John Horgan put on steel-toed boots for his first public appearance as B.C. NDP leader, to emphasize his support for the jobs created by natural resource development.
Speaking to reporters Friday after a tour of the Western Stevedoring port in North Vancouver, Horgan repeated his wait-and-see position on the proposed expansion of the TransMountain oil pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, and emphasized his support for liquefied natural gas development.
He said the B.C. Liberal government has placed too much emphasis on LNG exports, and it's been "giving away" the province's natural resources.
"For the past 12 years the B.C. Liberals have seen a decrease in value from our resources coming back to the Crown, which means less financial resources for health care, for education and vital social programs," Horgan said. "We need to change that. New Democrats historically have talked about the importance of the economy and our valuable social programs. We have a disconnect in place now and I intend, over the next three years, to change that."
Premier Christy Clark left Friday for her fifth LNG sales trip to Asia, visiting Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong in an effort to close more investment deals. Earlier this week a joint venture agreement was signed by Shell, PetroChina, Mitsubishi and Korea Gas to develop an LNG export terminal at Kitimat, with final investment decisions still up to two years away.
Horgan said the broad support for his leadership shows he has healed divisions over balancing economic growth with environmental protection. He added he will meet this summer with former premier Mike Harcourt, who quit the party in April over its performance in the 2013 election.
Asked this week about the acclamation of Horgan after veteran MLA Mike Farnworth dropped out of the leadership, Clark said having a vigorous debate over leadership is "a sign of a healthy party.
"I wish him luck," Clark said. "It's easier to go through unopposed but I don't know if it helps you."