Jobs minister makes case for economic plan in North Van
The province's jobs, tourism and innovation minister met with the North Vancouver business community Thursday to make the case for the BC Liberals' new economic plan.
Under the banner of the government's Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan, the minister and MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie, Pat Bell, told the sold out gathering that his government is focusing on improving economic infrastructure at home with a keen eye to moving B.C. products and services to growing Asian markets.
Those infrastructure improvements, Bell said, will include physical infrastructure like ports, highways and rail systems, as well as a soon-to-be-released online business database connecting B.C. companies with global investors.
"I'm calling it eHarmony for investors," Bell said, comparing the database to the popular online dating site. "It connects investors with investments in a way that you have to sit down and fill out your 29 pages of documents and say all the key indicators of who you are and what you are." The result, he said, will be a kind of one-stop shop where projects can find funding and funders can make investments.
The online database will be launched and available to B.C. businesses in "the next couple months," Bell added.
On how North Vancouver specifically will benefit from the jobs plan, Bell said his government has targeted three key sectors for growth in the region: tourism, international education and transportation.
On the first, Bell said the promotion of the North Shore's ski resorts, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Lonsdale Quay are already top of mind for the B.C. government, as is attracting spill-over revenue from the Vancouver Convention Centre just across the inlet.
"We need to tap into that more effectively to promote the North Shore and try and draw some of those tourism dollars over to North Vancouver," Bell said.
On international education, Bell said the jobs plan includes provisions to increase the number of foreign students in B.C. by 50 per cent over the next four years. There are currently about 94,000 international students in B.C. schools, contributing approximately $1.25 billion to the provincial economy. Bell said he's confident that by 2015, those numbers will have jumped to 141,000 international students bringing between $1.85 - $1.95 billion to the province.
To that end, Bell said: "It's not UBC and SFU that need the [government's] help. They're doing just fine. It's all the other small communities and colleges and the K-12 system."
In the local transportation sector, Bell pointed squarely at North Vancouver's port as the biggest beneficiary of the Liberals' jobs plan. He cited the recent $8-billion Seaspan federal shipbuilding contract and the government's planned introduction of more B.C. goods and resources to Asia as strong economic indicators for the port, its employees and its corollary industries and services.
Attending the Thursday breakfast at the North Vancouver Holiday Inn were members of the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Capilano University, port industries, North Shore tourism representatives and several local business owners.