BC Premier Christy Clark takes questions following our federal election

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The BC Premier held about a 20 minute news conference yesterday to discuss the results of Monday’s federal election, but it should be noted that while there was a province-wide audio link, questions were only taken from reporters in Victoria and Vancouver.

As a result, there were few questions on economic impact issues – none on the key ones in this region.

In fact, there was not a single oil and gas industry question of any kind.

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The red political tide that swept across the country on Monday could mean a green light for the legalization of marijuana.

It should be remembered that during the 42nd Federal General Election, now Prime Minister Designate Justin Trudeau pledged to legalize pot.

However, Dundee Capital Market Analyst Aaron Salz says don’t expect it to happen right away.

“I think it’s anyone’s guess in terms of how long it’s going to be, maybe a year and a half or two years away,” he said. “But the important thing is that its set in motion whats probably the single most important catalyst for the space here in Canada.”

Meantime, in a post-election news conference yesterday afternoon in Vancouver, Premier Clark was asked about her position on the issue, and after denying a suggestion that she may have said in the past she was opposed to legalization, she also said this:

“We will work with the federal government in whatever move they make on this front. So it’s a criminal code provision, criminal code is a federal responsibility. If and when they make changes, we will work with them to make sure that changes can be effective in BC.”

The Premier was also asked about a rumor already circulating that she might be interested in seeking the leadership of the federal Conservative Party.

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“No. I have a big job here in British Columbia,” she laughed. “I have always seen my role as to fight for BC – fight for jobs here, fight for people here. And I intend to keep giving this 100% of my attention. I welcome those who have decided to dedicate their lives to the national stage… British Columbia needs fighters. And I’m going to stick around and make sure I do that for the people who live here.”

Arguably her biggest fights remains right here in the north, as there’s still no clear focus on where the Liberal government will go, with LNG development, or the Northern Gateway Oil Pipeline.

The lower mainland reporters who asked the questions yesterday at Christy Clark’s post-election news conference, ignored the large, BC economic issues, with northern roots.

However, the Premier was asked about budget balancing, something Prime Minister Designate Trudeau has made very clear he’s prepared to ignore, but something that she’s made a major government priority.

While her answer involved a major political correctness effort, when she spoke about common ground on infrastructure spending, she left little doubt there will be no change in her government’s position on the construction of LNG plants, pipelines, and for that matter Peace River Hydro-electric dams…although its necessary to listen between the lines to get those specifics in the message.

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“British Columbians make big sacrifices to make sure we could balance. I think though that the message out of this election for us here is its a big country, and in this big country, BC is a true outlier economically. We are thriving and growing in a country where most other provinces are shrinking and really struggling.

“The Prime Minister needs to govern not just our province, he needs to come up for solutions in all the provinces in the country – and recognizing that some of them are not doing as well as we are means that they will have different policy prescriptions for that.

“But I would also say though, one are where we are in complete alignment is the idea that we should be spending on infrastructure. We are spending more on infrastructure in British Columbia now than we ever in the history of the province. Just BC Hydro is spending $2.5 billion a year every year for the next 10 years, and that’s just one part of what we’re doing.

“I believe in infrastructure spending as a way to create jobs, as a way to create economic growth, as a way to make sure we can make sure our goods get to market overseas, and I know that Prime Minister Trudeau agrees with that. I think that’s going to be something we are really going to be able to work productively on.”

 

There was one question about the-thus-far failed attempt to engage the United States in talks to renegotiate the Softwood Lumber Agreement, which certainly does impact this region.

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Although the agreement expired earlier this month, it still has a yearlong stand-still-clause, and also, at least in the current economic climate, a BC favorable currency situation.

So, while Christy Clark was reminded this is a stated top priority for her government, she was also asked if she really believes there’s a great urgency, to push the new federal Liberal government to negotiate a new deal?

“It’s urgent for British Columbia. It’s urgent for all those communities that are almost entirely depending on forestry for their income. It is urgent for all those jobs in rural BC but also in the lower mainland where so many jobs depend on forestry and legal services and accounting in those other areas, so it is absolutely urgent for us. In my approach, what do we all do when you make a phone call and can’t get through the first time? You keep calling.”

To further underline the urgency, it is also worth remembering that in a pre-election assessment of the talks to replace or renew the 2006 deal, delivered by the Harper Conservatives, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations, left little doubt we could again be sailing into trade action troubled waters.

“If you look back over the history, there’s only been a few years where there hasn’t been a form of trade action when we don’t have a managed trade agreement in place like with do with the softwood lumber agreement,” said Minister Steve Thomson. “We’re obviously doing homework now in preparation for that, but our objective is to see a managed agreement be in place, and that will be a top priority for us as we re-engage.”

BC’s Lumber Trade Council is among those pushing for quick replacement of the expired agreement and says the industry needs certainty on both sides of the border.

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