Premier Christy Clark plans to create jobs and stimulate local economies in B.C.
To do so, she and Chilliwack MLA/parliamentary secretary John Les are garnering feedback from Chambers of Commerce, service clubs and business people to prepare a job strategy by the end of September.
“The premier is very focused on job retention and job creation,” Les, the former solicitor general, told reporters Tuesday after meeting with members of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce at the Old House Restaurant.
He received “very good” feedback at Tuesday’s session, noting transportation challenges in terms of containerization that he had not previously understood.
“The world’s economy today is in containers, and yet container handling on and off the island is not in particularly good shape,” Les said, noting businesses whose growth is being inhibited by lack of good container handling.
He also heard pleas for developing the agriculture sector in the Valley, where just 30 per cent of land is being used. Moreover, seven per cent of food consumed by Islanders is locally grown.
“There’s an appetite here to see what else we can do in agriculture,” Les said, noting the prospect of shipping fresh produce directly to China, as an example.
There was also discussion Tuesday about natural tourism in terms of trails and recreation. Along with European visitors, Les said a greater number of Chinese tourists can be expected, a direct spillover from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Other topics that frequently come up in meetings include training, retraining and education.
“Often, people need to be retrained to take advantage of the jobs that are available in today’s economy,” Les said. “The decision to expand post-secondary education by 30,000 seats over the last several years is an important building block for economic development.”
At times, however, he said it can be more strategic to make trades training available in high schools, allowing easier transition into trades jobs.
The job strategy will also focus on determining the type of infrastructure needed to support job creation. For example, government decided about five years ago to build a container port in Prince Rupert.
“It’s there now, growing by leaps and bounds, supporting a lot of jobs,” Les said.
He notes government decisions that arise from policy perspective enable jobs to happen — as long as government is doing a good job.
“If it’s doing a lousy job, it hinders the creation of jobs by getting in the way and developing silly regulations. Regulations are important, they’re necessary, but as government we need to keep them current and updated and relevant.”
Les, who has visited the Cariboo, Okanagan and Fraser Valley during the British Columbia jobs tour, also stopped Tuesday in Parksville and Nanaimo. Clark is touring other parts of the province.