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Liberals use Whistler to rally for next election, announce spending

New Democrats warn it’s no way to run a province

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There was only supposed to be 700 of them but when it came time to applaud Premier Gordon Campbell onto stage there were more than 1,000 Liberals from all over B.C. attending the party’s bi-annual convention at the Fairmont Chateau in Whistler last week.

They were here to discuss policy and more importantly, rally for the next provincial election on May 17, 2005.

There were several key policy announcements and Campbell made a concerted effort to motivate the party. On numerous occasions he and his ministers had the party faithful chanting "B.C.’s back" and poking placards into the air.

Campbell bounced all of his announcements off the fact that his government has been able to balance the budget and now has close to a $1 billion surplus. The Premier also focussed on the fact that B.C.’s economy is clearly recovering and there has been enormous growth in job creation.

His spending announcements were also an indication that, after several years of fiscal restraint, the government would now be looking to use the money they have saved to bolster social services and soften the party’s image. During his keynote address on Saturday Campbell urged his constituents to look back to when the NDP was running the province.

"Think how far we’ve all come… despite 9/11, avian flu, floods, fire… we have created more jobs than any other province," said Campbell to rousing applause. "We’ve got so many jobs in B.C. right now that we have a training shortage.

"And I have to ask the NDP – why don’t you just admit it, you put people out of work. We’re putting people back to work."

NDP leader Carole James later responded to Campbell’s comments by highlighting the fact that the "unemployment rate is still worse than when they (the Liberals) took office."

"As a province we also have one of the largest moving gaps between the haves and have-nots, according to Statistics Canada," said James. "And we have one of the highest uses of credit in the country; I think B.C. is No. 2 when it comes to people living on credit."

James added that the Liberals have done nothing to diversify the economy and protect it from the boom and bust cycle.

"The biggest overall concern that I have is that – you will do well when commodity prices are doing well, but every resource-based economy knows that there are ups and downs," she said. "But we have done nothing to weather the ups and downs. We have a government that is spending the surplus to win the next election, and what’s going to happen when the price of lumber goes down? You’ll have communities shutting down again.

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