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After the election, B.C. business breathes a sigh of relief

Premier-elect Christy Clark touted the exporting of liquefied natural gas as a path to prosperity for British Columbia.

Kari Yuers had been nervous about her plans to hire six employees in Vancouver, but she is now feeling confident after the Liberals retained power in British Columbia's general election.

The president of Kryton International Inc., who had been worried that the New Democratic Party would end 12 years of Liberal rule, is pleased that the privately owned firm will be able to operate without the extra taxes and uncertain business climate feared under an NDP regime.

Kryton, with 50 employees in Vancouver and another 35 staff in foreign locations, is in growth mode. It sells a range of products to waterproof and repair concrete, and needs to be globally competitive because it competes against rivals for customers worldwide. "On the whole, the Liberals understand the needs of economic growth and supporting business," she said. "The NDP's track record has been raising taxes and spending."

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Ms. Yuers's free-enterprise stance echoes the view of a wide range of leaders in British Columbia's business community. Under the NDP, the welcome mat for businesses didn't seem genuine, corporate officials said in interviews Wednesday, one day after the Liberals scored a surprise majority government victory.

The NDP would have further raised the general corporate tax rate to 12 per cent – the Liberals already boosted that rate on April 1 to 11 per cent from 10 per cent. As well, the New Democrats pledged to have made-in-B.C. environmental reviews, compared with the Liberals' decision to streamline the process to avoid duplication with federal agencies.

"Whenever there is the prospect of change, when there is uncertainty, that isn't good for investment and economic growth," said Iain Black, president of the Vancouver Board of Trade. "Anxiety isn't good for job creation. Today, we have certainty about what we're dealing with, the type of government policies that are in place and the way the government promotes and encourages economic growth." Mr. Black, a former Liberal member of the B.C. legislative assembly, has served in cabinet, including as minister of small business, technology and economic development.

The NDP opposed Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.'s plans to increase tanker traffic at the Port of Vancouver, part of the energy company's strategy to expand its Trans Mountain oil pipeline system. The Liberals pounced on that position during the election campaign, portraying the New Democrats as anti-business.

Mr. Black noted that business managers generally support a political party that best sends the message of investment and job creation to bolster the economy. "The business community is breathing a sigh of relief," he said.

Premier Christy Clark successfully campaigned that the Liberals would be the trusted stewards of the economy, said John Winter, president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce. The re-election of the Liberals "suggests that we are open for business," Mr. Winter said.

While the tepid economy became a major topic during the campaign, the Liberals cast themselves as the party with the credentials to guide the province through potential turmoil. Ms. Clark repeatedly touted the potential of exporting liquefied natural gas as the path to British Columbia's long-term prosperity. She planted doubts in the minds of voters over the NDP's positions on energy development, notably NDP Leader Adrian Dix's opposition to the twinning of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Edmonton to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.

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Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of British Columbia, said the Liberals stressed the importance of economic growth right from the start of the political race. "Having a majority government is important in terms of government's ability to make decisions and focus on economic development."

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About the Author

Brent Jang is a business reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. He joined the Globe in 1995. His former positions include transportation reporter in Toronto, energy correspondent in Calgary and Western columnist for Report on Business. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway student newspaper. Mr. More


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