Skip to main content

Fortis BC LNG Operations manager Brian Neary at the Natural Gas Storage Facility in Mt. Hayes, B.C. While the Liberal government has stressed the need for skills and education, the provincial budget tabled Feb. 18 does not provide any extra funding for training LNG workers.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government is hoping the private sector will help pay to train the workers required for a liquefied natural gas boom projected to create up to 100,000 jobs and wipe out the province's debt.

The Speech from the Throne and comments from the Premier have highlighted the need for schools to train graduates who are better attuned to private-sector needs.

But the government did not allot more spending in Tuesday's provincial budget to train workers to help along B.C.'s LNG potential. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the private sector will need to help.

"We're not going to ask the taxpayers to shoulder this burden on their own. We see the potential for partnerships with the industrial sector that are going to be at the forefront in terms of the demands for these workers, so there is, we think, a partnership opportunity that needs to be developed," Mr. de Jong told a news conference during the budget lockup.

Mr. de Jong did not provide any other specifics. Earlier this week, Premier Christy Clark suggested post-secondary institutions should do more to provide graduates who meet the needs of the private sector. In the Throne Speech, the Liberals said they would change the education system to produce skilled tradespeople in the coming decade.

The budget shows a decline in spending at the Ministry of Advanced Education, which is being cut by $17-million between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, with a further $25-million reduction in 2015-2016.

Asked about the issue, Mr. de Jong tallied up various spending commitments in skills training and said they highlighted a commitment to meet the province's needs in the area.

The 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.

Over all, the province is allotting $1.5-billion to maintain, replace, expand and renovate K-12 educational facilities in B.C.

The minister was non-committal on another key educational issue, notably the potential economic impact of a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling that restores teachers' bargaining rights of more than a decade ago. Education Minister Peter Fassbender has said the ruling could cost $1-billion. The government is appealing it.

Budget documents say costs associated with the ruling present a "risk" to the balanced budget.

Asked about the issue, Mr. de Jong said the government has two options for dealing with such unexpected costs, raising taxes or reallocating funds.

The minister said the government has generally ruled out tax hikes.

Of reallocating, he said, "That is never a happy circumstance."

He did not comment further.

Follow me on Twitter: @ianabailey

British Columbia Finance Minister Mike de Jong introduced a balanced budget for 2014-2015, noting the only other province to do so this year is possibly Saskatchewan (full story here). Here are some highlights: