For two B.C. Liberals the bi-annual party convention in Whistler last weekend was significant.
For Joan McIntyre, the outgoing West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA, this will be her last as a sitting MLA, and for Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy it was his first as candidate-in-waiting.
Sturdy said the convention was very positive giving him an opportunity to network. "I've certainly had the pleasure of working with this government during the last three terms," Sturdy told delegates. "I certainly look forward to a majority government in May 2013, and I hope to be part of that."
The convention kicked off at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler with Free Enterprise Friday.
"Small business really is what drives the economy in British Columbia," said Sturdy this week. "That's where most of the employment is and that's where the growth tends to be so support for small business is really important."
The minister for small business, Naomi Yamamoto, was in Whistler Oct. 25 to meet local business owners at a Whistler Chamber of Commerce open house.
Interviewed at the conference, Yamamoto said the challenges experienced by Whistler are experienced around the province.
"I think Whistler is very reflective of B.C., in which 98 per cent of all businesses are small businesses," she said.
"The message is very clear, if you have a strong small business community, you've got a healthy community. Small business people don't just own and run their own business, they're also coaches, volunteers in the Parent Advisory Council, Rotarians. When you have a business, it allows the freedom to participate in the community and you do have a healthier, more vibrant community."
The chamber's open house, Yamamoto added, was "fantastic."
"It was a networking event with booths set up, with businesses that can help other small businesses, and it was an opportunity to celebrate Small Business Month," she said.
"One of the challenges I heard about was access to capital, and that's a common issue. The other issue is high business property taxes compared to the residential as a barrier to growth."
When asked as a provincial minister how she looks at these "micro" issues, Yamamoto said she was "trying to celebrate the municipalities that are friendly to small businesses."
"The small business roundtable, which is an initiative of this government, awarded six communities in British Columbia with a Small Business-Friendly Award. Part of my goal is to show the municipalities that didn't quite win the award yet what other municipalities have won in order to set the stage and environment to foster small business and encourage investors," she said.
Another issue, which became a running theme at the conference, was to encourage risk-taking and entrepreneurialism at a younger age. A new smartphone/iPhone app and website game for teens aged 15 to 18 to encourage them to find out if they have what it takes to become their own boss has just been launched: www.bossyourselfbc.ca.
At a policy plenary session Saturday morning party members discussed and debated issues from mandatory provincial election voting to the province's carbon tax, and allowing teachers to bow out of the BCTF. The motions supported by the party members were not binding for the party so they don't represent a policy change for government but act as a guideline for the governing Liberals.
One such vote looked at the future of the carbon tax introduced four years ago to fight climate change. It adds seven cents a litre to fuels including home heating oil and natural gas. Though some argued that it harmed small business Liberals voted to continue the tax.
Premier Christy Clark addressed the party faithful in the final speech of the convention. "This is what coming together looks like," Clark told the packed ballroom in an election-style speech. "This is what renewal looks like."
The premier saluted hotel employees, who she said served and looked after the delegates. "What we have been doing here the last two days is trying to build an economy that works for you and your family," Clark said.
More than 1,000, including McIntyre and Sturdy, took in the address.
In her speech, Clark declared her intention to make B.C. the country's economic leader. "Our goal is a very simple one and that is nothing less than to make British Columbia the number one economic engine that drives this country into the future," Clark said.
"We are BC Liberals for one reason," said Clark. "It's because we care about people."
Clark stirred the audience to an ovation when she said she believed it was time to take conflict out of B.C. schools.
"I am determined to fix this broken bargaining system we have with teachers," Premier Clark said as she launched into a review of her Oct. 17 commitment to spearhead a 10-year agreement with the public school teachers in the province.
"It's the single most important investment that government will make."
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