A year ago, NDP leader John Horgan’s government was facing a long truck convoy of out-of-work loggers in downtown Vancouver and farmers protesting on the B.C. legislature steps in Victoria.
One of the issues was the province’s move to cancel a $25 million “rural dividend” fund, shelving community applications to diversify local economies that have lost forest and other industrial employment. The money went toward retraining and other relief for the four latest victims of rural mill closures, Quesnel, Fort St. James, Vavenby and Chasm.
That kind of cost restraint goes out the window with the B.C. NDP’s pandemic election plan, which features a $3 billion-per-year “recovery investment fund” to add to the government’s $23 billion capital works budget for schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure.
The NDP platform, the first to be released in full for the surprise Oct. 24 election, also adds another $400 million program to “revitalize community infrastructure,” likely based on applications from municipalities like the late, lamented rural dividend.
The big news on forest policy is a vow to “dedicate a specific portion of the annual allowable cut towards higher value producers who can demonstrate their ability to create new jobs.” That is a step beyond additional fees and wood salvage regulations that the NDP government has imposed on an industry with widespread shutdowns in recent years.
The NDP platform promises only to continue “significant investments” in tree planting, wildfire protection and silviculture. Other industries get more vague support.
“We’ll create a Mining Innovation Hub to identify and support innovation, offering training for workers in new technologies, regulatory excellence, environmental management and low-carbon approaches,” the party says.
Agriculture gets a similar mention, with a promise of a new “regenerative agriculture network” to merge traditional farming with technologies “such as robotics, precision farming, and mesh networks.”