British Columbia

B.C. government touts job growth in 5-year update

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says great improvements have been made in the five years since the introduction of the B.C. Jobs Plan.

B.C. has created 191,500 jobs since 2011, but critics say most of the growth is only in the Lower Mainland

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says B.C. has become a job creation leader in the country since the introduction of the 2011 B.C. Jobs Plan. (CBC)

Premier Christy Clark says the province of British Columbia has become a national leader when it comes to job creation.

As part of a five-year update to the 2011 B.C. Jobs Plan, Clark revealed B.C. has created 191,500 jobs since 2011, moving from ninth place in job creation to first in the country.

She also pointed out B.C. has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada at 5.8 per cent and has a record 2.4 million people working. 

In addition, she said, the province has the highest provincial GDP growth in the country.

"But the statistics are just numbers," Clark said. "When I think about jobs, I think about people. I think of a 40-year-old mother-of-two who is stuck in her job and can't get a better one ... 191,000 jobs created over the last five years makes it easier for that mom to get a better job."

Rural, tech initiatives

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said while B.C. might be leading the country in employment, its research found job creation is concentrated in the Lower Mainland and doesn't extend to the North or rural communities.

B.C.'s traditional economic engine — the northern resource sector — has come under tremendous strain because of falling international commodity prices.

"We recognize that and one of the things if you look at the success of the jobs plan, we know it hasn't been experienced evenly across the province," explained Jobs Minister Shirley Bond on CBC's The Early Edition.

"We certainly live in some very uncertain global economic times and there are industries and communities that have traditionally been the backbone of our economy and they have been hit hard."

In response, Bond will be heading up a new rural development strategy along with Donna Barnett, the minister of state for rural economic development.

The premier also announced she was appointing University of British Columbia president Santo Ono to create an innovation network between the province's post-secondary institutions and B.C.'s technology sector.

In accepting the position, Ono called B.C. "one of the most exciting tech economies in the world" and said universities should be key players in jobs' economy.

'Bungalows, blackjack and booze'

In a later interview with On The Coast host Stephen Quinn, NDP leader John Horgan said the new jobs were not the jobs the premier planned for.

He said no LNG jobs have been created after Clark promised 100,000 jobs over 30 years in 2013, and said mines were closing in the province.

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan says the Liberals' new job numbers gloss over important details. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"The jobs have been coming largely from the Lower Mainland, largely from the service sector, largely low-paying, subsistence jobs," he said.

"[Clark's] probably not going to talk about those forest workers who are not working now. She's not going to talk about those miners who are not working in the mining sector, and she's certainly not going to talk about LNG anymore, because it just didn't happen.

"How sustainable is an economy that's based on bungalows, blackjack and booze? That's what the Liberals have been touting and we need to make sure we diversify and sustain our economy over the long term."

Horgan said the NDP will release a jobs plan closer to the election after the Liberals release the numbers in their next budget.

He said the NDP will prioritize clean-tech and high-tech industries but, as it stands now, the high cost of living in places like the Lower Mainland are hampering those industries.

He also said he wants to reduce raw log exports to create more jobs by adding value to forestry products.

With files from The Early Edition and On The Coast

To listen to the interview with Shirley Bond, click on the link labelled Minister Shirley Bond on provincial job growth

To listen to the interview with John Horgan, click the link labelled John Horgan on provincial job numbers