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ANALYSIS

Little grist for NDP in Clark's jobs agenda Add to ...

Premier Christy Clark has presented only a small target for the opposition New Democratic Party with her jobs plan to date.

The NDP is in favour of building a liquefied natural gas industry, supports the expansion of the port at Prince Rupert and wants more resources in post-secondary education – all elements of the Clark jobs plan.

Carole James, the NDP MLA sent out in front of the cameras to respond to the second day of Ms. Clark’s jobs rollout, couldn’t point to an element she opposes. Instead, she said the Premier hasn’t lived up to her own billing.

“It’s the Premier herself who said this is going to be a new job plan that’s going to create all kinds of jobs and new initiatives in British Columbia. Day Two and we haven’t seen that.”

B.C. Conservative Party Leader John Cummins has more room to go up against the government. On Tuesday, he denounced the strategy as a waste of public funds by a photo-op-hungry Premier who is responsible for a job-killing hike in the minimum wage.

Ms. Clark has scheduled events every day this week to unveil her job-creation plan. She still has time to break new ground and come up with promised innovations to stimulate the economy – without a whole lot of stimulus cash. By Thursday, billed as the main event in her week of daily announcements, the New Democrats may have something to oppose.

But Mr. Cummins has an easier task of exploiting any weaknesses in her plan, observed Norm Ruff, political science professor emeritus of the University of Victoria.

“John Cummins has a fundamental consistency to his critique,” said Mr. Ruff. His upstart party has no baggage from having served in government, and he doesn’t have to manage a caucus of differing views.

In fact, Mr. Cummins sounds more like Ms. Clark’s predecessor, Gordon Campbell – a calculated bid to attract disenchanted B.C. Liberal supporters to his right-of-centre party.

“She’s off on an agenda that’s left-liberal, very much NDP,” Mr. Cummins said in an interview Tuesday. “She is trying to identify the winners and losers, dropping money on what they see as a winning project.”

Mr. Cummins said he supports the Pacific Gateway expansion, but he believes the government is tossing money away by investing $15-million in the Prince Rupert port expansion, the first major announcement in Ms. Clark’s program this week.

“If it was needed to prime the pump that’s one thing, but my take is, this project should be able to stand on its own,” he said. “Those jobs are going to happen anyway.”

The New Democrats this week were muted by comparison, complaining that the project expansion is simply a rehash of Mr. Campbell’s Pacific Gateway strategy.

NDP Leader Adrian Dix would have been rolling out his own platform this month if Ms. Clark had called the provincial election, but now he is holding back on details of what he’d do differently.

On Tuesday, the Premier was in Kamloops to announce plans to increase the number of international students attending the province’s post-secondary institutions. She also pledged money for better co-ordination of skills-training programs, with labour invited to sit at the table.

Ms. James called the plan disappointing because it doesn’t do enough: “This is probably one of the biggest areas that I believe needs funding – apprenticeship and trades training.”

There are two different approaches but hardly the stuff of big-wedge politics.

The bottom line of both the NDP and the Liberal plans sounds the same – the province needs to do more to ensure that young people in B.C. can gain the education they need to meet the needs of the province’s economy of the future.

Little wonder the Liberals have just launched attack ads against Mr. Cummins, rather than the opposition New Democratic Party. He is, this week, the more dangerous critic.

Follow on Twitter: @justine_hunter

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