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Every little bit helps March 15, 2013

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The Legislative session wrapped up today. Tomorrow, the focus is put on our team of candidates for the next 60 days as we head into the election.

In Victoria today, Premier Christy Clark released a report that deals with the draft multicultural strategy.

She did what she said she would do – investigate the issue and get to the bottom of it. That’s what leaders are supposed to do.

Across the aisle in the Legislature, it’s a different story.

It was revealed this week that the NDP cooked up a multi-year scheme to siphon funds from their taxpayer-funded local constituency offices to a political fund in Victoria that the Auditor-General said was used for “partisan purposes”.

This $450,000+ fund, siphoned from community offices, was used to pay three-time NDP candidate Gabriel Yiu over $300,000 to conduct multicultural outreach.

When the story broke, Adrian Dix hid in the Legislature instead of facing reporters. He evaded scrutiny, just like he did when he wrote the famous memo, just like he did when he was cited for fare evasion, and just like he is doing now by refusing to release his platform for public scrutiny.

Where do we go from here?

We have two months to talk about the issue that British Columbians are most concerned about – the economy.

I am proud of our Throne Speech and Budget – they articulate the clear vision of our Premier and government for growing our economy, while controlling spending – the opposite of what the NDP would do.

I am proud to be part of a strong and renewed team of candidates, recruited by our leader, Premier Christy Clark.

As one of the veterans of the Legislature, I am excited by all of the new blood in our ranks.

There is a lot of campaigning ahead of us in the next 60 days.

This election will be a choice between our vision and renewed team versus Adrian Dix and the NDP’s risky economic plans and their failure to lead.

This election will be about growing the economy versus growing the size of government.

Join in and help your candidate today — every little bit helps.

Dix has been hiding his plans December 7, 2012

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The front page of today’s Vancouver Province newspaper reveals that Adrian Dix has been misleading British Columbians, pretending to be a moderate in order to get elected, while writing the NDP election platform hand-in-hand with the BC Federation of Labour.

The leaked document from the BC Federation of Labour states:

“Labour platform is being developed with the BCNDP. This includes extensive affiliate discussions on key issues including the BC Labour Code, Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB), trades training and employment standards.”

Dix has been hiding his plans for some time. Over the summer, our Party interns launched a light-hearted search for his election platform at www.dixshiddenplan.ca. Little did they know what the NDP and the BC Federation of Labour were really up to.

We know what happened the last time the NDP were in power – changes to labour laws drove investment out of the province. In this time of global economic uncertainty, they are going back to their old playbook.

It’s a safe bet that the secret ballot for union certification is as good as gone with the BC Fed pulling the strings.

As usual, Mr. Dix is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He pretends to be friendly to business while at the same time the BC Federation of Labour is writing his election platform.

The leaked document also reveals the extent to which organized labour is bankrolling the NDP – with money from union dues and paid union organizers.

This illustrates the real risk Adrian Dix poses to British Columbia’s economy. While our BC Liberal government has reduced taxes, spurred job growth and kept spending under control, Mr. Dix has revealed that he is simply pretending to be moderate in order to get elected.

With momentum on our side, our BC Liberal team is gathering strength. Our renewed cabinet, strong team of new candidates, and the determination of our supporters will ensure there is no free pass for Adrian Dix and the NDP.

Campaign Director’s Update September 2, 2012

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I have had a few calls today from members about the media coverage concerning MLA retirements.

Here are some quick facts:

How many ministers are retiring?

Out of a cabinet of eighteen ministers, only three have indicated they are retiring: Kevin Falcon, George Abbott, and Mary McNeil. This is hardly a mass exodus, as some in the media are trying to portray. Rather, it’s in line with previous elections.

How does this compare to previous elections?

In 2009, a total of six ministers left provincial politics, including Carole Taylor, Claude Richmond, Richard Neufeld, Olga Illich, Rick Thorpe, and Tom Christensen.

In 2005, five ministers did not seek re-election, including Gary Collins, Geoff Plant, Christy Clark, Sandy Santori, and Gulzar Cheema.
In each example, senior ministers departed to be replaced by very able individuals.

And in each election cycle, retirements provide an opportunity for new blood and renewal – which is crucial for our party.
What happens with Cabinet now?

The Premier has signaled that there will be a cabinet shuffle some time next week. Premiers typically appoint an election year cabinet with ministers that will run and lead the party into the campaign.

Our BC Liberal membership has always recruited and elected capable MLAs that can play strong, leadership roles in government. The Premier has a talented roster to choose from in appointing a cabinet.

When you look at the skills, experience and talents of our team compared to the NDP team, there’s no contest.
When will the rest of nominations take place?

So far, 22 meetings have been scheduled, and we expect over 30-35 meetings will be conducted by the October convention. Nomination meetings will continue throughout the fall and into 2013, for both returning MLAs and new candidates.

The party office is working closely with ridings to identify strong candidates and shepherd them through the green light process.

Principled stand on heavy oil pipelines July 23, 2012

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Today, our government outlined five minimum requirements for the province to consider the construction and operation of heavy oil pipelines within British Columbia’s borders, such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberal team are standing up for B.C. and taking a principled stand that strikes an appropriate balance between supporting economic development and protecting our environment.

To read the news release from the government, click HERE, or see below.

A detailed technical briefing paper and backgrounders will also be available at the link above this morning.

British Columbia outlines requirements for heavy oil pipeline consideration

VANCOUVER – As part of ongoing work to participate in and monitor the Joint Review Panel on the Northern Gateway Project, the government of British Columbia today outlined five minimum requirements that must be met for the province to consider the construction and operation of heavy oil pipelines within its borders.

“Our government is committed to economic development that is balanced with environmental protection,” said Premier Christy Clark. “In light of the ongoing environmental review by the Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge pipeline project proposal, our government has identified and developed minimum requirements that must be met before we will consider support for any heavy oil pipeline projects in our province. We need to combine environmental safety with our fair share of fiscal and economic benefits.”

As set out in our government’s heavy oil policy paper, Requirements for British Columbia to Consider Support for Heavy Oil Pipelines, the following requirements must be established:

* Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Enbridge, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;

* World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments;

* World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines;

* Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and

* British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

The first of government’s requirements is that any project proposal must be approved through appropriate environmental assessment (EA) processes. EA processes are led by statutory decision-makers, require a considerable level of project detail, frequently require public hearings and are designed to bring transparency and engagement to project review.

The government of British Columbia has been consistent in its support for environmental assessment, as a reflection of its commitment both to environmental protection and sustainability, and to predictability, transparency and access.

Led by B.C.’s Minister of the Environment, work has now been completed to assess what would be required to establish British Columbia and Canada as world leaders in marine oil spill response. British Columbia is proposing a joint plan of action with the federal government that would include the following elements:

* Limits to liability that ensure sufficient financial resources to properly address any spills;

* increased federal response capacity;

* Full adoption of the Unified Command model;

* Strengthened federal requirements on industry for the provision and placement of marine response equipment and infrastructure;

* Industry-funded terrestrial (land-based) spill co-operative with sufficient human and technical capacity to manage spill risk from pipelines and other land-based sources;

* Increased capacity within the provincial emergency response program to ensure adequate oversight of industry; and

* A Natural Resources Damage Assessment process to provide certainty that a responsible party will address all costs associated with a spill.

“When we consider the prospect of a heavy oil pipeline, and of the increased oil tanker traffic that would result, it is clear that our spill prevention and response plans will require significant improvements. Our government has already initiated discussions with the federal government on improving our response plans and resources,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake. “This represents an opportunity for British Columbia and Canada to develop world-leading environmental protection regimes.”

The fourth requirement for the B.C. government to consider support for heavy oil pipeline proposals is First Nations participation. Governments in Canada have a duty to consult and accommodate First Nations, and British Columbia is committed to meeting this test. British Columbia has developed a set of tools to help First Nations to partner with industry and participate in economic development. These agreements help to create certainty for development that benefits all British Columbians. British Columbia remains committed to this approach.

“We believe the benefits to First Nations from major pipeline proposals must be clearly identified, along with the measures that will help protect against environmental impacts,” said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak. “As recently as last week, such an approach was endorsed by the Canadian Council of CEOs in their report on Aboriginal participation.”

Lastly, British Columbia must receive a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of any proposed heavy oil project. B.C. will shoulder 100 per cent of the risk in the marine environment and a significant proportion of the risk on the land should a spill event ever occur. Current heavy oil project proposals do not balance the risks and benefits for British Columbia.

“We have identified aggressive environmental requirements and principles for First Nations engagement, and we have clearly stated we expect a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits for our province,” said Premier Clark. “British Columbians are fair and reasonable. We know we need resource and economic development, but we also expect that risks are managed, environmental protection is uncompromised and that generations will benefit from the decisions we make today.”

Settlement reached for BC Schools July 2, 2012

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On Friday night, the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) ratified its agreement (75.3% in favour) with the BC Public School Employers’ Association, ensuring that students and parents can look forward to next year with certainty.

Under the guidance of mediator Dr. Charles Jago, the BCTF and the BCPSEA worked extremely hard to make progress and reached an agreement that provides a strong foundation for all parties to work together to improve our education system.

There are four general elements to the agreement:

•     The agreement respects the government’s net-zero mandate;

•     The contract runs until June 30, 2013;

•     There is improved language to manage leave provisions; and

•     The agreement includes a letter of understanding on a process to negotiate mutually agreeable changes to professional development, evaluation and staffing procedures

Through the mediation process, the parties also reached an agreement to improve and standardize teacher benefit plans. This agreement will improve benefits for some teachers and generate significant administrative efficiencies.

I want to sincerely thank all teachers, administrators, trustees and school and district staff for their incredible resilience and dedication throughout this challenging school year.  We are very fortunate to have such dedicated educators and leaders in our education system and I am grateful for all they have done this year to ensure our students receive the best education possible.

This agreement reflects the commitment of our Premier and our Party to a deal that works for students, teachers, parents and taxpayers and is a key example of why British Columbia continues to enjoy a triple ‘A’ credit rating during times of global economic chaos.

With your support, our Party will continue to offer British Columbians a strong free-enterprise coalition that works hard to improve our world-class education system and protect taxpayers.


George Abbott

New “Ideas Lab” to Empower, Engage B.C. Citizens April 13, 2012

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British Columbians now have an online tool to share and discuss their vision for our province with the launch of the BC Liberal Party’s new interactive and groundbreaking “Ideas Lab”, MLA George Abbott, Chair of the BC Liberal Party Election Platform said today in advance of the Party’s Northern Regional Conference to be held in Prince George on Saturday.

“The Ideas Lab helps to further establish the BC Liberal Party as the leading force of political party openness in Canada – a goal championed by Premier Christy Clark,” said Abbott. “This new tool allows members of our party, and the general public, to shape free enterprise polices for the next election and beyond.”

The Ideas Lab website, www.ideaslab.ca, is the first interactive policy engagement tool in Canada, soliciting ideas from both BC Liberal Party members and the general public for specific purposes, such as the BC Liberal 2013 campaign platform. Ideas will be generated from the public, posted online, and discussed directly on the website. BC Liberal Party members will then vote on the ideas submitted, and although the results will not be binding, support levels will provide the Party’s Campaign Committee with clear guidance as they put the Party’s platform together.

“Taking our Party’s internal policy process online and opening it to the public allows us to dialogue with people like never before,” said Abbott. “In the 21st Century, giving people the ability to participate through this forum dramatically removes barriers for citizens to be involved in decision-making for a political party.”

Citizens will have an opportunity to submit their ideas for the campaign platform until May 31st. For an overview of how the Ideas Lab process works for public campaigns, please visit http://www.ideaslab.ca/resources/what-is-ideas-lab-and-how-it-works.

Legislature Speech on the Teachers Strike March 8, 2012

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Take a few minutes to watch my speech in the Legislature on March 7th in support of Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act.

Budget 2012 focuses on a stable economy February 21, 2012

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Budget 2012 lays a firm foundation for the future, putting British Columbia on the right path to eliminate the deficit, protect public services, and build a more competitive economy that attracts jobs and investment, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

Budget 2012 shows the deficit forecast for 2011-12 improved by $594 million over second Quarterly Report projections to $2.5 billion. The Province forecasts a deficit of $968 million in 2012-13, and surpluses of $154 million in 2013-14 and $250 million in 2014-15.

Over the next three years, government will contain spending growth to an annual average of two per cent while continuing to protect health and education funding. The Ministry of Health budget will increase $1.5 billion over the three-year fiscal plan to nearly $17.3 billion in 2014-15. While continuing to achieve key health outcomes that lead the country, government will work to reduce the rate of growth in health spending through an ongoing focus on identifying additional best practices for delivering care and finding administrative savings.

Funding to school districts will increase, despite a trend of declining enrolment. In addition to the $4.7 billion a year districts will receive for the next three years, government is investing an additional $165 million to establish a fund to deal directly with issues of class composition. The annual facilities grant for maintenance again totals $110 million in 2012-13.

Government remains committed to funding critical social services and is reallocating contingency funds to the ministries of justice and social development, where caseloads continue to rise.

Budget 2012 introduces new tax measures that benefit seniors, families and businesses in B.C., including:
• The B.C. First-Time New Home Buyers’ Bonus of up to $10,000.
• The B.C. Seniors’ Home Renovation Tax Credit of up to $1,000.
• The Children’s Fitness Credit and the Children’s Arts Credit.

Budget 2012 also supports the B.C. Jobs Plan with tax measures for businesses that:
• Eliminate the provincial jet fuel tax for international flights.
• Provide an additional $3 million for the Small Business Venture Capital Program.
• Extend the Training Tax Credit program.
• Introduce new training tax credits for shipbuilding and ship repair industry employers.
• Make permanent the existing temporary municipal tax rate caps for B.C.’s major port terminals.

Given the uncertain fiscal environment, the small business corporate tax rate will be maintained at 2.5 per cent, and will be revisited after the fiscal situation has improved. The fiscal plan also includes a temporary, one-point increase in the general corporate income tax rate to 11 per cent, effective April 1, 2014. The requirement to implement this tax measure will be re-evaluated in next year’s budget. Additionally, to help spur economic activity throughout the province and generate needed revenue, government will release non-strategic surplus assets for sale.

Over the next year, the government will undertake a comprehensive review of the revenue-neutral carbon tax. The review will cover all aspects of the carbon tax—both positive and negative—including revenue neutrality, and it will consider the impact on the competitiveness of B.C. businesses, and in particular B.C. food producers.

Budget 2012 forecasts British Columbia’s taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio will be 17.6 per cent in 2012-13, 18.2 per cent in 2013-14, and peak at 18.3 per cent in 2014-15, before trending downward once again. Taxpayer-supported capital spending on schools, hospitals and other infrastructure across the province over the next three years is expected to total $10.7 billion.

The government forecasts British Columbia’s economy will grow by 1.8 per cent in 2012, 2.2 per cent in 2013 and 2.5 per cent per cent in 2014 – a forecast that is prudent relative to the independent British Columbia Economic Forecast Council.

For more information:  http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2012/highlights/2012_Highlights.pdf

Dix’s priorities come with hefty price tag February 6, 2012

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Sorry to be an NDP buzz-kill, but now that Adrian Dix has been anointed by pollsters as the public’s top choice for premier, it’s time for a little reality check.

So let’s dig into the recent archives to see just what Dix and his party have promised and demanded so far, how much it would cost and how the heck they’d pay for it:

HEALTH CARE: “[The NDP] would be looking to be among the highest in Canada in terms of per-capita support for health care,” Dix has said. “That would be a high priority for us.”

A high priority, and a pricey one. Estimated annual cost, according to B.C. Stats: $4.15 billion.

EDUCATION: Dix has been cautious when commenting on the teachers’ union and their astronomical contract demands, but he’s generally supportive of their position. Teachers and their supporters “are not asking for much,” he told the NDP convention in December.

The teachers estimate their demands at $565 million, while the government calculates it at $1.3 billion. So let’s be generous and take the teachers’ number.

Estimated cost: $565 million. CHILD CARE: “I am committed to expand child care, to initiate a provincial child-care system and to pressure Ottawa to play a major role in such a system,” Dix said during his leadership bid.

Good luck trying to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to go along with that one! B.C. would be on our own.

Estimated cost: The mind boggles. But consider Quebec’s child-care program costs $2.1 billion a year, more than double what B.C. spends on earlylearning and child-development programs.

ANTI-POVERTY STRATEGY: Reducing the growing gap between rich and poor is a top priority for Dix, but how would he do that and what would it cost?

The New Democrats have repeatedly called for an “anti-poverty strategy” that NDP MLA Nicholas Simons said could include higher welfare rates and “massive infrastructure spending on affordable housing.”

Estimated cost : $2 billion, according to Simons.

ADVANCED EDUCATION: Dix promised last week to restore non-repayable student grants cut by the Liberals. During his campaign for the NDP leadership, he also promised to cut interest payments on unpaid student loans.

Estimated cost: $148 million. EVERYTHING ELSE: I didn’t have room for increased spending on legal aid, and sports community and cultural grants, and infrastructure spending, and raises for all the public- sector unions already drooling at the thought of a Dix government.

How would he pay for it all? So far Dix has promised to raises taxes on banks and corporations. But now that he’s the top choice for the top job, the pressure will build for a fuller explanation.

By Michael Smyth, The Province

Standing up for BC’s diverse families December 11, 2011

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The BC Liberal Party is standing up for BC’s diverse families, focusing on good jobs in the private sector and opening up government.

See the full interview of Vaughn asking the Premier tough questions on what has been on the hearts and minds of British Columbians during the fall session.

Voice of Bc _ Premier’s Point of View from Voice of BC on Vimeo.

We have accomplished a lot during this Fall Legislative Session, including:

1. The BC Jobs Plan and Asia Trade Mission

A commitment to make the most of our position as Canada’s gateway to the Asia Pacific, expanding markets for B.C. products particularly in Asia. A commitment to strengthen our infrastructure to get our goods to market and commitment to work with employers and communities, enabling job creation across B.C.Also during the session was the completion of the BC Jobs and Trade Mission where more than 60 business deals and partnership agreements were signed or announced, while Premier Clark attended approximately 70 events and meetings with business and political leaders in China and India.

2. $353-million to build new schools

Students will benefit from new or expanded schools, as the Province rolls out a $353-million school capital plan. The plan includes: six new elementary schools, one new middle school, two new secondary schools, four school additions and six school site purchases – four of which are for future schools.

3. Municipal Auditor General Office

Getting the most value for money will be easier for local governments now that the Province is introducing legislation to establish an Office of the Auditor General for Local Government. The office will support the goals of the Families First Agenda by strengthening local government accountability and ensuring B.C. families receive the best possible return on investment for their taxpayer dollar

4. Support for thousands of ship building jobs

The province worked together with industry and other stakeholders to address labour force priorities related to this once-in-a-lifetime shipbuilding opportunity. Now, we’re gearing up to take full advantage of the economic and job opportunities resulting from the $8-billion shipbuilding contract awarded to Seaspan last month.

5. A family law act to put children first

New legislation ensures family law in B.C. places the best interests of children first when making any decisions involving the child. By replacing the outdated Family Relations Act, which was introduced in 1978, the Family Law Act addresses issues B.C. families are dealing with today.