Throne speech touts ‘Prosperity Fund’ to eliminate debt 0
Christy Clark greets the Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon as she arrives on the front steps of the BC legislature to read the throne speech. (QMI AGENCY SCREEN GRAB)
The BC Liberals have thrown its election fortunes into the hands of the liquefied natural gas sector.
In the speech from the throne read by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon in the legislature Tuesday, the government promised the creation of the B.C. Prosperity Fund, a savings account that could be used to pay down the province’s debt or potentially eliminate the provincial sales tax.
The province projects LNG could produce between $130 billion and $260 billion over a 30-year period, estimated to start in 2017. Government also claimed 39,000 jobs would be created annually during the nine-year construction period and 75,000 jobs once the plants are operational.
“Whether it is eliminating the provincial sales tax, or making long-term investments in areas like education or vital infrastructure that strengthen communities — these are the kinds of opportunities the B.C. Prosperity Fund can provide,” Guichon read.
The main goal of the fund is to pay the provincial debt. Government officials have projected the $56-billion debt could be paid off by 2024, seven years after the province has projected the industry will be up and running. The new fund is contingent on the building of at least five plants in the Kitimat-Prince Rupert area in northern B.C. The investment fund is modeled after a similar system in Alberta.
“This is when the decision will be made on whether we seize this incredible opportunity for this province or whether we turn away from it,” said Premier Christy Clark. “Our goal is to be the most competitive in the export of natural gas of anywhere in the world.”
In what was being touted as a highly political speech from the throne heading into the May 14 election, the government also previewed the improvement of early childhood services, access to child care and help for families of young children saving for post-secondary education. Details on these projects will be on the way in the coming days.
“Surely what we need now is a new government. What this shows is a government after 11 long years in government has very little to say to British Columbians,” NDP leader Adrian Dix said at a press conference. “One has to take the government’s estimates with a grain of salt. Of course natural gas will play an important role in the future of British Columbia.”
The government also announced plans to establish a seniors’ advocate and work to create a school of traditional Chinese medicine at a post-secondary institution in B.C.
Tuesday’s speech marked the return of the legislature for the first time since May 2012. Tuesday’s speech has laid the foundation for the provincial budget in Victoria on Feb. 19.