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Premier Clark has eyes on the North

Premier Christy Clark today paid a visit to B.C.'s northern capital for the ribbon-cutting at the UNBC bioenergy plant on what was her first road trip since taking office.

She said her choice of Prince George as her first official destination as premier signals a clear commitment to making sure the North gets its due under her government.

"This the bread basket of the province," Clark said. "This is what feeds us all, so we have to make sure that southerners understand this is where our wealth and our jobs are created."

Noting she had been premier for not quite 96 hours, Clark said it was still important to be on hand for the grand opening of what is the first bioenergy plant at any Canadian university.

The $15.7 million facility uses a highly-efficient gasification process to convert wood waste to heat, which is then piped to the buildings on campus. It's expected to save the school $500,000 a year in heating costs and also produce an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 1,000 vehicles off the road.

Fuel for the plant, built by B.C.-based Nexterra Systems, is trucked to the site and sourced locally from the operations of Lakeland Mills.

UNBC president George Iwama said the facility gives UNBC the smallest carbon footprint of any school in Canada, and will make it a hub for bioenergy research.

"The world will come to obtain knowledge for the economy of the future," Iwama said.

Clark called the plant, which was commissioned in January, "the future of British Columbia.

"When we talk about the green jobs, this is what we're talking about."

The new premier also reaffirmed her campaign commitments to establish the North as a transportation hub, look after families, and move more government jobs outside Victoria.

"There's nothing more important in our province for me, for our government, than creating jobs, because jobs are what supports families," Clark said, "and we're on a families agenda now in British Columbia."

She was uncertain how long the bioenergy plant would have to run to make up for the greenhouse gases emitted by the travel of her and at least half a dozen other politicians who attended the event: "I don't know the answer to that."

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