Thursday, February 12, 2015

MLA Barnett on 2015 Throne Speech

Text of Response to Speech from the Throne as delivered in the BC Legislature by Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett:

I am pleased to rise today and have the opportunity to respond to the throne speech. But first and foremost, I would like to begin by acknowledging and thanking each of the constituents of the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding. I appreciate the enduring small-town spirit and the resilience of the constituents of Cariboo-Chilcotin, who want to help themselves and others. I would also like to thank my constituency assistants, Bonnie Gavin and Beverly Harris; my legislative assistant Chantel Elloway; and staff and my dear friends and family.

British Columbia has been built on a vision. It was never built in one day. It was built in time

Our government has taken bold steps towards realizing that vision by focusing on economic growth, creating jobs and focusing on our thriving resource industries. We have worked to predict the needs of the economy, to work with the private sector, whether that's mining, forestry, natural gas, agriculture, technology or tourism, to understand what their needs are going to be and then work backward to re-engineer our educational system and to ensure that British Columbians have the skills that they need to be able to take advantage of the one million new jobs by 2020, where close to half will be in trades and technical professions.

The importance of resource industries. It is one thing to say we choose growth; it is another to find new ways to grow. Our government has done this with 18 proposed LNG export projects, consistently being in the top three provinces for business confidence, more than 250 treaty and non-treaty agreements with First Nations and trade up with China by 1,900 percent over ten years. We have increased softwood and lumber exports 20-fold, mining employment has doubled since 2001, and we are on track to balancing our third consecutive budget in a row.

British Columbians elected us on a promise of a strong economy and secure tomorrow. We're delivering on this mandate for British Columbians today and for future generations. We are going to stick with the plan. That is a plan that means we are going to support the resource economy in our province. We are going to grow British Columbia jobs. We are going to focus on international trade. We are going to build a workforce that is second to none. And we are going to create a future for our children, the equal of what our parents and grandparents created for us, bar none.

Our province has a choice to make. Do we choose the path of growth, create hope for the future and leave a sustainable legacy for our children, grandchildren and future generations? Or do we continue along our existing path and not seize on the opportunity presented to us? Our government believes that taking the path less travelled will truly make all the difference. That is why it is time we not only think outside the box, but it is time to act.

Our government is taking action and looking at ways to say yes to job growth, yes to responsible resource development, yes to standing up for the skills they need and yes to the interests of all British Columbians regardless of where in the province they live.

We do this by working together to achieve the best possible future for our province and responsibly develop our resources so we can create a legacy that will indeed benefit all British Columbians.

Agriculture. A legacy is not only something previously received, but it is also the contributions made. British Columbia is planting the seeds of growth today, the growth of our economy, of jobs and of the secure tomorrow. The seeds sown today will be the harvest of tomorrow.

Today the economy of the Cariboo region is resource-based — forestry, mining, tourism and a strong and unique agriculture sector. With agriculture representing one of the earliest primary industries in the Cariboo-Chilcotin since the gold rush days, it is truly our ranchers who are the heart of B.C. food production.

Our nation was built on the work of not only ranchers but foresters, who work hard to feed our families and sustain rural communities.

Forestry is a multigenerational industry that has created nearly 58,000 jobs in very small communities.

The William title case. I understand there is an uneasy feeling in the West Chilcotin as those who have timber tenures, private land grazing leases are waiting to hear about their jobs in very small communities.

Last year's Supreme Court decision presented all of us with a unique opportunity, a chance to build a better, more stable and fairer partnership with B.C.'s First Nations peoples and provide certainty for all.

It is industries such as mining that have sustained the people of British Columbia from the very beginning. We believe this is the right approach, as it enables First Nations to fully participate in economic development and brings more benefits quickly to aboriginal communities.

It starts with agreements. Since 2006 the provincial government has signed over 250 significant agreements with First Nations.

They range from history-making treaties and reconciliation agreements to economic development agreements.

The Cariboo is a region dependent on forestry, but as previously and currently, benefits from the mining and mineral exploration sector. Mining takes up a very small portion of B.C.'s land base — less than 1 percent — but it makes a tremendous impact on our economy. British Columbia's economy and workers benefit greatly from mining, contributing millions in revenue to help pay for services like health care and education, and employs over 30,000 workers with an average salary of $114,000.

Mining provides well-paying, secure jobs throughout British Columbia and is one of the most important industries in the province. Our mining industry is respected around the world, as we are becoming more attractive to investors and creating partnerships with First Nations in support of resource development.

As a result, our government recently announced it will establish a major mines permitting office to improve the coordination of mine permits across government, add staff to conduct more inspections and permit reviews, and improved turnaround times for work permits.

In addition, the environmental assessment certificate for the Prosperity gold copper project, located over 120 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, has been extended for another five years.

We are more than halfway towards achieving our jobs plan goals of eight new mines and nine mine expansions by 2015. To continue our success, our government building and maintaining partnerships with industry, communities, government and First Nations.

It is fostering these partnerships and continuing to improve permitting processes that we'll continue to benefit communities in our province and strengthen our mining industry so it will strive for decades to come.

The Mount Polley devastation. One of the many ways that our community in the Cariboo-Chilcotin has collaborated and shown their resilient, small-town spirit is by their strength and support in good times and bad times and standing together as one.

We know today that the accident in Mount Polley could have happened anywhere, but it happened here in British Columbia.

Now that we know the cause we can devote all of our energy to
taking the leadership in Canada and internationally to learn from this and ensure it never happens again.

I hope that the mine opens up soon, as approximately 400 workers depend on this mine to take care of their families, and not to forget all of the support service they provide — schools, health care, small business and other professions that are used to support these 400 workers.

Responsible stewardship of the environment is a vital element of natural resource industries, and if there are findings that make them better and safer our government is going to do it.

Our local economy is not only based on agriculture, forestry and mining, but also tourism. Although it is the land that sustains us, the Cariboo couldn't be without the people that enrich its culture, history make them better and safer, our government is going to do it.

Our local economy is not only based on agriculture, forestry and mining, but also tourism. Although it is the land that sustains us, the Cariboo couldn't be without the people that enrich its culture, history and uniqueness. With so much diversity of family owned and operated local businesses, the business owners still have that welcoming rural, small-town spirit.

I am so proud of the Cariboo-Chilcotin region, which is rich in the spirit of adventure and is such a beautiful land that is full of entrepreneurs, outdoor enthusiasts, artists, explorers, and families in our community that contribute so much to making those from close by or far away want to visit, work and play.

As a former mayor of 100 Mile House, the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for Rural Development, and holding the responsibility of leading the new rural advisory council on the creation and implementation of the rural dividend, I have truly been a longtime advocate and believer in the importance of rural B.C.

The majority of wealth is generated by resource development in rural areas. In 1908 natural resources were the only game in town.

Whether you were born here or had just arrived, natural resources offered the only real chance to build a career. But those unexpected changes are the ones that we will adapt to — even find opportunity in.

The concept of a dividend recognizes that when investments in our communities yield results, we have to ensure that the communities are able to share those benefits. We need to ensure that rural British Columbians have an equitable share in the economic benefits generated from resource-based industries.

In B.C. our strength in so many diverse sectors means we have protected B.C. from being dependent on a single market or single commodity downturn. That's progress, but there is still much work that needs to be done. With the innovation and collaboration from citizens of rural communities, we all hold our destiny within ourselves — a destiny that is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice.

British Columbia made a strong choice by re-electing our government, who has a clear vision. Let us lead, and we be partners, as together we make British Columbia stronger.

The throne speech enforces how our government is supporting the economy by creating the winning conditions for business, developing our workforce, supporting rural communities, promoting entrepreneurship, driving innovation and, most importantly, growing our natural resource sector. The throne speech is one that I am proud to be a supporter of, and I urge all my colleagues to do so and support and vote for this throne speech.

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