Prosperity fund key element
During Tuesday’s B.C. throne speech, a few major new initiatives were announced by the government.
Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training Minister Pat Bell said a new provincial prosperity fund is in the works, a $100 billion rainy day fund amalgamating over the next 30 years, similar to one instituted in Alberta.
“We have announced our intent to move forward on the B.C. prosperity fund,” Bell said.
He explained it is an endowment fund created by incremental royalties from LNG plants, similar to the Heritage Fund in Alberta, created to support the priorities of citizens across B.C.
Bell said they’ve discussed using the fund to eliminate the PST, reduce or eliminate the province’s debt, and for looking at family affordability issues.
“The elimination of the PST is something I’ve heard lots about from people across northern B.C.,” Bell said. “I’ve heard it from border communities and any community where we have people competing with the Alberta marketplace.”
He said business people felt the HST was a good compromise, however that is soon to be abolished and the PST will return.
“Lots of people look at elimination of PST and embrace that,” he said.
The royalties will begin rolling in in a meaningful way, he said, within two or three years and that’s when the window of opportunity begins to open up.
Another initiative involves pulling together senior business leaders in the B.C. business community, government leaders and academia to establish a new Asia-Pacific trade office in Vancouver.
“Our long-term success means moving goods into the Asian marketplace. We’ve seen that clearly with forest products,” Bell said. “We need to move into Asia in a far more aggressive way.”
Though he said he’d much rather see the office open in Prince George, he certainly understands why it would open in Vancouver instead, and the city will benefit from that.
“There’s no question any time we increase trade with Asia we see big benefits for Prince George,” he said.” I understand from a practical perspective that’s where senior businessmen first land.”
He said then the opportunity exists to bring them to the city and then the region.
Bell said to expect a new agenda in regards to small business in the coming weeks.
Bell added they are bringing in legislation to entrench the seniors advocate position and said to expect further announcements regarding childcare initiatives which haven’t been fully disclosed yet but are expected to provide support for families around extended childcare.
NDP leader Adrian Dix said the government’s focus on LNG development is at odds with its heavily advertised jobs plan, with little mention of forestry, mining, tourism, film and TV production or high technology. The government missed its natural gas revenue targets in a budget update six months ago, so projecting LNG revenues many years in the future is questionable at best, he said.
The government estimates that if B.C.’s LNG mega-project develops as expected, and all of the fund’s revenues are directed to debt reduction, B.C.’s $56 billion debt could be paid off within a decade. The province currently pays about $2.5 billion a year in interest on the debt.
There has been a rush of international investment interest in northeastern B.C.’s shale gas deposits. Companies include Mitsubishi Corp., Shell Canada, China National Petroleum Corporation and Petronas, a trans-national gas player owned by the government of Malaysia.