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BC Premier Christy Clark announces new skills and training money as part of her BC Jobs Plan Tuesday Sept. 20, 2011, during a press conference in Kamloops, B.C. (Keith Anderson/ The Canadian Press/Keith Anderson/ The Canadian Press)
BC Premier Christy Clark announces new skills and training money as part of her BC Jobs Plan Tuesday Sept. 20, 2011, during a press conference in Kamloops, B.C. (Keith Anderson/ The Canadian Press/Keith Anderson/ The Canadian Press)

Robert Matas

Crosscheck: Does Christy Clark's jobs plan add up? Add to ...

“Defending and creating jobs is the primary mission of my government. It will be my primary mission until I finish this job as Premier,” Christy Clark said during the first stop on a week-long tour to unveil new programs.

About 184,100 people were unemployed last month in British Columbia, an increase of about 5,000 from the previous month.

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Premier Christy Clark this week is unveiling the government’s response. Shunning the B.C. legislature, where government programs are traditionally announced, she is travelling the province to set out job-creation initiatives as if she were in an election campaign.

So far, however, her new initiatives do not include any promises of immediate work for those who are looking for jobs in B.C. now.

Unemployment is particularly acute among first nations and Métis. The rate for aboriginal youth last year was 21.4 per cent, according to a May report from BC Stats. The rate for all ages of B.C. first nations and Métis – 14.6 per cent – was double that of the non-aboriginal population.

The B.C. apprenticeship program may also require attention. An increasing number of apprentices are having trouble finding work. “After several years in a row of unemployment rates under 3 per cent, the jump to 8 per cent in 2009 and a further increase to 11 per cent in 2010 were startling,” says the recently released 2010 Apprenticeship Student Outcomes Survey.

The provincewide jobless rate stood at 7.5 per cent in August. Unemployment increased in most regions, BC Stats reported. In the Kootenay region in the southeast corner of the province, the jobless rate rose to 9.5 per cent.

Ms. Clark has announced a $15-million provincial contribution to a $90-million road, rail and utility corridor to the Port of Prince Rupert. The project will not begin until mid-2012. The government says that, once it starts, it will create 570 temporary construction jobs.

She promised to take steps to help bring the $4-billion Kitimat liquefied natural-gas plant into operation by 2015. She anticipated two additional liquefied natural-gas plants by 2020. The Kitimat plant is expected to provide 120 to 140 permanent positions. The plant will be supplied by a $1.2-billion natural-gas pipeline that will create 1,500 temporary construction jobs.

The terminal has received federal and provincial environmental approval, but does not yet have a National Energy Board licence to export the natural gas. Also, the province is still working on a memorandum of understanding with the Haisla Nation and the federal government.

Ms. Clark announced plans to attract 47,000 more international students to B.C. by 2015, holding out the prospect of 9,000 new jobs. B.C. now has 94,000 international students – 30 per cent of all international students living in Canada – who pay considerably higher tuition than B.C. residents. Each institution sets its own fees.

For instance, the University of British Columbia charges foreign students $44,657 for a 12-month education program that costs B.C. residents $10,434. The Vancouver School Board charges $13,000 for schooling that is free to B.C. residents.

The strategy is to target students in fields in high demand, such as the trades and health care. Ms. Clark’s announcement did not include support for expansion of education institutions to meet the increased demand or a commitment that neither local access nor academic standards would be compromised to accommodate a rush of foreign students.

Ms. Clark also announced the government would kick in $3-million more to its $30-million annual budget for a small-business venture-capital tax credit and extend funding for an apprenticeship training tax credit program. No job counts were provided for either initiative, although the government says the venture-capital tax credit supports investments annually of $100-million.

On Thursday, Ms. Clark is scheduled to speak at a Vancouver Board of Trade event, sponsored by Concord Pacific Developments, Telus, Port Metro Vancouver and two local Vancouver newspapers. She is expected to outline the government’s long-term strategy on job creation.

But the unemployed need work now. She has yet to do anything for today’s job seekers.

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