The critic for small business and tourism just wrapped up a trip of the Kootenays to get a snapshot of ongoing issues through a rural lens.
Joyce Murray, Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra, has heard an earful from municipal, business and tourism leaders in the East and West Kootenay and now plans to meet with the Canadian Tourism Commission to make sure rural communities are put on its radar.
“I want to ensure that my report to the Liberal Party caucus and leader about small business tourism and Asia-Pacific issues is not Vancouver centric – I need that rural lens,” she said Wednesday, following stops in Trail and Castlegar
Many of the main points – like the need for partnerships when it comes to economic development and the diversification of jobs –echoed in the region’s communities.
The need to work together to have a stronger voice is key, she said, when it comes to marketing the area to investors, tourists, and skilled employees and to lobby the federal government for financial support.
“Some of the skilled trades people that the employers need aren’t available. People are retiring and kids are going away and not coming back,” she said. “Skilled people are needed, whether it’s for Columbia Power, the smelter in Trail, Celgar. I heard it from the coal industry, I heard it from the resort industry – there are skilled jobs that they can’t fill.”
Murray would like to see the funds “given away” through corporate tax cuts shifted toward incubating entrepreneurship all while supporting communities in marketing and infrastructure.
Her biggest beef right now is that Canada is the only G20 country that says it won’t be participating in the world fair expo next year in Yeosu, South Korea.
“This is an unusual thing, to say the least, when everybody else in the G20 is participating and Canada is not,” she said. “It’s a slap in the face to Korea, which is a very important trading partner, especially in British Columbia.”
An event of that caliber could really help highlight some quieter corners of the province that in many ways are considered B.C.’s little secrets.
“Seventy per cent of new business investing in this region first came as visitors to the area, that tells you that attracting tourists isn’t just about the immediate tourism dollars but it’s about attracting people to come and move here and raise their families and start up business,” said Murray, who raised two of her children in Riendel.
“My view and the Liberal party’s view is that given the need for economic stability and diversification in the Kootenays and given the importance of the region outside of the cities, where 80 per cent of our export wealth comes from, it is important that the federal government partners up to help with these strategies that are being worked out.”