NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston discussed financial priorities at local and provincewide levels Friday with the Cumberland and Comox Valley chambers of commerce.
Ralston recognizes potential for long-term, sustainable jobs in the Valley, noting tourism, agriculture and the shellfish industry. If the party wins the spring election, the NDP would provide stable funding to Tourism B.C., and bring in a stronger Buy B.C. program, he said.
While the NDP favours an industry-led tourism model, Ralston said the Liberals have re-done Tourism BC in a partial and ineffective manner.
“For some reason the provincial government chose to assert control over it,” he told reporters Friday.
The potential envisioned from the 2010 Olympics has not been realized, added Ralston, who notes new markets such as adventure and cultural tourism in Cumberland.
“That was one of the striking things about Cumberland,” he said. “Cumberland has a different kind of economy with potential for growth.”
The Comox Valley Chamber, he said, is more focused on the federal budget and implications for a training agenda.
An NDP priority is education and skills training, which the party says are key to preparing young people for jobs.
“Adrian (NDP leader Dix) has made skills training a high priority with us,” Ralston said. “That’s something that is a long-term commitment.”
The party plans to instigate a $100 million grant program to help students obtain post-secondary education, funded by reinstating a capital tax on banks.
Ralston said the NDP recognizes the importance of the local shellfish industry, which must not be put at risk by the Liberals’ weak environmental assessment for the proposed Raven coal mine.
“There’s some basic science still missing. I’m not sure I understand how any kind of conclusion can be drawn until that science is in place,” said Valley NDP candidate Kassandra Dycke, who notes the industry employs upwards of 600 full-time people. “That shellfish industry could be impacted in a really devastating way if we don’t follow through with a comprehensive, stringent environmental assessment process that ensures that that industry would be protected and sustainable for the long term.”
Ralston feels Premier Christy Clark’s focus and commitment “seems to waver from week to week,” and that the Liberal platform is broadly focused and unclear. He said the NDP wants to present a modest platform that reflects the economic temper of the times.
“I think people will be reassured by that,” he said. “My sense is people are ready for change. That’s what we’re trying to deliver: one practical step at a time.”