British Columbia

B.C. Jobs Plan success gives Liberals bragging rights heading into election

Five years after the launch of the provincial Jobs Plan, the B.C. government is calling it a big success. For the B.C. Liberals, the numbers couldn't have come at a better time.

But economist says most of the factors pushing the B.C. economy forward are outside government's control

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond says the province is leading the country in job and economic growth five years after the launch of the B.C. Jobs Plan. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Five years after the launch of the provincial Jobs Plan, the B.C. government is calling it a big success.

And with the next provincial election looming on the horizon, the numbers could not have come at a better time for Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals.

Clark launched the B.C Jobs Plan in 2011  when the province was trailing the country in terms of unemployment and job losses.

At the time, it included the lofty goal of being number one in the country in job creation by 2015, which seemed more like wishful thinking for several years.

Just last year, the plan still seemed stuck in second gear, with the province ranked 5th in Canada for job growth.

But this morning, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond was not shy about pointing out that the province now has the fastest growing economy in the country.

Bond noted the province went from ninth in job growth to leading the country with the highest job creation record in Canada at 7.9 per cent,

B.C. also went from having the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in Canada to currently having the lowest unemployment rate at 5.6 per cent, she said, with a record-setting 2.3 million British Columbian's now employed.

Similarly, the province went from fourth in economic growth to first today, she said.

Tech sector growth complicated

Bond credited the diversity in the economy for helping it weather the economic downturn facing other province's such as Alberta, which has been badly hit by the fall in the price of oil and gas.

"Even though we are in the downturn in terms of the resource economy, it is the other sectors in the economy that are driving the growth."

And she said future economic growth is expected in four new sectors: clean tech, life sciences, digital media, advanced manufacturing.

But high tech firms and others have complained they are struggling to find employees because the province has not done a good enough job ensuring living in Metro Vancouver is affordable.

Bond said driving growth in the tech sector is complicated but involves "making sure that we are identifying the in-demand trades and jobs both now and in the future."

"It's a combination of things. It is certainly about recruitment, about retention and it's about training."

Economist credits external factors

Central 1 Credit Union economist Bryan Yu agrees the diversity of B.C.'s economy, along with a low tax rate and a balanced fiscal budget likely played a roll in the recent performance.

But Yu says most of the factors pushing B.C. to the front of the pack economically these days are external macro-economic trends that are outside the provincial government's control.

"I think the overall drivers now are much more than government," he said, listing low interest rates, the low exchange rates as major drivers of B.C.s recent economic growth.

More significantly, Yu says while the most recent numbers are quite strong for B.C., it's still just a short-term trend after years of treading water.

"If we just look to the most recent year, we are easily leading the country in terms of job growth.

"It's been very strong in the past year, but we have definitely just come off a couple of lackluster years," said Yu.

Bragging rights for the election

Nevertheless, the rosy jobs numbers could not have come at a better time for the government, which is just starting to roll out its campaign for the upcoming provincial election in May.

In 2013, Premier Christy Clark defied expectations and led the party to an upset victory over the NDP with a campaign message that was focused heavily on job creation, despite much evidence the plan was having a positive effect.

So it should come as no surprise the party's newest ads are already featuring Clark sitting around a kitchen table drinking coffee with a group of British Columbians while bragging about the latest job creation numbers.

With files from Richard Zussman

About the Author

Mike Laanela is an online journalist with CBC News in Vancouver.