Jobs minister promotes plan to create them

Creating jobs, attracting investment and opening new markets for products and services is the idea behind Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan, introduced last month by Premier Christy Clark.

PAT BELL fields a question at the Native Sons Hall.

PAT BELL fields a question at the Native Sons Hall.

Creating jobs, attracting investment and opening new markets for products and services is the idea behind Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan, introduced last month by Premier Christy Clark. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell spoke about the plan with politicians and members of the Comox Valley business community Friday at the Native Sons Hall. In an effort to accelerate growth, the plan intends to leverage the strengths of B.C.’s most competitive sectors — forestry, mining, natural gas, agrifoods, technology, tourism, transportation and international education — to bring new dollars into the economy, Bell explained. The plan was built on three ‘pillars’ under two core foundations, including “10 years of sound fiscal management,” Bell said. He feels the growing economies of China and India are critical elements in terms of market expansion.”I believe we need to be in those marketplaces in order to be successful. We need to think about how we reverse our transportation infrastructure in a way that moves our goods to market,” said Bell, noting containers that came into Canada used to go back empty to China. These days, however, nearly 90 per cent of containers go back full while only 10 or 15 per cent go back full to the U.S. Bell said government needs to increase B.C.’s port capacity to get goods to market.He notes economists expect the Chinese economy will triple in about the next 20 years. “That is an enormous opportunity for us,” Bell said.The province is asking communities to decide which core sectors apply to their region. Government will then establish a database in an effort to stimulate the economy. “Once you make that decision, we want to be here to help support that and bring all of the efforts of the government to bear on this area,” Bell said. “Clearly tourism is important,” he said on behalf of the Comox Valley, also noting the ocean, agrifoods and affordability of real estate. Bell said there is also “huge value” attached to each international student who comes into the area.”We have 94,000 international students in B.C., (which has created) 22,000 direct full-time jobs.”The optimistic Bell points to Australia in the Olympic year of 2000 when they focused their efforts on their core strengths, and looked at China and India to develop new markets.”Their economic growth from 2000 to 2010 is nothing short of stunning,” he said, noting the average Gross Domestic Product per citizen increased by nearly 300 per cent in 10 years. Over the next couple of years, the province will invest $24 million to enable different ministries to clear the backlog of permits that hold up jobs. It also intends to look at new ways of doing business with First Nations, to create a new investments office located in Bell’s ministry that will help “streamline the process” and to work with federal partners about the environmental assessment process.Senior levels of government go through two separate processes that Bell said are virtually identical in nature.”There’s no reason for that. We should be harmonizing those two processes,” he said.A focus of the plan is to boost exports to make it easier for businesses that want to invest in B.C. Among other things, the province is committed to eight new mines and expanding nine others by 2015. This is expected to generate $1.6 billion of additional revenue per year, and to create about 1,800 new jobs and sustain more than 5,000 direct mining jobs.Bell recognizes the controversy and challenges surrounding the underground coal mine proposed in Baynes Sound, noting the “promises of economic development” on one hand and concerns from the public and shellfish growers on the other. Government also plans to create an Aboriginal Business and Investment Council.reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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