Premier Christy Clark spoke before a ballroom of Surrey's biggest names in politics and business at Eaglequest Golf Course on Thursday morning, two days after the B.C. Liberals delivered the 2013 Provincial Budget.
The premier was in town for a formal breakfast, hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade, to discuss the challenges of delivering a balanced budget for British Columbians and how the provincial government is looking ahead at future business developments. She commended the city for its economic growth, referencing the new Port Mann bridge and the ongoing expansion of Surrey Memorial Hospital as big projects that the city will benefit from.
"This is a community where small business is thriving like no other community in British Columbia," said Clark.
In terms of the budget, Clark said the province is in good fiscal shape and that the Liberal government was disciplined in the way they spent taxpayer dollars. However, she said B.C. needs a bigger economy and smaller government, and acknowledged that it's a lengthy process to achieve sound financial strength.
"B.C. is standing strong, but all of that is at risk," she said. "It takes decades to build a strong economy - it could take six months to tear it apart."
During her speech, Clark addressed the Surrey Board of Trade's calls to lower the cost of childcare to $10 per day, noting that taxes would have to be raised even more to offset expenses.
"At a $1.5-billion price tag, it is a terrific program, (but) it's very, very expensive," she said. "This isn't the year to do it, but we do want to get started in making sure we're supporting early childcare."
In order to deliver a balanced budget, the Liberals decided to sell off a number of assets and land, including a plot of land in Panorama Village that was being held as a potential location for another hospital. A local protest group rallied against the sale of the land in October, but with SMH's $600-million expansion underway, the B.C. government plans to sell it to the private sector.
The budget also relies on exports of lumber and natural gas, both expected to generate significant revenue for the province. Paired with other tax measures and greater control of spending, Clark maintained her confidence in the budget.
"We will meet the targets - I'm betting we're going to exceed the targets because we are very conservative in our evaluations of them," she said, referencing the budget's project $197-million surplus and $200-million forecast allowance. "There's a lot of cushion in the budget."