The government has its place in facilitating economic growth but Christy Clark is happy to limit government meddling.
The premier spoke at a Smithers Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Friday where she outlined some of her vision for the province while also fielding questions from those who turned out to see her.
She described the entire Northwest region as being on the “cusp” of economic opportunity as we share a close connection to emerging Asian markets.
She had been at the grand re-opening of the Kitwanga mill earlier in the day and said positive developments like that will continue in the area.
“What happened in Kitwanga is going to be happening all over the Northwest. It will be happening in mining, it will be happening in all the other resource sectors,” she said.
She thinks it’s important for the government to step back from actual resource harvesting and focus more on getting the product to the market.
“This is a part of the world that has things that everybody else wants,” she said. “It’s government’s job to figure out how to get out of the way of getting it harvested or out of the ground and then figuring out how to help make sure it gets to port so we can get it to market.”
Ideally she said she would like to see all logs harvesting in B.C. processed here as well but admitted that is not always possible, partly in how the raw logs come from private lands, she said.
“China wants our lumber, and what we’re trying to do is open up the market in China for wood frame housing and wood frame commercial buildings,” she said, as a way to encourage more value-added products processed in the province.
She said a one-third of the province’s annual allowable cut now goes to Asia.
“We have to continue growing that market for processed wood.” she said. “That’s what we’re focused on.”
Developing the area’s ports, Prince Rupert and Kitimat, is also a focus and she said there will be a lot of money being invested in expanding the ports and growing Prince Rupert’s and giving Kitimat the resources it needs to facilitate growing interest in liquid natural gas developments.
Executive Director at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en officially welcomed the premier and guests, including Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell, to traditional territory but also gave the premier some words of advice.
Pierre said that there needs to be more reinvestment into the opportunities and the people in the Northwest.
Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson said that it was good the premier came to the Northwest and that opportunities do arise in informing her on some of the realities of the north.
He said he agrees with Clark that the Northwest is on the cusp of some pretty good potential, but that the government needs to demonstrate its willingness to create an atmosphere where the opportunity can be taken advantage of.
He said it wasn’t demonstrated in the case of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en who were not informed that Clark would be coming to the area.
“When the Wet’suwet’en see that kind of attitude displayed it definitely sets up back in the relationship building,” he said.
A recent report from the Auditor General said the government is failing to properly oversee major projects or to follow up with work promised for environmental damage.
“It creates a lot of distrust among the general populace about whether we can actually monitor the impacts of the development properly,” he said. “I agree we’re on the cusp but it’s incumbent on her government to demonstrate we can actually take advantage of it.”