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'People are moving to B.C. to help build our province up,' BC premier tells biz crowd in Coquitlam

BC Premier David Eby was a keynote speaker at the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce's Economic Summit 2023, held on Tuesday at the Executive Plaza Hotel.
BC Premier David Eby (left) with Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart at the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce's Economic Summit 2023.

B.C. has had the best recovery in Canada coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the province’s economy continues to get cleaner and stronger, Premier David Eby touted before  200 business people and civic politicians on Tuesday (May 15) at the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Summit.

Held at the Executive Plaza Hotel in Coquitlam, the gathering heard common themes from keynote speakers Eby and Jean-Francois Perrault, senior vice president and chief economist of Scotiabank. Among them:

  • the need to build more affordable units to house the influx of workers and new Canadians moving to B.C.
  • the challenges to find — and retain — skilled workers
  • the ongoing social issues surrounding mental health

Eby, who singled out Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart for his “leadership” in building more affordable homes in the city, delivered his comments hours before he and Stewart celebrated the opening of 100 new affordable units in Coquitlam at 55One, located at 551 Emerson St.; those homes will be operated by the 43 Housing Society, a branch of the SHARE Family and Community Services Society.

At the Chamber event, Eby talked about the “remarkable growth in our province last year,” of which records are being surpassed this year, he said.

Besides the province’s GDP uptick, Eby said more B.C. women are now in the workforce thanks in part to more investments in childcare spaces. Parents, he said, are also saving $900 a month, per child, to have someone look after their charges while they’re on the job.

On the employment front and to help alleviate the healthcare pressures, the premier said more than 3,000 nurses from around the world have signed up to work in B.C. and strides are being made to fast-track their international credentials. And, under his StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan, there are more post-secondary opportunities and skills training available, he said.

Life sciences, as well as the mining and tech sectors, are booming in B.C., Eby said while singling out a couple of Tri-City businesses.

“People are moving to B.C. to help build our province up,” he said.

Later this month, Eby said he’ll be in Korea, Singapore and Japan and preliminary meetings are indicating that countries want to trade with the province because of its stability, geography and governance. In fact, he said, B.C. exports are up 70 per cent from when the NDP formed government.

“Still, if we learned anything in the pandemic, it’s that we can’t go at it alone,” Eby said, noting the opportunities for partnerships, including with First Nations.

As for the social issues facing business owners with storefronts, Eby sympathized and said the B.C. government is taking action with prolific offenders to keep them off the streets by hiring more prosecutors and police, as well as probation and correctional officers. Recently, the province “took the keys from three Hell’s Angels clubhouses,” Eby said, to send a message to organized crime.

As well, the province is budgeting $1 billion into mental health services and supports, which will eventually see the expansion of the Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addictions at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview in Coquitlam to other parts of the province.

Meanwhile, Eby also fielded questions from the Chamber audience on attracting and retaining talent; the cost of doing business with increases in labour, inflation and property taxes; and the use of mass timber and pre-fab for new housing.

Eby’s remarks before the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce came a month after BC United leader Kevin Falcon addressed the business crowd at the Vancouver Golf Club — the same day the party launched its rebrand from the BC Liberals.

The next big Chamber event is the Golf Classic on June 29 at the Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club, also sponsored in part by the Tri-City News.