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Tourism booted off podium in BC throne speech, says critic

Tourism was notably absent from yesterday's speech from the throne, said New Democratic Party critic Spencer Chandra Herbert.

"Tourism was not mentioned once," he said, aside from a passing reference. "As an industry it wasn't mentioned at all."

Speeches in recent years have highlighted the industry, saying the 2010 Olympic Winter Games would be used to promote tourism in the province, he said. "They've dropped tourism almost completely."

Premier Christy Clark has promised to bring back Tourism BC, a Crown agency with a board from the industry and guaranteed funding, that former Premier Gordon Campbell's government disbanded, Chandra Herbert said. Her leadership platform promised a new marketing partnership between the industry and government.

If Clark is serious, it's surprising the plans were not included in yesterday's speech, he said.

A Tourism Industry Association of B.C. Oct. 3 newsletter includes a summary of the speech, highlighting aspects that are important to business in general but without specific reference to tourism. The newsletter notes that the jobs plan included tourism as one of eight economic sectors "critical for B.C.'s growth."

Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell will be at the tourism industry conference in Victoria later this month, it said, "Where he will roll out more fulsome details of the tourism sector specific jobs plan."

Other observers pointed out other absences in the throne speech. It mentioned the financial troubles in Europe and the United States, but didn't offer any vision on what to do about it in B.C., said BC Conservative Party Leader John Cummins, who was at the legislature for the speech.

"Nothing that even acknowledges that the world is in crisis," he said. "They mentioned turmoil right at the get go and then that was it, it was off to all of this really fluff, things that aren't going to substantially change the lives of people in British Columbia, aren't going to create jobs, aren't going to put more food on the table of those that need it."

British Columbians earn the least and are taxed the highest of any Canadians west of Quebec, he said. The speech should have looked at ways to cut the high cost of government, reduce taxes, and leave money in people's pockets, he said. "Families need tax relief."

"Very little substance in the throne speech," said NDP Leader Adrian Dix. Aside from a mention of the Quesnel mill, there was no mention of forestry and the 3,000 people who've lost their jobs in the industry, he said.

"They haven't done what they needed to do, invest in the land base, invest in the skills of people," he said. "No effort to improve the effort of young people."

He characterized the speech as a "grab bag" of things, rather than a plan for the province.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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