Premier Christy Clark recently unveiled the details of her new jobs plan for British Columbia, and Cariboo politicians are scrambling to ferret out some of the implications.
Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan will help the province with the current economic uncertainty and emerge stronger than ever, Clark says.
The tax components of the plan include a $3-million boost to the province’s current $30-million small business venture capital tax credit, and setting up an expert panel to review business taxes.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says a venture capital program for people to reinvest in their businesses to help make them stable and grow also encourages folks to stay in the community.
“Hopefully, it does help the South Cariboo, but I think we have to wait and see. The opportunity is there for them to utilize.
“I do know the premier has said we should look into all taxation in the province, and I think a lot of people will agree [with that].”
Meanwhile, Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson says the premier’s announcement of a tax panel as part of her jobs strategy focuses on the wrong issue.
“B.C. already has a very competitive tax regime, and something the B.C. Liberal government has been patting itself on the back about for a number of years.
“However, this competitive tax environment has not translated into job creation, community development or investments anywhere near the levels the government promised we would see.”
Clark is also granting an additional $24-million to fund and reduce backlogs for mining, water and land permit approvals, and the premier says the increased efficiency will not be at the expense of environmental regulations.
Streamlining the approval processes will help businesses save money and move forward with their business plans, Barnett says, adding that otherwise, the private sector “will be gone.”
The plan also includes a three-year extension of the approximately $31-million annual funding for the B.C. Training Tax Credit.
This expanded training apprentice program is a much-needed component for the South Cariboo, Barnett adds, in order to train and retain local tradesmen.
Meanwhile, Cariboo-Chilcotin NDP candidate Charlie Wyse says he hopes the initiatives in the jobs plan are successful, but adds they aren’t new.
“It’s a re-announcement of a number of other things that have been [rolled out] in the past. It strikes me that it’s long on talk and it’s short on specifics.”
Other aspects include the development of 10 new non-treaty agreements with aboriginal groups by 2015, nine upgrades or expansions to current B.C. mines, and a target to have eight new mines in operation in the province by 2015.
Wyse adds he hopes B.C.’s mining industry moves forward under the plan, but points to the B.C. Liberal government’s history with “not involving First Nations and walking right by them,” such as in the recent Prosperity Mines project approval process.
“This practice of dealing with First Nations as the last obstacle rather than dealing with them as one of the first items … continues to be an impediment in our region for new industry to proceed [with] mining.”
Wyse says he is still poring over the recently released plan, but so far can’t find anything to benefit the Cariboo.
“In particular, I’m concerned it seems to be weak or non-existent when we get into the area of forestry and, likewise, for the area of skills training.”
However, Barnett says residents in the Interior are fortunate that despite the global economy, there are still people out there willing to invest money in B.C.’s resource sector.