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It was a mixed bag of topics on the agenda yesterday during B.C. Premier John Horgan's visit to Prince George for the B.C. Natural Resources Forum and delivered a keynote speech yesterday afternoon (Jan. 23).
The topic, of course, is natural resources, but Horgan also touched on other topics such as the current chaos currently happening at the B.C. legislature with serious allegations being brought forward against high ranking members.
But before the premier took the stage, a rally took place outside the Prince George Civic Centre with trucks and citizens taking part in a convoy to show support for natural resource sector projects and workers.
Some also had a message for the UN and Justin Trudeau.
Chair of #TheNorthMatters, David Johnston, began with a speech which outlined the group itself.
"We have a lot of support across the province with this group," he says. "For resource workers and their families and this is a testament to it: today we had probably 50 to 100 trucks drive through town showing support."
Johnston was also blunt, saying he believes there is a lot of "misinformation" in the media.
"A lot of it is bullying tactics," he says. "They try to quiet you down and tell you your support for resource workers is a negative thing. I'm here today to say that I stand with resource workers and I stand with the Canadian resources. I stand with Trans Canada and I stand with LNG Canada and I stand with the RCMP and rule of law."
While that was ongoing outside, Premier Horgan entered the room and started his address to those in attendance.
"What I've discovered is, people often forget about things over time," he says. "It's important that I remind you of a few things going forward."
Horgan says the toughest - and most costly - challenge he and his government have faced to date was the devastation caused by wildfires in 2017 which was then followed by flooding and absolute devastation in Grand Forks.
After that, the worst wildfire season on record happened in 2018.
The premier also pointed to the softwood lumber dispute, relations with China currently and the NAFTA negotiations that have provided challenges to date for the BC NDP government.
"Minister Donaldson, who was with a large delegation of forest representatives and Indigenous leaders, were on their way to China when an arrest was made without giving notice to the Province of British Columbia," he says. "That has certainly compromised our ability to have an open and frank dialogue with our Chinese trading partners. We're going to continue working on that with the federal government and our Chinese representatives here and abroad so we can repair that and continue to grow our economic opportunities in Asia."
Horgan also touched on employment numbers as well as GDP for the province, sharing the numbers are some of the best in Canada.
"We have the lowest unemployment rate in the country at about 4.4 per cent," he says. "Across the province in the Cariboo, we're down to 5.3 per cent unemployment, so that is significant and it continues to be a beacon of hope for those that are looking for economic activity in the neighbourhood."
He says another balanced budget will be presented next month, and shared the debt to GDP ratio, saying it's the smallest in years.
"We've had the lowest debt to GDP ratio we've had since the middle of the last decade," he says. "We continue to have a triple-A credit rating and our operating debt has been fully eliminated for the first time since 1976. These are significant fiscal accomplishments, all while creating a capital plan that will see us building more hospitals, more roads, more schools and bridges."
Horgan also spoke on immigration and how the government is preparing for those coming to Canada to make a better life for themselves.
"We're also focusing on making sure that we work collaboratively with other orders of government, particularly the federal government, to have an immigration plan that sees the next wave of people coming to Canada to put down roots on a path to citizenship," he says. "Not temporary foreign workers, but people like my father who came from Ireland to make a better life for himself. Those people that are not Indigenous in this room, have ancestors that came from somewhere else. It is the absolute strength of British Columbia and Canada that we have a diverse population that oftentimes came from simple means to come to a place of hope and opportunity British Columbia has and continue to represent that around the world, we need to make sure we're working hand in hand with the federal government to have an immigration plan that will allow us to build British Columbia for the next 50 years as immigration built Canada over the last 50 years."
The premier also met with the media after his address, where he touched on numerous subjects, as well as the scandal currently at the B.C. legislature, which you can watch below in its entirety.