B.C. premier Christy Clark, cabinet, sworn in

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says the legislature will be recalled within days to ensure the government passes its budget, even though she will be campaigning in a byelection for much of the debate.

Clark said passing the budget that was introduced last February is her government’s top priority. The budget, which the Liberals forecast as a surplus of $197 million and the Opposition New Democrats say is more like a deficit of $800 million, was a major topic of debate during the May election campaign, which Clark’s Liberals won.

“The budget, the budget, the budget,” was how Clark described her government’s priorities when it recalls the legislature this month.

She said the legislature may also debate a provincial apology for the Chinese Head Tax, put on hold just prior to the May election.

Clark said the Liberals are seeking to ensure any B.C. government apology for the treatment of Chinese immigrants involves all parties in the legislature.

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Clark moved quickly Monday from an official cabinet and premier’s swearing-in ceremony at Victoria’s Government House to the legislature where her new cabinet gathered for its first working meeting.

She emerged from the cabinet meeting saying her top priorities are the budget and a government-wide core review, which she says will focus on reducing government red tape as opposed to cutting government jobs.

Clark appointed Energy Minister Bill Bennett to head the core review.

The last Liberal core review was conducted a dozen years ago after the Liberals first took office in 2001. It resulted in a financial recovery plan that called for budget cuts averaging 25 per cent through all ministries except Health and Education and a reduction of the civil service by about one-third, about 7,000 positions.

Clark said her government’s core review will not result in a so-called “Black Tuesday,” which occurred during the last Liberal review that involved government workers getting their lay off notices.

“This is going to be a little bit different than the exercise 10 years ago where we talked about red tape in terms of just straight numbers, and I think it was a one-third reduction overall,” she said. “We need to be looking at the kinds of red tape that have the biggest impact on people, not just pure numbers.”

Clark said the core review will examine how to ensure permitting processes can be streamlined and speeded up.

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She said she expects the date for her byelection in the Westside-Kelowna byelection to be announced soon, with voting day set for sometime next month. Clark said if she wins the byelection, she expects to be at the legislature to participate in the budget debate.

Clark must run in a byelection after being defeated on election night in her Vancouver-Point Grey riding.

Westside-Kelowna Liberal MLA Liberal Ben Stewart stepped aside last week to allow Clark to run in the riding, which is considered safe Liberal territory.

Stewart won Westside-Kelowna with 58 per cent of the vote.

NDP Leader Adrian Dix is in Kelowna Tuesday, where he’s expected to announce the party’s candidate in the byelection. The Conservatives announced Sean Upshaw, who ran and lost in Penticton during the provincial election, will run against Premier Christy Clark for the seat.

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