Premier Christy Clark wants to increase the number of international students studying in B.C. in the next four years as a way to bolster the provincial economy.
Clark told a news conference Tuesday at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops there are currently 94,000 international students in B.C., and their presence creates 22,000 jobs and contributes $1.25 billion to the economy. She wants to increase the overseas student population by 50 per cent.
"If we can meet those targets, we can put 9,000 people to work and put another $500 million into our economy," she said.
Clark focused on international education and regional skills training on the second day of her jobs tour of the province where she is rolling out the first major policy initiative of her government.
Clark said she will create an international education council to promote B.C.'s efforts to attract overseas students, especially those from Asia, India, China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
British Columbia already has an international education council, but Clark's spokesman said her announcement Tuesday will go beyond that mandate.
Clark said her new council will use B.C.'s trade offices abroad to help connect international students to B.C. educational opportunities.
Opposition New Democrat Carole James said the premier's focus on international studies is her second recycled Liberal announcement in what was billed as a new jobs strategy.
James said the Liberals made courting and increasing international students a focus of former premier Gordon Campbell, who created the international education council.
"We already have a panel on international education," said James. "So why would you recreate the wheel?"
James said Clark's support of a $90-million expansion of the rail and road capacity at the Port of Prince Rupert in northwest B.C. was also a recycled announcement made by Campbell when he announced a gateway initiative to attract markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
The premier concludes her jobs tour on Thursday when she outlines the entire program at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon.