B.C. is destined to be an economic leader in Canada and Vancouver Island can be an innovative player in the “new normal,” but we have to address the issue of labour shortages, Bank of Canada senior representative Dr. Farid Novin said Tuesday.
Speaking to about 30 members of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce, Novin said: “Things are not that bad in Canada and in B.C. economic conditions remain slightly better than the Canadian average. This province, particularly the north, is the 21st Century place to be. And, Vancouver Island is well situated … it just needs a little Canadian thinking.”
Novin cautioned that “losing population is a concern” as is “the shortage of labour.”
Chamber President Colleen Evans wanted to know if B.C. was going to get caught up in a “hyper-competition for workers as the economy rebounds and major projects get underway.” Novin said despite the fact that the economy is not at full capacity “the most important challenge in B.C. is the shortage of labour. We saw that shortage in 2007 and 2008.”
He added that Ottawa has an attitude problem on this issue because it only looks as far as Ontario and considers that Canada has enough skills. Because of that “businesses in B.C. have learned to do it themselves and there is an incredible amount of innovation, good thinking, job training and apprenticeship. It’s a good thing they are standing on their own feet.
“It is a part of the investment infrastructure that has a huge payoff,” he added.
The Bank of Canada representative noted that the B.C. fundamentals are strong. The government’s debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is the third lowest in the country and the province’s employment is now above pre-recession levels.
He also said the rebounding U.S. housing market bodes well for the forest sector on Vancouver Island. He said B.C.’s forest products are high cost, but they are quality products.
Mayor Walter Jakeway said Novin gave Campbell River a few good hints about the economic road ahead. “Campbell River is heading into good times with the major projects we have ahead. We have the resources here, like the North Island College and the Vancouver Island University, to train and supply some of that labour Novin talks about.
“It means there is going to be a great future for young people and immigrants.”