A PROVINCIAL plan to put welfare recipients to work in the northwest will first concentrate on people who live in the region, says the minister responsible for the project.
And only when every attempt has been made to employ northwestern welfare recipients will the search expand to other areas of the province, says provincial jobs minister Pat Bell.
Bell was clarifying comments by finance minister Kevin Falcon that the province was considering flying up welfare recipients from the south for jobs in the north and provide them with accommodation and training.
“There’s certainly the notion in the lower mainland that the north has got lots of economic potential,” said Bell by way of explaining Falcon’s remarks.
The prospect of BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, mines, power projects, the rebuilding of Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat aluminum smelter and liquefied natural gas plants has opened the possibility to the northwest having thousands of jobs available within a few years.
If anything, Bell said Falcon was indicating that unlike other periods in BC history, young people from the lower mainland aren’t as eager to come north to find work.
“I think what he was doing was sending a message,” said Bell. He agreed that Falcon was acting as a parent would in speaking with a child.
Bell wouldn’t go as far as to say he wants a new government jobs program, instead saying he wants his ministry to spend more time assisting individual welfare recipients or jobless people getting what they need in order to find work,
“We spend $60 million a year on 100 different programs and many people fall through the cracks,” said Bell.