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B.C.Budget addresses industry issues

0 27 Associations

by Peter Mitham

The support for housing handed down in the latest B.C. budget was cause for cheers not just among residential developers, but the construction sector as a whole. “If we’re going to attract people to come and work in the province, housing is clearly one of the hurdles they have to address,” said Manley McLachlan, president of the B.C. Construction Association.
B.C.Budget addresses industry issues

Budget

The support for housing handed down in the latest B.C. budget was cause for cheers not just among residential developers, but the construction sector as a whole. “If we’re going to attract people to come and work in the province, housing is clearly one of the hurdles they have to address,” said Manley McLachlan, president of the B.C. Construction Association.

The need for housing to accommodate workers drawn to the province’s booming economy is “a growing issue” for industry, McLachlan said. The situation in B.C. has largely avoided the dire levels seen in Calgary, where boom times over the past decade have seen workers staying in hostels, shelters and makeshift housing, but demands for affordable housing are increasingly being heard around the province.

Budget measures that promise to help improve the affordability of housing and stimulate sales include an increase in the threshold for participation in the provincial First Time Homebuyers’ Program to $375,000 and a 10 per cent reduction in income taxes.

“There weren’t big expectations from us going into the budget process, but anytime you get a reduction in income tax, that’s a good thing for workers,” McLachlan said.

Though assistance for training and trades development in previous budgets has been helpful, McLachlan and others praised additional funding for First Nations training programs.

VanAsep, a skills development program in Vancouver the BCCA supports has helped over 1,000 aboriginal workers develop skills in the past few months, McLachlan said, describing new funding as “an absolute necessity.”

The dollars are working, too, and not just for programs like VanAsep. Statistics Canada recently reported that First Nations in B.C. posted the greatest rate of economic growth between 2001 and 2005. Unemployment fell more than 4 percentage points to reach 15 per cent in 2005, while participation in the labour force rose to 66 per cent – a fraction higher than the non-Native participation rate of 65.6 per cent.

President, BCCA

The Mining Association of B.C. also cheered an increase in funding for training initiatives. Of the nine major mine projects in Canada, approximately half are in B.C. A further 25 major projects are under review, highlighting the need for government support that will allow the industry to meet the pending demand for workers the association said in a statement. The heavy construction sector was also encouraged by the budget’s provisions, especially an increase in the province’s capital contingency to an average of 9.5 per cent of all taxpayer-supported capital spending over the next three years.

The increase in the capital contingency reflects a rise of approximately 1 per cent a month in construction costs, or 11.3 per cent in Greater Vancouver last year.

“This is expected to absorb the potential additional cost of the Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Project for which a revised project budget is being developed for review by government,” budget documents said. “The capital contingency also provides an allocation to assist health authorities to finance priority hospital projects in Victoria, Kelowna, Vernon, and Fort St. John, pending final approval processes for those projects.”

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