The global economy is under threat, and Premier Christy Clark wants to make B.C. a "safe harbour" by keeping taxes low, attracting foreign investment and restricting government spending despite pressure to do the opposite.
"B.C., as a small, open trading economy, is threatened, too. The biggest danger for us right now is to cave into that temptation, to start saying yes (to more spending). But that will not protect us, it will expose us," Clark said at a Feb. 23 sold-out breakfast event, hosted by the Burnaby Board of Trade. "I will do everything in my power to keep this province a safe harbour."
Clark's Liberal government also plans on balancing the budget by next fiscal year with a prudent approach to the 2012 budget, using "very modest" projections for economic growth and limiting government spending.
"This budget has been called the most conservative budget in Canada, and I'm proud of that," Clark said.
Clark raised the spectre of Greece's financial crisis and the pre-Liberal NDP era, while telling the audience that throwing money at problems was not the answer. She also vowed to protect MLAs, like Burnaby's Harry Bloy and Richard Lee, who are under "incredible pressure" to spend more money.
"Let me be clear. When my government has a choice between lowering taxes and increasing spending, we are going to lower taxes," she said. "If we are serious about creating and protecting jobs, we need to keep spending under control."
Clark reviewed some government-picked budget highlights, including a $1,000 home renovation tax credit to help seniors stay in their own homes longer, and a $500 tax credit for kids in arts or sports programs.
According to Clark, the best way to help the middle class is to enable the private sector to create jobs in industries like clean and bio technology, mining and oil and gas.
Clark defined her "families first" motto as protecting and creating jobs.
"Without a thriving private sector and the revenues generated from that, without jobs that allow people to put food on the tables for kids, we can't look after each other and we won't be able to afford the social programs that British Columbians and Canadians value so dearly," she said.
For her critics who've said the budget is purposely underestimating the amount of money government has to create a rosier picture for next year's election, Clark had these words:
"There's also an argument in favour of being prudent right now. The world is in economic chaos. No one really knows where it's going, so what we've done is taking the consensus average of all of the best thinkers on economic growth across the country, they say that they think the economy will grow at 2.2 per cent. We are building an assumption into our budget that expects it will grow at 1.8 per cent. By doing that, we're being conservative on that this year, because no one really knows what's going to happen with the economy," she said. "We have to be careful and prudent. If you are not careful and prudent, you end up like Greece did, - people in British Columbia deserve better than that."