THE CITY had the premier’s ear, or her parliamentary secretary’s at least, to hear about job creation yesterday.
Speaking to the Terrace Rotary club and the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce was John Les, Chilliwack Liberal MLA and parliamentary secretary to Christy Clark.
Les said he is travelling around the province as part of the provincial Liberal government’s focus on job creation and economic development.
“She is going to make a job strategy announcement later on in September and my role right now is to visit communities around the province and [bring] feedback back to the government so the hope is her job strategies’ rollout will include as many British Columbians as possible,” he said.
Les acknowledged that each area of the province is unique.
“The feeling is a little bit of excitement in the air about the billions of dollars in projects about to happen,” he said about the northwest.
“It’s exciting but even good news brings challenges.”
It’s being said that $12 billion will be spent here in the next few years and it’s important to be prepared, Les continued.
“When people come to do the work, we’ve got to be ready. Alberta has shown a booming economy but have imported people to do the work. We have to make sure in northwestern BC that everyone who wants a job gets one,” he said.
Les acknowledged the call by local leaders for a way for northwestern municipalities to benefit from projects which take place outside of their jurisdictions.
In the northeast, for example, a provincial program called FairShare has provided more than $184 million to municipalities and local governments since 2005 to finance roads and other municipal services.
The money takes the form of grants in lieu of taxation and is tied to provincial revenues flowing from the oil and gas industry.
“It is an approach that works very well in northeast BC,” Les said.
The MLA also said it was important for the region to be able to train locals for jobs, adding that community colleges play an important role in preparing people for employment.
“… and as a wise person once said ‘the best social policy is jobs,’” he said.
Increasing capacity in physical trade, increasing investment in railroads, bridges, and ports and airport running are very important, said Les continued.
Since we are Canada’s only Pacific province , exports will be going through us to two countries whose economies will be the majority of the world economy in future: China and India.
The one thing Les says will hurt the province is the rejection of the HST and the switch back to the PST and GST.
“The transition back to PST is going to be difficult, a little rocky, but I obviously am very, very, very disappointed the HST did not succeed. My concern is not short-term, my concern is long-term. It will limit the economic opportunity for our kids and grandkids because the economy will not grow as much,” he said, adding there will not be as many jobs in the future without the HST.
“I feel badly for the upcoming generation and the $1.6 billion to pay back to Ottawa. It will add to our previous debt and guess who pays it off? Our children and grandchildren.”
“I think in future people will rue the day they turned down the HST.”
Premier Clark’s next step is the jobs agenda that she will roll out later in September, around the 25th or so, he said.
Les wouldn’t speculate on whether there will be a provincial election soon and said he hasn’t thought about whether he will run again.
“I think we now need to focus on economic development,” he said.
Les’s trip continues in Kitimat next, then Smithers and Houston.