Premier Christy Clark encourages communities and businesses on Vancouver Island and across the province to seize the many opportunities presented by the growing demand for B.C.'s plentiful reserves of natural gas around the world.
Speaking at the seventh annual State of the Island Economic Summit in Nanaimo Wednesday, Clark said continued investments in education to meet the required levels of skilled labour needed to be able to successfully take advantage of the economic opportunities in the province's growing natural gas sector are essential.
She said ongoing investments in infrastructure across the province also play a part and announced an investment of $15 million for further safety improvements to the Malahat,
including an additional 2.3 kilometres of median barrier on the highway north of Shawnigan Lake Road.
Clark said work will begin to place the new barriers in 2014 and when this section is complete, more than 50 per cent of the Malahat will be protected.
She said some of the vessels in B.C. Ferries' fleet are getting old and investment in repairing them and making them more efficient, including the possibility of powering them with the province's large supplies of natural gas, are also required.
Clark also said the government's new "LNG Buy B.C.' program, announced last month, will play a major role in helping B.C. seize the opportunities presented through natural gas.
Under the program, the government will act as a "matchmaker," connecting B.C. businesses to the multi-national corporations behind the proposed LNG projects in the province.
Clark said British Columbians have an "incredible chance" ahead of them to create thousands of jobs, pay off the province's debts and become the biggest economy in Canada. "We have the chance to lift up communities with the kind of prosperity we haven't seen in decades and we can't afford to let it slip by," Clark told approximately 500 delegates.
"We must decide what future we want to work towards and grasp it. There is a window of opportunity that's now open to us, but it won't be open forever. Other countries with gas reserves will realize the potential and will want to catch up to where we are now so we must move quickly."
Clark said the forecast is for up to one million new jobs to be created in the province by 2021 if the economic opportunities related to natural gas exports are realized, including 22,000 workers that will be needed to build the pipelines alone.
But she noted that approximately 20 per cent of the students in the province's education system don't graduate, and that number is much higher for aboriginal students, so much more work and effort is needed to keep kids in school and train them for future opportunities.
© Copyright 2013