The Liberal Party of Canada sent one of their highest ranking B.C. members to Prince George, gathering local perspectives to bring back to Ottawa.
Joyce Murray, MP for Vancouver Quadra and the opposition party’s critic for small business and tourism, visited Prince George on Tuesday and is in Terrace today visiting with economic, political and business leaders of northern B.C.
While here, she asked the Prince George Chamber of Commerce accepted her invitation to join her new small business advisory group.
Also while in Prince George, she met with mayor Shari Green and regional district chair Art Kaehn and other local elected officials, toured UNBC’s bioenergy plant and medical school, and spent time at the Chamber of Commerce office speaking with local business members.
“I’m here to hear about what’s on your radar that should be on my mind when I’m in Ottawa,” she told chamber members.
The issues brought forward to her included Employment Insurance concerns, the skilled labour shortage, old age security changes, and one topic that kept recurring through her day and the conversation at the table: decaying civic infrastructure, particularly roads, bridges, water mains, and sewer pipes.
“Her visit was nonpartisan, she asked to come out of interest in our local business community and our board approved of that because she is definitely one path to Parliament for making improvements to small business,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO Jennifer Brandle-McCall. “We pulled together a few points and some notes to make really apparent to her, to take forward on our behalf.”
In a recent survey of Prince George chamber members, health and infrastructure were the highest ranking concerns of federal responsibility, said Brandle-McCall,. Crumbling city amenities makes it hard to attract and retain a skilled and progressive workforce and promote a healthy businesses climate.
Local chamber members also had criticism over the way federal economic diversification money was spread out among communities, with overly complex application processes and overly tight strings attached.
On this point, Murray had some words of praise for the Conservative government, despite her position on the other side of the House.
“The federal government does have a Red Tape Task Force and that is good,” she said. “I’m an advocate for red tape reduction when it doesn’t undermine the confidence the public wants to have in the economy and how government plays its part in a healthy business climate.”
She had sharp criticism, however, for the federal budget’s spending priorities and choices for cuts. Murray was suspicious of government changes to environmental protections, saying “this isn’t just fine-tuning going on, it is a dismantling” of protections for communities and the small businesses that exist across Canada as the nation’s economic backbone. She said she was an advocate for business and industry of all sorts, but only when it was based on proper free market forces and science, not ideology and favoritism.