Prince George, May 27, 2017 – From May 24-26, Prince George hosted the BC Chamber Annual General Meeting & Conference, the province’s foremost business gathering. More than 160 delegates voted on 51 resolutions. The experience in Prince George was very well received by those in attendance, with many delegates expressing their desire to return to the city. All four of the resolutions brought to the floor by the Prince George Chamber of Commerce were adopted by the provincial membership. These adopted policies now become part of the BC Chamber’s advocacy agenda. “We are pleased the hard work of the Advocacy Committee on behalf of members has paid off,” says Prince George Chamber President Cindi Pohl, “Our success reflects the high level of engagement of our members in developing policies that will benefit the business community.” The resolutions put forward by the Prince George Chamber include:
“Investing in Northern Highway Infrastructure”
Overview: Northern BC plays an integral role in the overall economy of the province. Northern exports per capita are more than one and a half times the provincial per capita export amount. The ongoing growth of exports leaving Canada via the Port of Prince Rupert, and other northwestern ports, continues to increase the importance of a safe and efficient highway infrastructure throughout Northern British Columbia in order for the province to fully realize its economic potential. The Chambers recommend that the Provincial Government include in the ten year transportation plan a number of improvements to highways in Northern BC.
“Improvements to BC’s Highway Permit System”
Overview: In preparation for the upcoming construction of Liquefied Natural Gas (“LNG”) pipelines, we need to re-examine the permit process in BC. Specifically, we need to ensure consistency across other provinces in the delivery of oversized goods and materials, which will be required as LNG construction starts. In addition to LNG activities, increases in the forest and mining sectors, combined with larger machines required to complete construction and harvesting activities, are driving the need for permit reform. The Chambers recommend increasing free universal travel load permits from 64 tonne to 85 tonnes along all highway corridors; developing an online permit application process which also allows for an amendment to be filed on an already existing permit in real time; developing a consistent approach to permitting heavy oversized loads with all western provinces (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba); extending the time frame for extra-ordinary permits greater than 85 tonnes from 48hrs to 90 days.
“Addressing BC’s Technology and Engineering Skills Shortage”
Overview: The provincial government has undertaken a significant amount of work in enhancing BC’s skills training and closely aligning these programs with proven industry need. $185 million will be invested over three years in infrastructure and equipment for skills and trades training. It is imperative that the money be strategically allocated across BC, and that for Northern BC, the allocation focus on technological and engineering training. The Chambers recommend that the provincial government allocates the $185 million for the BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint strategically across BC, that the share for Northern BC be proportionate to the economic opportunity associated with proposed projects, and that the allocation focuses on technological and engineering training in the North.
“Online Municipal Voting”
Overview: The current voter participation levels in municipal and provincial elections are extremely low and signal very poor engagement of the constituents. Internet voting is a method that reduces many potential barriers and therefore can positively impact engagement. The Chamber recommends that the Provincial Government commence a plan to implement a province wide approach to an electronic ballot system for the 2018 municipal elections; amend the appropriate legislation to allow for the option of electronic ballots in municipal elections; establish an independent technical committee to evaluate internet voting systems to ensure the Elections BC criteria are met.
Communications Coordinator, Prince George Chamber of Commerce