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Premier sells a budget, finds a home

No big announcements from Premier Christy Clark as she stopped by her home riding Friday to do a sales pitch on this week's provincial budget.

Unless you consider a new place to live big news.

The premier, who was elected MLA for Westside-Kelowna in a byelection last July, stated at the time she would eventually move into the riding.

She confirmed Friday she has found a home, but wouldn't go into much detail.

"I'm thrilled. I'm not going to say too much about it because I would like to keep my address private if I can," stated Clark.

"But, I'm delighted. I can say it is beautiful - all the best of Kelowna in the place."

She did say it is in West Kelowna, but didn't state whether it was a purchase or rental.

"I'm not going to talk about the financing either if you don't mind."

While the premier was reluctant to get into too much detail about her new residence she wasn't shy when it came to provincial financing.

During her budget sales pitch to a standing room only crowd at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Coast Capri Hotel, Clark stated she was proud of the fact the province has been able to introduce, for the second year in a row, a balanced budget.

"We are in a very select group across the country. If Saskatchewan balances, and they are really on a razor's edge, we will be one of two and if Saskatchewan doesn't balance we will be one of 14 jurisdictions that has managed to balance in the country," says Clark.

She says the province has been able to balance the budget by lowering and controlling spending.

"It took some time because we didn't want to try and find that $2B hole to fill by cutting cancer care, or finding some really, really dramatic and really painful ways to save the money," says Clark.

"We did it slowly, we did it deliberately, we did it carefully, but most importantly we did it with an unwavering determination to make sure we spent less as the revenue coming into government became smaller."

The $2B hole she was referring to was the revenue shortfall felt during the world-wide economic downturn of 2009.

Clark says the government made it a top priority three years ago to balance the budget and is proud of the progress made to date.

She says the government had to say no to a lot of projects, projects many people around the province wanted to see happen.

"We had to have that discipline because we could not imagine that we wanted to gain short term political points at the expense of the long term future of our province," says Clark.

"We will not go to taxpayers and ask for more money, we will not borrow and steal from another generation of British Columbians who will have to pay off the debts that we incur because we can't pay for them today."

She says Tuesday's budget document also calls for an $841M surplus to be built up over the next three years.

Some of the numbers are tied to the provinces aggressive approach to the Liquefied Natural Gas industry (LNG) which Clark believes will make a world of difference to the provincial economy.

She says the industry could mean 100,000 direct new jobs and the ability to pay off the provincial debt.

While LNG is still an if and not a when, Clark is optimistic in its future in BC.

"If we are successful in landing even one of the 12 LNG deals out there we are going to see tremendous economic growth," says Clark.

"Economic growth and a balanced budget allows us to pay for all of the things that we love - roads, hospitals, schools - the things that make us Canadian."

The premier had nothing specific in the way of announcements for projects in her home riding of Westside-Kelowna.

She did say there will be more work done on Westside Road but wouldn't get into specifics.

"I met with the District of West Kelowna a few weeks ago and we talked about working on a plan to revitalize downtown,"says Clark.

"And, getting to some conclusion on improved access to health care on the Westside, in particular substance abuse, mental health and some areas where people on the Westside are under served."

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