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Horrors, says Hansen, imagine NDP’s James presiding over Olympics

Finance Minister Colin Hansen rallied the troops at a meet and greet for B.C. Liberal Party members Friday evening in Kelowna. His rallying cry: The Olympics will save us from our economic problems but there is no way we can let Carole James be premier during the Games.

Hansen was in town on official duties. He spoke at a chamber of commerce lunch in the afternoon and was scheduled to attend an Olympic torch event Saturday morning. Since the Kelowna-Mission riding association was holding an event to allow party members to chat up candidates vying for the Liberal nomination, Hansen dropped by to press the flesh and get the partisan blood pumping.

In his five-minute speech, he painted a picture of B.C. as a place, that because of the Liberals’ careful management, is uniquely situated to ride out the current economic storm.

“Even though we have some challenges in the economy in the last few months, British Columbia is weathering through this challenge better than just about any other jurisdiction,” he said. “The economists are telling us that we can expect zero economic growth this year, in 2009 (though the budget he delivered Tuesday predicts B.C.’s economy will contract 0.9 per cent this year), and they are also forecasting that come 2010, British Columbia’s going to be the province that in fact leads Canada in economic growth next year.”

He went on to say economists provide two reasons for this rosy outlook. The first is “the solid base foundation we’ve built for the economy.” The second is the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“And they actually look at the fact that those games are going to generate about $10 billion worth of economic activity in British Columbia,” Hansen said. “They will generate thousands of jobs.”

But the biggest benefit of the Games, he said, is the fact 10,000 to 12,000 journalists will be in B.C. sending reports back to their home countries.

“We have the opportunity to showcase what a great province British Columbia is and what we can offer as a tourist destination, as a place to do business, as a place to live, as a place to invest, and that’s what's going to help catapult British Columbia into the economic growth of the next decade to come.”

Then Hansen painted a stark picture for the crowd.

“I want you to think about one thing,” he said. “Think about the opening ceremonies of the Games next Feb. 12th. There will be lots of government officials. I expect the prime minister will be there. I expect the mayor of Vancouver will be there. I expect the premier of British Columbia will be there. Visualize those opening ceremonies with Premier Carole James.”

His comments were greeted with groans that quickly gave way to disbelieving laughter.

“Now visualize those opening ceremonies with Premier Gordon Campbell,” said Hansen, before asking the assembled Liberals to make sure that picture becomes reality.

Hook contributor Adrian Nieoczym is a reporter with the Kelowna Capital News.

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