Christy Clark makes campaign stop in Kitimat; Robin Austin responds to Liberal assertions

Clark speaks of LNG and bashes the NDP, as NDP MLA Robin Austin fights back against her assertions.

Christy Clark made Kitimat a campaign stop today, May 7, continuing to promote natural gas development in the province.

She came to Kitimat following an earlier campaign stop that same day in Fort Nelson.

“This week I am touring British Columbia, connecting the dots to show how our strong resource economy supports every family,” she said to a crowd of onlookers, media, and even protesters from the Douglas Channel Watch group.

“We are standing at the start of the path to a debt free British Columbia, right here in Kitimat,” she continued.

She repeated her earlier promises that $100 billion of revenue would be generated over time for a Prosperity Fund from natural gas development and export.

Clark later emphasized to reporters that she had begun and is ending her campaign with stops in the north, contrasting her visits to that of NDP leader Adrian Dix, who so far has no visited any community further than Prince George.

“I really think it reflects the fact that the NDP aren’t interested in understanding our resource economy here in British Columbia,” said Clark.

In interviews with local media, the Connector asked Clark about her opinion regarding a recent letter from Ellis Ross, the Haisla Nation chief councillor, where he said direct dealing with government and proponents is ideal, compared to a slow treaty process

Clark said the means to get to economic development isn’t as important as the outcome.

“I think people get hung up on the means to get there. I’m a little bit less concerned about the means than the end in this and if for Ellis Ross it means that we work directly on economic development agreements in the meantime, before they get to treaty, I’m absolutely open to doing that,” she said, calling Ross a great leader in the province.

She still believes the treaty process is valuable, but added that the more economic development that can happen for First Nations in B.C., the faster the treaty process can work.

NDP incumbent Robin Austin said he respects Ross’ choice to pull back from the treaty process.

“Clearly it’s not working for many First Nations because it’s taking too long and their not getting to the crux of the matter, so I can totally understand why someone why Ellis Ross recognizes that they’re better off just seeking economic development opportunities,” said Austin.

He said that he agrees that the treaty process does need revamping, and that it’s being driven by lawyers.

Meanwhile Austin countered many of the key points of Clark during her visit to Kitimat.

For instance he takes exception to the fact that Clark says the NDP aren’t interested in learning about B.C.’s resource economy.

“[Dix] understands the resource economy, having spent many years working in government,” said Austin. “Christy Clark’s assertion that LNG will depart if the NDP is elected is simply a scare tactic. They’ve been using this same politics of fear for the last 25 years.”

Most people, said Austin, recognize that these ridings have been held by the NDP for the last eight years, and industry proponents for natural gas have met with him over the years and no one has expressed concern to him about the prospect of an NDP government.

Meanwhile, he calls the Prosperity Fund a tax on exports, and that it won’t exist for up to seven years anyway.

“How can you run a government today, in 2013, talking about taxes that haven’t even come,” said Austin. “People would have to elect Christy Clark at least twice more before there was even a penny in a Prosperity Fund.”

Meanwhile, he counters that the NDP are not a “no” party, as was a key message of her campaign stop, and rather the party is trying to be painted with a broad brush. The only project the party has said no to, he said, is the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal.