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BC Green Party commits to tech innovation in election platform

BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, shown in this 2013 file photo, is the party’s lone MLA.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

The BC Green Party has unveiled another slice of its election platform, releasing its plan to boost the province's technology sector.

The Greens announced their plans for a changing economy Wednesday, ahead of a campaign in which the party will attempt to build on, or at the very least hold onto, its lone seat in the provincial legislature. The party has just over 60 candidates nominated to run in the May election but expects to compete in all 87 ridings.

The party's latest policy announcement includes the appointment of an "innovation commissioner" who would advocate for the B.C. tech sector in Ottawa and abroad. Andrew Weaver, the party's leader and lone MLA, said he'd like to lure some of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living and working "in a Trump world" in the United States to B.C.

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"If you want to be a tech innovator, you've got to embrace innovation. By focusing on innovation, we're telling the world that this is a place where you can do business," he said in an interview.

"… We're here for them and I suspect we'll see a brain gain from California, as opposed to historically we've had a brain drain."

The party's plan also calls for the establishment of an "emerging economy task force" to address the changing nature of business, and collaboration with the federal government on progressive tax reform.

But of the plan aspects, Mr. Weaver identified the appointment of an innovation commissioner, and innovation commission, as most important.

"Where you get the best advancements, where you get the biggest bang for your buck, is to actually make the investment at the bottom of the tech pathway. That is, those who are struggling to get that idea going, the investment of $50,000, for example," he said.

"… There are existing federal programs that we can tap into so people aren't lost in the morass of bureaucracy, trying to figure out what programs they can actually get the startup money from to get that idea tested. That's where we're focusing."

The governing BC Liberals have made support for the innovation sector – which employs more people in the province than the oil and gas, and forestry sectors combined – a core part of their strategy since 2015. That strategy has included the introduction of mandatory computer coding education to B.C. grade schools and the creation of a $100-million venture fund. Premier Christy Clark, in a speech at the BC Tech Summit last week, promised to increase the number of tech-sector grads across the province by 1,000 a year if re-elected. Ms. Clark's announcement came one day after the opposition New Democrats released their own tech-sector election platform, which included a commitment that B.C companies would receive a larger share of government IT contracts, as well as $100-million to expand technology-related postsecondary programs.

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The Green Party released the first part of its platform earlier this month.

The rest of its platform will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

"Our platform is like one big delicious cake," Mr. Weaver said.

"It's a cake made up of slivers of various pies, so you're going to get a bit of cream-cheese cake here, and a bit of blueberry cake there. And we're going to offer slivers, bit by bit. As people start to recognize we're here, we're competitive and we're here to govern, then of course we will put out the entire cake for all to see."

When asked what he would consider a successful election result for the Greens, Mr. Weaver said he didn't want to make predictions. "We're running to govern, and I'm hoping the people of British Columbia will give us that opportunity," he said.

With a report from Ian Bailey

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