Public Affairs Update Header
February 2, 2015
In This Issue
The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada.  This newsletter is brought to you by the largest and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.

Premier Christy Clark says B.C.’s budget will be balanced 

Premier Christy Clark says B.C. will balance its budget despite big drops in oil prices.


Premier Clark believes that B.C. will “weather the stormy period” and be one of only two provinces that will table a balanced budget for the coming year (along with Saskatchewan). Declines in world oil prices over the recent months have contributed to changes to government economic forecasts – especially in Alberta and Ottawa.


The 2015 B.C. Budget will be unveiled on February 17. Last November, Minister of Finance Hon. Mike de Jong put B.C.’s budget surplus at an estimated $444 million, up from an estimated $184 million announced last February.


Premier Clark said that the B.C.’s economic diversity will be the focus of the upcoming legislative session. Although B.C.’s LNG plans will remain in place and Premier Clark maintains that three plants will be in operation by 2020, the Government of B.C. is expected to renew its focus on other economic sectors like film, technology, and mining.



Design failure responsible for Mount Polley dam breach
Inadequate design is the cause for the Mount Polley dam breach – that’s the key finding of the independent review of the mine disaster that spilled 24 million cubic metres of mine silt and water into lakes and rivers in B.C.’s Interior last August.


The review found that the spill occurred due to a failure in the foundation of the tailing dam’s embankment. The design was built on a weak glacial layer, which investigation panel chair Norbert Morgenstern likened the design to “loading a gun.”

 “But if constructing unknowingly on this upper (glacial) deposit constituted loading the gun, building with a steep slope … pulled the trigger, there was no advance indication of any problems” said Mr. Morgenstern.
Earlier this week, the B.C. Government announced plans to open a Major Mines Permitting Office. The upcoming provincial budget is expected to increase funding for the Mines and Mineral Resources division of the Ministry of Energy and Mines to $17.1 million (an increase of approximately $6 million). The new permitting office will handle what is predicted to be 10 new large mines, which are expected to enter production in the next few years. This coincides with the Province’s intention to boost the industry by extending a $10 million tax credit to support investment in mining exploration.
These announcements come at a time when B.C.’s mine prospectors have experienced an overall industry downturn, with a significant drop in spending on mineral exploration. Overall, B.C. endured a 29 per cent decrease in spending on exploration for new mineral deposits in 2014 ($338 million down from $476 million the previous year). This has led to job losses, consolidation of companies and other cost-cutting measures. The Minister of Energy and Mines expects mineral prices to rebound.



Stilwell to become new minister of social development

Michelle Stilwell will be B.C.’s new Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation. She replaces Don McRae, who is stepping down for personal reasons but will continue to serve as MLA for Comox Valley. Ms. Stilwell will be sworn in on February 2nd.


To accommodate the shift, MLA Darryl Plecas becomes Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors to the Minister of Health, and MLA Mike Morris becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.