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Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm outside the gates of Fantasy Gardens in Richmond, B.C., April 10, 2007. Vander Zalm once owned the theme park and was forced to resign in 1991 amid a conflict of interest scandal involving the sale of the park.

RICHARD LAM/richard lam The Globe and Mail

15 YEARS AGO … (Oct. 23-29, 1996)

Clark uses pricey TV speech to outline cost-cutting plan

Premier Glen Clark outlined a three-part plan to deal with the province's anticipated $1-billion budget deficit this week in a televised speech that cost taxpayers about $150,000.

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Mr. Clark, who promised during last spring's election that an NDP administration would balance B.C.'s books, said on Tuesday the government plans to cut staffing costs, reduce subsidies and restructure the way services are delivered.

The Premier confirmed that 3,500 civil service jobs would be axed, saving $500-million over the next 18 months. The government plans to eliminate $400-million in transfer payments and grants to municipalities and slash its $126-million dollar business subsidy budget, he said.

Changes to the justice system aimed at encouraging out-of-court settlements, including the introduction of no-fault auto insurance, will also save the province millions of dollars, Mr. Clark said.

However, the Premier refused to apologize for failing to balance the budget and blamed inaccurate growth projections from Canada's major banks for B.C.'s financial woes.

Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell called Mr. Clark's speech an "absolute disgrace."

Flash forward: From 1991 to 2000, the governing NDP ran nine consecutive deficit budgets, raising the province's overall debt to about $30-billion from $20-billion.

25 YEARS AGO … (Oct. 23-29, 1986)

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Vander Zalm leads Socreds to "overwhelming" victory

Less than three months after replacing Bill Bennett as Social Credit Leader, Premier Bill Vander Zalm received a resounding mandate from voters with a 49-20 seat victory over the NDP in Wednesday's provincial election.

Speaking to a raucous throng of supporters at the Hotel Vancouver, Mr. Vander Zalm called the election results "fantastic" and "overwhelming."

Repeating a message he delivered many times during the campaign, he promised "a new start" for the people of B.C. and said one of his priorities would be to eliminate legislation that impedes development in the province.

He also pledged to play a direct role in monitoring the performance of government ministries and deal swiftly with departments that fail to respond to the "needs of the people."

A populist whose campaign focused on style and personality, Mr. Vander Zalm won his home riding of Richmond by more than 11,000 votes.

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The Socreds captured seven seats from the NDP and won 11 of 12 new ridings created by an overhaul of the province's electoral map.

Flash forward: Mr. Vander Zalm resigned in March, 1991, amid a conflict of interest scandal surrounding the sale of his Fantasy Garden theme park to a Taiwanese businessman.

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