One of the benefits of only three of the city’s six candidates showing up for Tuesday morning’s all-candidates forum was that the trio of hopefuls got more time to state their views.
About 40 people attended the event, hosted by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association and the Northern Regional Construction Association.
What will you do to help the construction industry?
Shirley Bond (Liberal): The construction sector is thriving because British Columbia is thriving. One of the most important things that governments need to do is create an environment for investment and job creation. It’s not government’s job to actually be the job creator itself. We don’t believe in big government and growing government … You simply can’t expect the construction sector to be thriving if you don’t say yes to major projects.”
Hilary Crowley (Green Party): The Green Party will invest $750 million a year to support construction of approximately 4,000 new units of affordable housing. We invest $100 million in retrofits and renovations of older units and we will introduce incentives for construction and/or conversion of existing properties, to rental properties. We’ll invest a considerable amount over four years for partnerships with industry and academic institutions to support research and development, and commercialization, of climate friendly technologies. We’ll promote investment in clean energy and transportation that create jobs without increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Mike Morris (Liberal): The focus has been on creating jobs in this province for a long time, and we’ve seen the results of that with 225,000 jobs since 2011. A lot of it is in the Lower Mainland, but we’ve been pretty stable in the Prince George area. We’d like to see increased investment in heavy industry. To attract more investment to B.C., we’re reducing the PST on businesses. I think that’s going to enhance some of the heavy industry we have. I think we’ll increase investment in British Columbia as we move forward with some of the LNG possibilities, and petrochemicals.
Can we build major projects and infrastructure in British Columbia without relying on temporary foreign workers?
Crowley: It’s obviously to our advantage to employ our own people. If we’re only going with foreign workers because we can pay them less, then that’s not the right thing to do. We do have significant unemployment in B.C., I don’t see why we need to bring in foreign trade people to take our jobs.
Morris: The employment rate in B.C. is not bad. I think around Prince George we’re sitting around seven per cent, the Lower Mainland is around 5.5 per cent. When you get down to the four per cent range, that’s considered full employment. British Columbians are first for any major infrastructure here in British Columbia, Canadians are second, then we have to start looking at others. We have to keep in mind that a lot of the technology, and a lot of the techniques that are used in construction, whether Site C or LNG plants, sometimes comes with a very high level of technical expertise that’s required to do a certain job. When we can’t find that level of expertise, then we start looking at other sources for that expertise.
Bond: British Columbians come first. We believe that you look locally, regionally, and provincially. That’s how you begin to develop a workforce necessary for very large projects in British Columbia. We are going to have a challenge. One of the things you we have to remember is when you are building very large infrastructure projects, there are going to be cycles when you need a large group of workers for a short period of time. We do not support the automatic use of temporary foreign workers, but there may be time when additional workers are required from outside British Columbia. There needs to be, and is, a rigorous process … You have to be able to demonstrate there is a specific requirement for that worker or they are not available in Canada.