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Clark keeps jobs plan at centre of her re-election strategy

Premier Christy Clark answers questions in an office during an interview Monday.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Premier Christy Clark will be seeking a mandate from the province's voters to carry on with her jobs plan, one that she says has already created 50,000 new jobs.

Even as a leading economist called the government's job numbers into question, Ms. Clark said Monday she hopes her vision for jobs will frame the election campaign that begins next April.

"Going into the next election, what I hope people will be asking themselves is, 'Who is best to secure my economic future?' " Ms. Clark said. "We are protecting the economy."

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Although her party is trailing in the polls, Ms. Clark said she will continue on the same path that she marked out in the fall of 2011 when she announced her jobs plan. The plan has been backed up with a $15-million advertising budget.

Ms. Clark dismissed the poll results, and in particular the question of why female voters in particular favour the rival New Democratic Party. "These days I just mostly ignore all that," she said in her legislature office during her annual year-end interview. "Because I just have to be who I am. There is no magic to that."

The Premier, who took office in March, 2011, stressed that the biggest plank in her jobs plan is still in the future and is far from assured – the creation of a liquefied natural gas industry in B.C. But she is counting on it to be her legacy.

"Making sure that we stay on track with that plan is going to be the most important thing that I have been doing for the last year and a half and that I will do for the next four years," she said. "The sale of liquefied natural gas is a fairly fragile business case at the moment. We need to find a way to make that work so we can bring those jobs to the province and it's very complex."

Switching governments just as major energy investors are deciding where to sink their dollars could send the wrong signal, she suggested. "Maintaining the confidence of foreign investors and making sure the regulatory process is sound and efficient and making sure our tax rates are at the right levels to make sure the projects can proceed – all of those things are hugely important."

The opposition NDP has been largely supportive of the development of LNG. It has, however, vowed to conduct a review into the safety of fracking, the extraction technique that has played a key role in the development of the province's vast supplies of natural gas.

While jobs and the economy are to be Ms. Clark's central theme for the next election, the success of her jobs plan to date is not as clear.

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After Statistics Canada published its latest monthly job figures on Friday, the provincial government issued a news release trumpeting a net increase of 41,800 jobs since the release of "Canada Starts Here: the BC Jobs Plan," which was first announced on Sept. 22, 2011.

Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central Credit Union, said that figure makes sense only if the government were to take credit for all the job creation in the month of September, 2011, which happened to produce an unusual spike of 28,000 jobs, according to the labour force survey.

"The impact, if any, of the jobs plan would have started in October. If you start there, the job growth is closer to 14,000," he said.

"When we look at the evidence, over the last 12 months, employment has only being growing 1 per cent – statistically, it's almost flatlined."

Mr. Pastrick also said the newest statistics show B.C. is ahead of the national average in job creation, but Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland all posted better results in growth in November.

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About the Author
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More


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