Premier Christy Clark capped off the BC Liberal Party’s 2011 convention Saturday promising to “fix the HST” with significant changes to the tax regime by the end of the month.
Acknowledging what she called people’s “legitimate concerns” surrounding the manner in which the tax was brought in, Clark said the government through telephone town hall meetings has heard the concerns of over 200,000 British Columbians regarding the HST.
“We will act,” she said. “We are going to fix the problems with the HST and we are going to fix them for families.
“We are looking at a number of improvements. They will be bold, they will be smart and they will focus on the families of B.C. They will also work within our balanced budget commitments.”
Held at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, the event drew more than 1,000 delegates who attended social functions, voted for party executive positions and participated in town-hall policy workshops.
“Our government will be bringing forth ways that British Columbians can access more information from government,” Clark said. “We are going to make B.C. the leader in open government across North America.”
Although she did not say when she would call an election, Clark told delegates they must be prepared for one.
“Each and every person in this room has to be part of our election readiness team, because the NDP is hungry and ready to fight to get back into power. We need all hands on deck and I cannot overstate the importance of reaching out to our coalition,” said Clark before acknowledging the presence of recently retired federal Conservative cabinet ministers Stockwell Day and Jay Hill who received a standing ovation.
“I am proud of the change we are bringing to our province. It is change that works for families that are as diverse and wonderful as British Columbia itself.”
Referring to some of the decisions she has already made in her short premiership, Clark told delegates that it was time to raise the minimum wage, restore funding for the charities and make parking in provincial parks free.
Clark said she would put job creation at the centre of her government’s agenda while focusing on building a green economy and strengthening health care. Clark also said she looks forward to reaching out and working with the province’s teachers.
“Coming out of this weekend I feel even more energized and more determined to get results,” she concluded. “Our work for change has just started and I need your help to keep it going.”
After Clark’s speech, NDP House Leader John Horgan said he does not believe the changes the government will make to the HST will convince British Columbians to vote for the tax in the upcoming referendum.
“I heard from her speech that she is going to announce something soon to sweeten the pot,” said Horgan. “I would suggest to her that … she should put it on the table today and she should let British Columbians know as soon as possible before they are putting their ballot back in the mail what her plan is for tax policy here.”
Horgan asserted that most of the changes Clark has made or talked about making to the BC Liberal agenda are superficial including former Finance Minister Colin Hansen’s suggestion that his party find a new name that does not have the word “Liberal” in it.
“You can’t just change your name. You can’t just change your captain on the deck,” Horgan said. “You have got to change your policies and that is not happening with the BC Liberals. They are talking about BC Hydro rates but they are not looking at smart meters. They are not looking at independent power production. They are not looking at massive capital expenditures. They are not rolling back ferry rates.
“The change that I heard in her speech today is all about old BC Liberal policies that aren’t really changing, they are just being looked at.”