Liberal Leader Christy Clark attempted Thursday to drive home her party's evangelism on the rosy future an aggressive development strategy for liquefied natural gas could provide, while warning that hers is the only party that can deliver on the promise.
Clark was campaigning in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, in the province's northeast, a landscape dotted with a burgeoning natural gas industry that forms the backbone of Clark's economic plan for the province.
"LNG is the industry that will make British Columbia debt-free" Clark said after a tour of a water reclamation plant that takes sewage and purifies it for use in fracking.
The average family income in Dawson Creek is $74,000, Clark said, noting "natural gas will provide jobs for British Columbia and not just any jobs, high-paying jobs."
Clark has said the export of LNG is worth $1 trillion in economic growth over 30 years. The product will fetch five times more overseas than it will in North America.
The Liberals' BC Jobs Plan says the government would like to have the province's first LNG plant in operation by 2015. The Liberals have committed to having three facilities operating by 2020 but there are now at least a half-dozen proposals at various stages in BC.
Clark has reiterated during her campaign her pledge to use the revenues from LNG to establish a Prosperity Fund to pay down the provincial debt in 15 years.
The Liberals are badly trailing the NDP in opinion polls. Clark has continually tried to suggest that a "tax-and-spend" NDP government would cost the province jobs and she said Thursday an NDP government would mean the death of the opportunity LNG could provide.
At a rally in Fort St. John, Clark told supporters the NDP want to put a moratorium on fracking. The party's proposal for a new natural gas tax would "threaten this industry at the worst possible time."
"We have a party (the NDP) that doesn't believe in natural gas," Clark said. "They want to put a moratorium on even getting it out of the ground."
Clark was basing her statement on a comment by NDP energy critic John Horgan, who was asked by The Province newspaper last fall whether the party would consider following Quebec's lead and imposing a moratorium on fracking.
Horgan responded: "I wouldn't rule it out if the evidence is we need to do that (a moratorium)." He went on to say: "But I haven't seen that evidence yet, and that's why we need to have a scientific assessment."
Horgan said Thursday his party would review LNG plans, but he denied the NDP was opposed to the industry.
"Our objective is not to constrain," he said in an interview. "Timing is certainly of the essence, but haste is often followed by failure. But we're not holding up developments. Full speed ahead. We are going to conduct a review as the industry carries on."
The New Democrat platform released last week said an NDP government would expand the province's carbon tax to include vented emissions from oil and gas operations.