January 12, 2015 BC Chamber Public Affairs Update

Public Affairs Update Header
January 12, 2015
In This Issue
Prime Minister Harper announces new initiative to promote skilled trades
B.C. government supports PST increase to fight congestion
New B.C. regulation bans oil from natural gas pipelines
The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada.  This newsletter is brought to you by the largest and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.

Prime Minister Harper announces new initiative to promote skilled trades
 Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited British Columbia last week to announce a new initiative aimed at supporting Canadians looking to find work in the skilled trades.

At a campaign-style announcement in Delta, the prime minister announced that apprentices registered in a Red Seal trade can now apply for student loans for up to $4,000 per period of technical training. The federal government estimates the program will provide more than $100 million in loans to more than 26,000 apprentices each year. This change marks the first time that Canada Student Loan money will be available for those in trades and apprenticeships.

Also this week, the B.C. government introduced a new initiative to speed up immigration times for international skilled workers. Express Entry British Columbia will allow eligible applicants to receive priority processing of applications under the Provincial Nominee Program and the permanent residence application process. The provincial initiative will work in tandem with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s new Express Entry application system. The initiative will allow B.C. to nominate an estimated 1,350 more skilled applicants in 2015 than 2014.

B.C government supports PST increase to fight congestion 
The B.C. government has announced it supports a 0.5 point increase to the PST to fund transit and other transportation improvements in B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone says the province believes voters should support the Yes campaign, but he stopped short of providing provincial dollars to support it. The province will contribute some money to the referendum, but Stone says that will go towards enabling the vote, not towards promoting a Yes vote. The BC Liberals join the BC NDP in supporting the Yes side. The Greens will remain neutral.

The language of the referendum question has also been changed. Now, it says the tax increase will apply to the majority of goods and services. It is unclear whether some items may now be exempted.

A number of business, labour and environmental groups have created a coalition to support the Yes side, emphasizing the need to address growing traffic congestion in Metro Vancouver.

New B.C. regulation bans oil from natural gas pipelines
The Government of B.C. announced new regulation this week banning the conversion of proposed natural gas pipelines being developed for LNG to carry oil or bitumen.

B.C. Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman announced the regulation. He says the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission will no longer be able to approve any such proposal. He says he hopes the new regulation will provide a level of certainty to British Columbians that new proposed pipelines being developed for B.C.’s LNG industry will only be used to transport natural gas. The regulation applies to six LNG pipelines currently proposed for B.C.

B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad says the regulation addresses First Nation concerns. Many First Nations support natural gas pipelines but oppose new oil pipelines.

Chief Barry Nikal of the Moricetown Indian Band endorsed the new regulation. However, other First Nations leaders and the Opposition New Democrats say the regulation does not go far enough.

Doug Donaldson, the NDP MLA for Stikine, has introduced a private member’s bill that would enshrine in legislation a ban on converting natural gas pipelines to carry oil. Donaldson says legislation would provide more certainty because legislation is more difficult to change than regulation. Changing legislation would require debate and a vote in the B.C. legislature, while regulations can be changed by a simple order in council by the provincial government.

 
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