Kootenay West candidates on creating economic opportunities

The second in a three-part Q&A with Kootenay West candidates. Second round: jobs and the economy.

B.C.’s provincial election is May 9 and so far Kootenay West has three candidates in the running. Incumbent Katrine Conroy, NDP; Jim Postnikoff, Liberal; and Samantha Troy, Green Party.

Last week, the Rossland News began a three-part Q&A with the candidates, addressing three different election issues over three weeks leading up to the election. The first question we asked was about health care and this week we’re asking about jobs and the economy.

Rossland News: How do you and your party propose to create economic opportunities in the West Kootenay and help established employers attract talent?

Katrine Conroy:

We know that every sector of our economy is increasingly driven by the education and skill level of British Columbians. Being a leader in the world economy requires being a world leader in education at every level. We will create economic opportunities here in the West Kootenays by supporting students in post-secondary education with a number of initiatives.

Some of these initiatives include making student loans interest-free; providing a $1,000 Opportunity Award for higher education graduates to help pay down debt; making Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) free again; updating regulations to allow colleges and universities to build affordable on and near-campus rental housing, and ensuring student renters receive the renter’s tax rebate of $400 per year; and investing $100 million to expand technology-related post-secondary programs and investing in information and communications, digital media and entertainment, life sciences and health, clean-tech, IT and engineering and more.

We’ll also expand skills training and apprenticeships to train the workforce of tomorrow and ensure British Columbians can work on major B.C. construction projects.

The NDP believe in a strong economy where everyone is succeeding. Where life gets a little easier each month, not harder. Where people are rewarded for working hard, with good wages, job security and a safe place to work.

Forestry is the anchor industry in many of our communities. Over the last 16 years, 30,000 direct forestry jobs and countless more indirect jobs have been lost. Raw logs have been exported at an unprecedented pace and failing to keep up with reforestation has undermined the future of the industry.

We’ll work hard to bring sustainable jobs back and fight for fair trade deals for our softwood lumber. We’ll also expand markets for B.C. wood products, including ensuring innovative B.C. wood products are used in infrastructure projects, like schools, hospitals and rental housing construction and offering incentives to B.C. builders that use engineered wood products and to B.C. companies starting innovative wood manufacturing operations.

We’ll create local jobs with B.C. logs by working with B.C.’s forest industry to find fair and lasting solutions that keep more logs in B.C. for processing and investing in the future by expanding investments in reforestation across B.C.

We are also committed to listening to the concerns of small business owners and many describe how expensive it is to run their businesses. Many also describe that the high cost of living is making it hard to find workers. We will reduce the small business tax rate from 2.5 per cent to 2.0 per cent. We will create a small business task force to strengthen the small business sector and we will ensure that small businesses can get loans through credit unions.

Jim Postnikoff:

The government is investing $270 million over the next three years to the B.C. side road program. The rural dividend fund will be extended another three years at $25 million per year as well.

Since 2009, small community grant and regional district grant programs have provided $437 million to help address infrastructure, administration, etc. With having the ability to work with government, we will be able to invest into our communities.

The government has committed monies towards an expansion of a low-cost senior housing project in Nakusp and towards one in Slocan City. By creating a strong economy, we will attract young talent into our area to live and grow together.

Samantha Troy:

Strategies that will support our regional economic opportunity are interconnected with the opportunities afforded to all British Columbians. The B.C. Green Party believes that government should be responsible for managing the province’s resources for the benefit of both present and future generations of British Columbia. A sustainable economy must also be a resilient economy.

We need an economy that identifies the challenges we face, and develops strategies to mitigate risk. If we are to sustain our natural assets and build resilience, we need a fundamentally different approach that is inclusive, all encompassing, prudent and manages risks to our asset base before determining short-term bottom line targets.

Professional associations are grappling with the task of how to factor climate risk management and technological advancements into their planning and design, and professional codes of practice. Many areas of government still lag in their recognition of the need to adapt their operating practices to accommodate a changing climate and technological advancement.

A Green government would invest in partnerships with industry, academic institutions and other levels of government in order to support research, development and the commercialization of climate-friendly technologies. A Green government will implement innovative strategies to achieve desired environmental results. Canada lags behind other countries in terms of public investment in research and development. This investment will increase the level of R&D activity in B.C., with a focus on clean technology. It will streamline the process of turning ideas into marketable products and jobs. It will encourage the development of products that will lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions.

A Green government will establish an Emerging Economy Task Force to address the changing nature of business over the next 10 to 25 years. The task force will include business and industry representatives, and will develop a plan for a supportive and progressive regulatory environment for businesses in the context of changes in political, social and economic conditions.

Recommendations from the task force may include: how to maximize the number of people employed; how to adjust the regulatory framework to accommodate new business (think, ride-sharing); how to support business development and innovation; how to attract and retain workers with critical skills; how to facilitate transitions between sunset and sunrise industries; how to best support communities as employment in traditional industries declines.

A Green government will modernize labour laws to recognize new and evolving types of work relationships in the emerging economy by introducing a fairer, more responsive and more inclusive code that contributes to increased competitiveness. Many jobs now fall outside the standard, full-time permanent employment with a single employer. More people work part-time, on contract, or are classified as independent contractors. Our economy is subject to regular disruptions driven by technology, demographics and climate change. These forces cannot be averted through wishful thinking, but we can modernize labour laws to provide protection for the average British Columbian while still addressing this reality.

A B.C. Green government will establish an Innovation Commission to support innovation and business development in the technology sector, and we will appoint an Innovation Commissioner whose mandate will be to serve as an advocate and ambassador on behalf of the B.C. technology sector. This initiative will enhance access to capital, streamline delivery of program funding to innovative enterprises, facilitate access to clients, help bring in partners and other clients, and ensure B.C. companies get their fair share of federal funding.

B.C. Greens will introduce policies that will support our agricultural sector. We will collaborate with indigenous people, the not-for-profit sector and other land interests to enhance access to land for farming.

A B.C. Green government will work to ensure that regional social infrastructure services, such as health care and education are best supported so as to maintain a high quality of life standard, which will contribute to attracting skilled employees to the West Kootenay.

The B.C. Green Party recognizes that economic opportunities are essential for people, and our sustainable economy proposals are designed to seize the opportunities our resources afford us through innovation, efficiency, value-added and intrinsic benefits by promoting good stewardship and sustainable use.