four. "Let's get the job done," she said.

She also promised to start the conversation about replacing the George Massey Tunnel in the Lower Mainland, which she described as a bottleneck for commuters and in the Asian gateway. The project will take up to 10 years to plan and develop, she said.

The government has alos found $207 million in the existing capital budget to spend on roads, hospitals and housing projects, she said. "Over the coming days and weeks we will announce these projects and more in your communities across the province," she said. "These are new projects, but not new money."

The quarterly report released two weeks ago said the government has to reduce capital spending by $977 million over the next three years, said NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston. "That's why the announcements really amount to nothing."

Commuters and truckers will welcome a new Massey tunnel, he said, but without money attached to the plan, "It's a vague declaration of intention, that's it."

In her speech Clark otherwise reiterated her regular themes of building families and creating jobs. She talked about British Columbia's conditions for having pipelines built and said she'll be in Alberta on Monday to talk with Premier Alison Redford and other Albertans about the topic.

"As of now the risks of heavy oil far outweigh the benefits our province would see," said Clark. "If B.C.'s conditions are not met, the Enbridge pipeline will not be built period."

The stance against oil pipelines doesn't conflict with the government's support for more export of natural gas, since the environmental risk with the latter is smaller, she said. "I have never seen a seagull wash up on the coast covered in natural gas."

Clark took aim at comments NDP Leader Adrian Dix made yesterday about his belief in balancing the budget but not in laws requiring balanced budgets. "If you are serious about balancing your budget, you believe in a balanced budget law," said Clark. "If you don't have a rule that makes deficits the exception, then deficits become the rule."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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