Premier Christy Clark speaks to the Surrey Board of Trade on Thursday morning.

Premier Christy Clark speaks to the Surrey Board of Trade on Thursday morning.

B.C. poised to reap a ‘windfall’

Premier Christy Clark tells the Surrey Board of Trade the province's natural gas industry presents a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity.

Through a cap on spending increases, some modest tax increases and the sale of unneeded assets, the provincial government will have a balanced budget in 2013-14, Premier Christy Clark told Surrey Board of Trade members Thursday at Eaglequest at Coyote Creek.

Speaking to roughly 250 guests at a breakfast presentation, Clark said the provincial budget proposed by her Liberal government will take advantage of a growing economy and doesn’t contain “a whole lot of stuff in here to buy your votes.”

She said this province is in good shape compared to others jurisdictions.

“Despite what’s happening around the world, our economy is growing in British Columbia,” she said. “Through that economic growth, we’re generating more revenue.”

Tax increases include an increase of one per cent to the general corporate rate, bumping it from 11 to 12 per cent. And personal income tax rates for those earning more than $150,000 go up to 18.9 per cent, up from 16.8 per cent.

Government assets for sale include property that is no longer in the government’s plans.

“One of them is in Surrey, where a hospital was going to be,” said Clark. “It went to another site. But we still have the land. Nobody has sold it, and it’s still there. There’s $675 million worth of properties like that across the province, and we’ll dispose of them.”

Clark also predicted, that with a little pre-planning, British Columbia could take advantage of a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity that would leave a financial legacy for generations.

Clark said a liquified natural gas (LNG) industry in the northeast sector of the province could change the B.C. economy the way “the oil sands have transformed Alberta. The financial windfall “would see $8 billion a year coming in in annual direct revenue” and create a “prosperity fund” that could eliminate the provincial debt in less than two decades.

“We have a surplus (of LNG) in our province,” she said. “The decisions about whether or not we’re going to have the prosperity for our kids through natural gas are being made today. The things we do this year will determined whether or not this trillion-dollar opportunity of a lifetime comes to British Columbia.

“We are in a competition for this from around the world.”