B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her government can’t train thousands of workers for the liquefied natural gas sector alone and she’ll be looking to the private sector and Ottawa for help.
Ms. Clark told reporters she met with federal Industry Minister James Moore on Tuesday to discuss Ottawa’s jobs-training initiative. The Canada Job Grant program has angered provinces over concerns Ottawa is funding it by cutting $300-million in transfers to the provinces for training.
The federal government has set an April 1 deadline to proceed with the program anyway.
“I am still hopeful we can find a solution on it. I think that [federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney] would like to find a solution. We certainly would like to find a solution. They are a very important partner in making sure British Columbians are first in line for those jobs,” Ms. Clark said.
B.C. Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, who is working on a decade-long plan to map out the province’s skills-training needs, has said federal threats to unilaterally proceed with the plan are “unfortunate.” Finance Minister Mike de Jong has said the federal effort won’t work without consensus with the provinces.
Ms. Clark was appearing at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon to tout the province’s budget, delivered Tuesday. The budget contained no new money for skills training, despite the hopes the province has pinned on a developing the LNG industry to pay off the provincial debt and create tens of thousands of jobs.
Ms. Clark said the private sector and its unions have an important role to play.
“The only way we’re going to meet this skills challenge is to make sure it’s all hands on deck,” she said.
In 2012, the B.C. Liberal government announced a skills-training plan, but cut advanced education funding. After the May, 2013, election, Ms. Clark met with private-sector union leaders to talk about training for the LNG sector. Last week’s Throne Speech promised action to get more people into trades training.
Tuesday’s provincial budget outlined $2.3-billion in capital spending for facilities that would offer skills training, including new trades-training facilities at Camosun College in Victoria and an expanded trades-training complex at Okanagan College in Kelowna
Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C., said his members are generally supportive of Ms. Clark’s views on training and LNG.
He said government’s role is to establish training infrastructure, such as schools, and efficient regulation.
“My members’ job is to train the people when there is the work available,” he said. “They do it now and they will train more people when there are more job opportunities there.”
Mr. Hochstein said government and industry have always shared the responsibility.
“Government is focusing its scarce resources on the area that is within their control and needs some funding. It’s very astute of the government to use its scarce resources wisely.”