A summary of the key initiatives…will it be enough?
Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan. Underwhelming for some, unnecessary hyperbole for others, but what does it really mean for the BC economy and job creation? Will it be enough to protect the province from the downward slope plaguing our southern neighbours or the Eurozone crisis and rumours of another recession?
Last week Christy Clark toured the province sharing her plans for job creation as BC looks to cope with and even possibly grow in today’s economic environment. She has been criticized for proposing mild measures, some would say incapable of firmly steering the province in the right direction as well as missing some sectors and regions. Clark has labeled BC a ‘safe port in an unsettled economic storm’, but what does this really mean? Let’s look at the key areas of the Plan.
Enabling job creation, getting goods to market and opening/expanding markets are the three pillars that comprise the jobs strategy. Clark plans to leverage the province’s most competitive sectors — natural resources, knowledge and infrastructure — and look for ‘new money’. She expects this to come from the Asia Pacific market where countries are experiencing explosive growth, particularly China and India, whose middle class now outnumbers the entire Canadian population. She credits much of the financial success of BC’s mills, mines and other businesses to overseas markets and investors and stresses that this is where the opportunity lies going forward.
Clark’s strategy is deeply rooted in Liberal philosophy — provide the tools for the private sector to grow and hope that job creation will follow suit. This includes supporting entrepreneurship and investing in sectors with a track record of success and growth potential.
The newly-created Major Investments Office will work with ministries to bring new investment to key sectors. Accelerating the permits and approvals process to ensure that initiatives don’t get held up in government red tape is one of the main drivers for this body. The First Nations will be consulted in the creation of the Aboriginal Investment Council to create wealth and partnerships in efforts to fight long-term economic uncertainty.
The BC Liberals will also enhance the Small Business Venture Capital Program, aiming to attract investors and providing tax incentives to do so. Encouraging an environment providing a fast rate of return and a transparent approval process will hopefully allow projects to get off the ground faster and stimulate economic growth. Much of this plan has focused on BC’s mining community, opening new mines and increasing permits by 80% by the end of August 2012.
Clark’s proposals are clearly directed towards leveraging the growth of the Asian market. She hopes to invite trade missions from Asian Pacific businesses and encourage trade. To meet demand, port, rail and air travel and logistics will be bolstered, aiding those industries as well as facilitating exports.
Looking at sectors that will fare the best from the jobs plan, there is a strong focus on those where BC already enjoys a competitive advantage. They include:
- Forestry, mining, natural gas — Export to Asia Pacific to meet demands
- Agrifoods — BC’s regulatory systems provide domestic and international confidence that food is safe and secure; also plans to remove barriers to cross-provincial wine trade
- Technology / Clean Technology / Green Economy — Develop technologies to turn natural resources into renewable energy
- Tourism — Invest in destination marketing efforts, particularly in China; also promote ski and adventure tourism
- Transportation: Ports, Marine, Aerospace — Help manage the high volumes of shipping trade
- International Education — Rapid expansion in Asia Pacific has resulted in parents wanting their kids to have an English-language education. International education has become BC’s fifth largest export with revenue generated from tuition, accommodation and living expenses
So, is it enough? Investing in areas where BC already has a strong reputation and competitive advantage appears logical and fostering a culture conducive to private company growth should result in job creation. Clark also took the opportunity to reinforce the BC Liberal’s ’10 years of discipline’ and their policy of low taxes, balanced budgets and smart regulation. With the turmoil in the U.S. and Europe largely attributed to overspending, there may be some merit to this statement. BC has seen stronger employment gains since 2008’s decline and we need to see this continue. But where will we be in six months, a year, three years? Only time will tell!
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