B.C. Premier Christy Clark closed out the 2016 State of the Island Economic Summit selling a dream for province’s economic future.
Clark was the keynote speaker for the summit’s closing luncheon Thursday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo.
During her address Clark reviewed high and low points of the province’s economic history, sprinkled with announcements of tens of millions of dollars in new investment in affordable housing.
But Clark’s also focused specifically on the future of the Island’s various economic sectors, such as agri-tourism, manufacturing and hi-tech. She said the government is preparing a plan for that future, a project that will be chaired by Comox Valley MLA Don McRae.
“Over the next six months we are going to be preparing and then publishing an economic investment plan that is going to focus specifically on how we grow jobs and investments in people on Vancouver Island,” Clark said.
Clark called on business and industry leaders to begin sharing ideas about post-secondary education, manufacturing, culture, film and technology, agri-tourism and other economic sectors.
“Should there be as many tourists coming here, on an ale trail, as they do in the Okanagan?” Clark asked. “What are the barriers in the way of First Nations, making sure that they have a fair shake at economic growth for their kids and how do we knock those barriers down? What are the skill that our children will need to build a future of their own and shape their own future in British Columbia?”
Clark also didn’t mince words in her message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the need for improved environmental protection for the B.C. Coast, which falls under federal jurisdiction, in light of thousand of ships that ply coastal waters, some carrying bitumen and a recent oil spill in Bell Bella.
“As we’ve learned this month in Bella Bella, we still do not have adequate spill response in B.C.,” Clark said. “Successive governments, over decades, have failed British Columbia. They have left us under-protected and exposed to incredible risk, something that would be unthinkable if we were living on the east coast of this country. So I have told Prime Minister Trudeau that he has a unique opportunity to be the person that fixes this historic inequity.”
In a post-luncheon press conference, Clark touched more on the potential economic impact on the Island from research, development and manufacturing of climate change mitigation and green technologies.
“We have just completed a big study that we did with the Vancouver Island Economic council, which I think we’re going to be releasing in the next few days, looking at the future of manufacturing and how we can accept more,” Clark said. “So that work has just been wrapped up and we’ll have more to say about that in the next few days.”