editorial 

The NDP government updated its plan for British Columbia’s struggling economy this week, but like so many previous governments’ plans for the provincial economy, there was no vision of the future. Having finally realized that many of the regulations and policies introduced in the last seven years have contributed to the decline in the economy, the NDP is promoting a series of tax cuts, efforts to reduce red tape and investment in infrastructure. This is good, but there is an opportunity to direct more fundamental changes to the B.C. economy. The province acknowledges the high-tech, film and tourism sectors of the economy have seen strong growth in recent years, but with the traditional resource sectors having gone into the tank it could hardly overlook this fact. Still, the emphasis in the economic plan is on reviving the traditional industries, rather than embracing any of the emerging industries. Under tourism, the three year plan lists $20 million for Tourism B.C.’s marketing budget (money that was committed a year ago), a $40 million airport connector highway to Vancouver International Airport, support for the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid and building the new Vancouver Convention Centre, a project that is to be funded by the federal and provincial governments but the two haven’t been able to agree on a cost sharing formula. Forestry, which is still the largest contributor to the province’s GDP, is "experiencing significant economic pressures during a period of notable change. Some of these pressures are market driven, some are structural." But there seems to be little effort to make more of the industry than logging and milling timbers. There are plans to reduce the cost of harvesting trees. Another $500 million of Forest Renewal B.C. money will be "invested this year which will create 6,500 person-years of employment..." And specific initiatives are being developed "to address the key concerns of the forest industries and communities." But as far as doing more with the resource, just $22.4 million of FRBC money will be invested in "value-added" production. To be fair, there are also commitments to education and development of a "high-tech strategy." But compare this approach to that of Oregon, a state that was dependent on the forest industry. More than a decade ago Oregon political leaders decided to take steps to attract high-tech industries. Now more than 10 years later, B.C. is taking modest steps to catch up. And that’s the problem with the NDP’s economic plan, it’s reactionary rather than visionary. B.C. will always be an attractive place to live and, therefore attractive to business "However, the government knows that more work needs to be done. As a result, it is continuing to consult and work with communities on solutions, and is taking a sector-by-sector approach to close the gap between business needs, job creation and investment." (report goes on to update activity and results to date) These uninspiring plans are on top of huge reductions to municipalities (passing on more costs to them) Some limited efforts to share some powers (give local governments more control) but no fundamental changes from the way provincial governments have always viewed the provincial economy and controlled the various sectors. Nothing like Oregon, which a decade ago realized it needed more than the forest industry and then went out and targeted high tech industry. B.C.’s economic plan for the future is reactionary rather than visionary, based on acknowledgement that it has screwed up by over-regulating and attempting to get back to where things were when the economy was good. Most of the "new stuff" is a reaction to success of private sector in film, tourism and high tech. infrastructure investments should be tied to plan for regions

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