Premier talks up budget at Kelowna Chamber of Commerce lunch

Christy Clark says B.C. economy is growing and the province leads in many economic areas.

Premier Christy Clark sits down for a question and answer session with Kelowna Chamber president Tom Dyas at Friday's chamber lunch.

Premier Christy Clark sits down for a question and answer session with Kelowna Chamber president Tom Dyas at Friday's chamber lunch.

As has become her custom, Premier Christy Clark was in Kelowna Friday, just days after her government released its pre-election budget, to talk up the financial plan.

Speaking to a full house at a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Delta Grand Hotel, Clark extolled the virtue of B.C.’s fifth consecutive balanced budget and her government’s plans to reward British Columbians with the more than $2 billion surplus.

Half will go to chopping Medical Service Plan premiums by 50 per cent for everyone earning $120,000 per year or less and the other half will go to an array of tax breaks and investments, including eliminating the provincial sales tax on hydro bills for businesses and reducing the small business corporate tax to two per cent from 2.5 per cent.

She said the province will also spend $2.7 billion on hospitals and other healthcare, $2 billion on education, $4.5 billion more on transportation infrastructure and $2 billion more on affordable housing.

She touted B.C.’s AAA credit rating, saying it’s the best in Canada and if her province had the same credit rating Ontario now has, it would be paying $2.23 billion more in interest payments per year.

Using a line that most can expect to hear repeated over the next 12 weeks as we near the May 9 provincial election, Clark said her Jobs Plan is working, reflected by the fact the province leads Canada in jobs growth.

“We went from 9th in Canada in 2011 to number one today,” she said.

And she disputed a contention by NDP leader John Horgan that the Okanagan has not seen any new jobs created as a result of the plan. She said job growth is up five per cent here.

Clark said the budget also continues to lower B.C.’s operating debt and will have it halved this year and eliminated by 2021.

But the benefits the budget promises will not come with tax hikes to make up for what it will cost to provide things like the MSP reduction and the tax breaks, she added

“Out economy is growing,” she said. “We need to continue to grow it.”

Clark said she  believes British Columbians know how to spend their money better than government and that is why the budget is giving back so much to Briish Columbians.

Critics have said the goodies in the budget are simply election ploys and replace previous tax and fee hikes.

Clark’s answer to that is the MSP premium reduction does not bring the level back to 2011 levels before a number of annual increases were implemented, it brings them back to 1993 levels.