Dix to focus on tech sector, skills training
B.C. Opposition leader Adrian Dix turned his focus to the province's high tech sector with a tour of local companies Thursday that included Burnaby's Webtech Wireless.
The leader of the B.C. New Democrats told reporters outside Webtech's offices that despite the large number of employees in tech and entertainment companies, "there's a lack of significant presence of some of those industries in the [province's] Jobs Plan."
"We have to take efforts to ensure these industries, which create lots of jobs, lots of opportunities, especially for young people, get adequate support," said Dix, noting the tour is part of efforts to inform the NDP as it prepares an alternate approach to some of B.C.'s key economic issues heading into the May 14 election.
"Natural gas is very important, LNG (liquid natural gas) is very important. These industries are very important, we have to promote them. But we have to pay attention to also where a lot of the jobs are," he said. "We think of some of the biggest industrial developments in B.C., in forestry and mining, and we're seeing major new projects with comparatively low employment compared to the density of employment we're seeing here [in the tech sector].
"So we have to do both, not one or the other. It's not resource industry or high tech, it's not a creative industry or forestry, it's all of the above, that's what we have to continue to work to do."
When asked how the NDP's plan to raise government revenues by increasing corporate taxes will affect companies such as those in the tech sector, Dix said, "I think we've got to make sure we're competitive with other jurisdictions. So that's why there won't be any reintroduction of the capital tax, there'll be no change to the small business tax."
But in addition to being competitive on taxation, the key, he said, is to make sure there's an adequate skilled, trained workforce. Representatives from the manufacturing sector have told him they could create jobs if only they could find trained people to hire.
"The government's job isn't to create private sector jobs, it's to ensure the environment is there for the creation of those jobs. And these days when we're facing a skills shortage, a lot of that is about skills training," Dix said.
"If we're going to make specific improvements, specific increases in revenue, I think we've got to show where that money will go ... That's why when we say we would reinstate a minimum tax on the big banks, for example, the money isn't going just into general revenue, it's going to be focused on ensuring that people have access to the post-secondary education they need for the jobs of the future."