VICTORIA — British Columbia's Liberal party began its bid for a fifth straight majority government on Tuesday as Christy Clark touted her government's record on job creation and balanced budgets while warning the opposition parties would risk economic growth with higher taxes and deficits.
The campaign has been underway unofficially for weeks with the Liberals, NDP and Greens releasing platform details for an election that polls suggest will be a tight battle.
Clark has tried to make NDP Leader John Horgan's economic judgment an issue, accusing the New Democrats of siding with fringe advocates over the mainstream interests that drive job creation.
The Liberal leader visited the lieutenant-governor to formally start the election and emerged to remind voters that British Columbia has had Canada's fastest-growing economy.
"B.C. is just getting started," she added. "We don't want to throw this all away. The Opposition would replace our tax cuts with tax hikes. They would scrap projects that create thousands of jobs for working people and they would push B.C. families to the brink."
Horgan has attacked Clark on social policies, arguing too many people have been left behind by a Liberal government that is out-of-touch after 16 years in power as he promotes a daycare program that would cost $10 a day and a significant increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The NDP is scheduled to release its platform on Thursday, but Horgan has said the party will create jobs by making public investments to attract more private-sector investment. He also opposes the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline and BC Hydro's Site C dam.
"Change starts today," he said at a concert hall in downtown Vancouver where he countered Clark's rosy economic outlook.
"It's not working for everybody. It's not working if it's all part-time jobs and temporary jobs."
Green Leader Andrew Weaver, the first member of his party to win a seat in a provincial legislature, is asking voters who are tired of the status quo to give his party a chance, promising a revamped economic plan that encourages growth in emerging business sectors while protecting the environment.
Clark continued her push to brand the New Democrats as job killers at her first official campaign stop at Elk Lake, just north of Victoria, where she stood on the dock flanked by members of Canada's national rowing team and Saanich South Liberal candidate David Calder, a former Olympic silver medal winner.
"Let's make sure we create jobs," said Clark, who released the party's platform on Monday. "You don't create jobs by saying, 'No,' to everything."
Clark was knocked off her message on the campaign's first day when the sister of a man who took his own life after being fired by the government held a news conference to accuse the premier of cynically handling the issue.
British Columbia's Office of the Ombudsperson has said eight health-care researchers should not have been fired in 2012 over allegations of potential privacy violations and found the workers did nothing wrong.
Clark said her apology to the family of Roderick MacIsaac was sincere and she is willing to personally apologize to his sister Linda Kayfish.
"If it would bring Ms. Kayfish some closure, absolutely," she said.
From the base of his single seat on Vancouver Island, Weaver is pushing for a breakthrough for his party by setting out a Green vision that offers free daycare for children up to the age of three, tougher greenhouse gas emission standards and more money for public education.
Weaver campaigned Tuesday in Vancouver's Olympic Village on his party's housing policy that he says aims to cool the overheated real estate market by, among other things, improving the supply of homes through capital spending to build about 4,000 new units a year.
Weaver said voters have produced surprises with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's decision to leave the European Union as he pushed for change of a different kind by supporting the alternatives offered by the Green party.
"Why do you need more than two NDP MLAs? They all vote the same," Weaver said, adding that the Liberal platform is "so void of ideas, it's staggering."
At dissolution, the Liberals held 47 seats in the legislature, the NDP 35, and there were three Independents, which includes Weaver. There are two new ridings this election, bringing the total to 87 seats.
— With files from Laura Kane and Geordon Omand in Vancouver.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press