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Premier Christy Clark touts growth and diversification at BC Jobs Plan 5 Year Update

Premier Christy Clark had very positive things to say about her government’s BC Jobs Plan this morning.

Clarke provided a 5 year update on the program, saying BC has gone from ninth to leading the country in job creation and moved from third to first in terms of economic growth.

The Premier also outlined plans to continue to grow and diversify the provincial economy

“The first one is a new and growing emphasis on technology. These are jobs that pay 74% above the industrial average. 100,000 jobs now. We can continue to grow this sector. One of the things we need is a little more government focus in terms of policy and support.”

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To help reach this goal, Clarke announced UBC president professor Santa Ono as Chief Advisor of the Innovation network – aimed at increasing collaboration between colleges and universities and the tech industry.

Clark also announced 25 new targets for the jobs plan and the addition of Advanced Manufacturing to the current total of eight sectors identified as the foundation of the BC economy.

Asked about President Trump signing an Executive order to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Clark referenced the government’s efforts to diversify markets for BC products. She says the province has come a long way since the days when the US was the primary market for BC lumber.

“We were at their mercy when it came to trade. We’ve grown our trade with China in Lumber over 1000%. Fifty percent of our trade balance – somewhere between 40 and 50 – doesn’t go south of the border anymore. That’s how we protect ourselves from protectionist regimes.”

However, the US remains Canada’s largest trading partner and half of BC’s lumber is still exported to American markets.

Clark did acknowledge that the BC Jobs Plan has fallen short in several areas. The plan has failed to meet 5 of its 19 goals and Clark blamed uncertain global commodity markets for giving rural communities the short end of the stick.

“That’s meant that rural communities haven’t had all the same opportunities that urban communities have had. So we are going to work harder to support rural communities and there are a couple of things that we can do.”

She touted the government’s plan to develop a Rural Economic Development Strategy this year focusing on economic growth and job creation. She also said the province need to continue to “Get to Yes,” a Liberal buzz-phrase pushing for the approval of resource development projects – two favourites being the Site C dam and LNG projects. Clarke promised the government will be spending more to support infrastructure projects in rural communities and will seek to diversify rural economies, including the potential creation of rural tech centres.

A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that, while the number of jobs in the province has increased since 2010, most of them were created on the south coast, while rural and northern communities have actually seen the number of jobs in their region decrease.

The BC Jobs Plan was launched in 2011.

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