B.C. Premier Christy Clark to canvass economic issues in upcoming Ottawa visit

VANCOUVER – Premier Christy Clark says her primary focus in an upcoming trip to Ottawa will be to bolster British Columbia’s position as the top-ranking provincial economy in the country.

Clark is slated to meet with federal government officials this week to discuss support for various B.C. industries and how the new Liberal government can strengthen her province’s economic performance.

She describes B.C.’s economy as a bright spot that is growing at nearly double the rate of the rest of the country.

A statement from the Ministry of Natural Gas Development says the province is expected to lead the country in economic growth this year and next.

Clark predicts B.C. will soon begin making the largest per-capita contribution to Canada of any province.

Industries she expects to bring up during this week’s sessions include the province’s thriving technology economy, the fast-growing garment sector as well as the topic of liquefied natural gas.

Clark has long touted B.C.’s potential as a global LNG powerhouse.

Her government continues to push forward with controversial plans for a multibillion-dollar natural-gas export terminal on the province’s north coast.

“My job is to go to Ottawa and make sure that they do everything they can to continue to support what we’re doing creating jobs in B.C., so that we can continue to make our contribution to Canada,” she says.

“We’re happy to do it, but we need the federal government’s help to get there.”

Clark says she isn’t concerned about pending changes to the federal government’s environmental approval process for oil and gas projects derailing Pacific NorthWest’s proposed LNG export terminal off Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, B.C.

“(The timeline) is really the most important part,” she says, adding that she isn’t concerned about the outcome of the review process.

“I would only have been concerned if I thought it was going to extend the timeline. They’ve said that it’s not and I’m happy about that.”

B.C.’s Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman is also in Ottawa this week.

He said earlier that he is unfazed about the possible implications of new federal regulations on Pacific NorthWest’s $36-billion LNG initiative, which is backed by Malaysia’s state-owned energy giant Petronas.

Coleman said he expected the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency to release its draft report within weeks on whether to grant conditional approval to the project and a decision from the federal cabinet by late March on final approval.

Coleman is scheduled to meet with his federal counterpart, Jim Carr, as well as federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

A statement from the Natural Gas Development Ministry says the trip will take place from Wednesday to Friday. Besides provincial politicians and government officials, the delegation will include more than 80 representatives from some of B.C.’s priority sectors, including forestry, tourism, construction, technology, apparel and film.

The agenda will include a B.C. Jobs Roundtable and discussions around investment in jobs training for the LNG sector. B.C. has earmarked $3 billion over the next 10 years to develop the skills needed to capitalize on LNG-related jobs, says the statement.

The ministry estimates industry has invested $20 billion in LNG development to date, and that B.C. stands to benefit from 100,000 jobs if five export facilities are built in the province.

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak is also in Ottawa meeting with federal politicians this week.

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