Op Ed: "Welfare Air" ignores the needs of both the north and the jobless
Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon have recently hatched a plan to re-locate social assistance recipients to the north to fill (dozens? hundreds? thousands?) allegedly high-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry.
There are a number of problems with this scheme, but the most obvious is that it ignores the existing labour pool in BC’s north.
Unemployment in northern BC ranges from 8–12%. So with hundreds of northerners looking for work, why are the premier and the finance minister so eager to give plane tickets and accommodations for people whose roots are in the lower mainland?
The problem with connecting the unemployed or underemployed to the available jobs in BC is not one of geography—no transportation scheme will solve the problem overnight.
The solutions require a longer-term plan for giving training opportunities for people in northern communities. This can easily be accomplished by investing in post-secondary education and re-training programs at BC’s northern public community colleges (College of New Caledonia, Northwest Community College, and Northern Lights College).
Unfortunately, the latest provincial budget paints a more grim picture for institutions.
Northwest Community College and the rest of BC’s colleges suffered funding cuts in Budget 2012, and as a result must reduce course offerings. The situation is so dire that the normally tame university and college senior administrators recently wrote an open letter the Minister of Advanced Education carping about the cuts.
There are unemployed and underemployed people in the North who would gladly fill vacant positions there, and our public colleges are more than capable of helping address labour shortages. What’s missing is the political will from Victoria to connect the dots.