UPDATE: Abbotsford is always key, says premier

Christy Clark dropped into the Abbotsford News office Monday. View the video footage of her visit.

Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark

BC Premier Christy Clark was in Abbotsford Monday on a short tour in the Fraser Valley to meet with faith leaders and other groups. She also stopped at the The News to discuss the Liberal campaign.

Clark said “Abbotsford is always key” in the provincial election and has been represented in cabinet for the past 12 years.

“I think this is going to be a different election from previous elections,” said Clark.

The choice between the two main parties (the Liberals and the NDP) is stark, she said. “I don’t know that there’s been an election where the choice has been this clear because what we are talking about,  where we are … taking our province in the future is very, very different.”

Clark warned that if B.C. changes its governing party, it could become a “have-not” province as it was in the mid-1990s.

“B.C. is one of two provinces that have balanced our budget and we are one of a very small number of people that are contributing to the national treasury. Canada can’t afford to do without B.C.”

Joining Clark on her Fraser Valley tour were new Liberal candidates Simon Gibson (Abbotsford-Mission) and Darryl Plecas (Abbotsford-South).

For the past two decades, Abbotsford has been considered a political stronghold for the Liberal party, but this election has seen a significant change in the three ridings. Incumbent MLA Michael de Jong is running again in Abbotsford-West. However, incumbent Randy Hawes won’t seek his seat in Abbotsford-Mission, and former long-serving Liberal John van Dongen is now an independent MLA in Abbotsford-South.

Gibson and Plecas are both new to provincial politics.

“It reflects what’s happening all over the province for us,” said Clark.

According to the premier, there are some big decisions in terms of the economic future of the province. She believes voters will be asking which party will be best to “secure the economic future.” The Liberals want to  build the economy, grow revenues to government by creating new industries and pay off the debt, she said.

“B.C. was debt free until I was 11 years old. We have a chance to make it debt-free again … 15 years from now we could make it debt free again.”

She said it would be a gift for our generation to give to the next.

“One thing I know about Abbotsford is it’s a place where generations look after each other.”

Plecas, a criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said Abbotsford is only as strong as the province overall.

“We need a strong province in order for businesses and farmers and everyone else in Abbotsford to do well.”

A local issue is a trash incinerator proposed by Metro Vancouver, which could pollute the Fraser Valley’s air shed.

Clark said she is familiar with the concerns. “We will not allow Metro to impose any technology or any waste-to-energy that’s going to have a negative impact on the air shed here,” she said.

Gibson is a longtime Abbotsford councillor who also serves on the Fraser Valley Regional District, which has openly opposed the proposed incinerator. Gibson said the provincial government will be fully involved in any consultation.

“I’ll be there to stand firm for this area in regards to protecting our air quality…”