Vancouver Island needs more workers.
That was one of the messages B.C. Premier John Horgan delivered to a crowd of politicians and business people at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre this afternoon.
The premier was at the conference centre as part of the opening luncheon for the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s Economic Summit, which runs until Oct. 25.
Horgan told the crowd that Vancouver Island’s economic prospects are good, explaining that the unemployment rate is low. However, he also said there is a high demand for skilled labour and that there are simply not enough people on the Island to meet that demand, which is hurting the economy.
“We have more people at the top of the funnel than we do at the bottom of the funnel providing the services, to provide the goods, to provide the workforce to meet the needs of an aging population,” he said, later adding more skilled workers are needed in the health care sector along with more skills training.
Horgan also touched on the need to invest in education within the province, particularly in the fields of math and science. He said even though resource-based jobs are important for the province, the tech sector and other industries are vital to the economy.
“We need to be able to adapt to a high-tech innovative economy,” he said. “It’s not just resources and technology, put the two of them together and in my opinion British Columbia and, in particularly, Vancouver Island are unstoppable.”
While he doesn’t agree with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stance on Trans Mountain, Horgan said he does get along with him on many other issues. He also praised Trudeau and his government’s stance on trading partners who bully.
“I give full marks to the prime minister and his team for not backing down to bullies, but standing up to the values that are represented by Canada, that is represented around the world because of our generosity and because of our approach to lifting up, not just ourselves, but everyone we come across,” Horgan said. “I am proud of that, everyone in this room is proud of that, but if our trade partners are going to disrespect that, then I suggest we need to look for new trade partners.”
Horgan said British Columbia has an “outstanding” relationship with the United States, but that it is important for the province and the Island to continue diversifying the economy and finding other trading partners.
“It’s pretty good to have friends in other places who are prepared to trade with us,” he said, adding that there is “tremendous” opportunities for the province’s agriculture sector in markets throughout Asia.
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