The minister of labour, citizens’ services and open government stopped in Williams Lake Monday to hear about the challenges and opportunities in the area.
Minister Margaret MacDiarmid met with people from Service B.C., directors from the Cariboo Regional District, and representatives with the Williams Lake & District Chamber of Commerce before meeting with the media and heading into a meeting with Mayor Kerry Cook and then others in Quesnel.
MacDiarmid, speaking about the Service B.C. visit, said “basically what I heard here is that everything is great. They are very happy with the work they are doing, and it sounds like the people they are serving are as well.”
One of the resounding messages MacDiarmid said she heard is that Williams Lake is a great place to live and that there are a number of businesses looking for more workers.
“There are a number of opportunities here and part of what we talked about is how do we advertise this for British Columbians, how do we let people know housing is affordable. There is a great sense of community and fantastic recreation opportunities.”
She believes people in other parts of B.C. are likely looking for work and don’t necessarily know what Williams Lake has to offer.
MacDiarmid said she also heard about other challenges in the area, including it having a tough, resource-based economy.
“There’s been some real opportunities in mining, but some degree of being guarded, knowing that there is some very important First Nations consultation that has to happen.”
While the Prosperity mine is included in that, she said there are also other possible opportunities as well.
“One of the other strengths in the area is tourism, so there needs to be care taken to the environment,” she said. “But overall what I am hearing is there are some great opportunities for families for people to have jobs, good jobs, and good jobs that last for quite some time, and once they’re working, then that helps other businesses.”
She says while the government doesn’t create jobs, there are things it can do to help with the challenges.
“In some cases there is a process that has to occur and government needs to be hands off about it,” she says, adding that government can help in areas such as permitting and getting rid of red tape.
“I’m really clear and so is Premier (Christy) Clark that government does not create jobs, that it is us providing the environment, whether it is the regulatory environment or whether it is the taxation to make British Columbia a great place for people to come and invest or grow businesses,” she said. “That’s how we’ll be successful with respect to jobs and the economy.”
She said also brought up was the need to break down barriers in order to recruit immigrants to work, and that there is a need for more professionals in areas such as health care and mechanics. She said some businesses may be prepared to take on apprentices but are still having a hard time attracting people.
While she didn’t hear much on the forestry front during her visit, she says she is aware of it being an important issue. She also heard about the difficulty finding truck drivers, and a potential solution could be having training in the area.
“There is the product and not the ability to move it because of the limited number of drivers.”
She says there is unemployment yet also a demand for new workers, partly due to competition.