More than 110 people crowded the Best Western Lodge banquet room to enjoy lunch and listen to Minister Bill Bennett and Minister Colin Hansen on Friday July 16, 2010.
FABDA hosted the event and Mike Delich, its current president was MC. After a brief introduction by Delich Minister Bennett thanked everyone for attending saying he’s wanted Minister Hansen to come to Fernie for some time. He said he appreciated each person for attending on a hot Friday afternoon when they were probably looking for somewhere cool to go to. Noting that social events are a good way to get together he then extended an invitation to those present to attend the Bennett golf tour planned in Fernie for September 25.
His introduction of Minister Hansen included the information that Hansen has been elected four times since 1996. “He’s a first rate Cabinet Minister and first rate constituency representative, he never forgets the people who elected him. He has served as Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Finance, redesigned our health care, is responsible for organizing the Olympics and then in 2009 moved back into finance. He’s the first one to tell you that we didn’t use our best performance with the HST but the state of economy is good, he never gets exasperated, always smiles, it’s a real honour to have him in the Kootenay East Riding”, said Minister Bennett.
Hansen’s statement that Bennett is the “captain of the spear catching team”, brought a laugh from the audience. He went on to say “These are challenging times, the HST and the huge economic gyrations of the world economy but our economy is stronger and better than ever. I’ve been here lots of times and it’s always a pleasure to come back, this is one of the perks to come back to a beautiful place and people.
On our way Bill pointed out the highway improvement and the water works in Fernie being done in conjunction with the Feds, we have spent a lot, a record amount but there is a still lot of necessary needed infrastructure. Bill champions what his constituents need. BC is a lot different now than it was 9 years ago when Bill was first elected. Back then we discussed where BC was, it wasn’t a political conversation, just that we lived in the best of times for BC with a real sense of where we are going to in the 21st century. We don’t have the same exploration, or interprovincial migration, before 50,000 young people left looking for opportunities elsewhere. How to re- energize, make this a land of opportunity again, Olympics was a launching pad, the eyes of the world were on BC, it was a chance to profile what we are and what we have become, taxes are down, personally and for business. This is a province with a global opportunity in every part of the region, it’s a stable place to invest, with a safe clean environment, we have worked towards a dynamic economy but we have protected out environment. We have trimmed one billion off the projected deficit by reigning in on spending. With an aging demographic we have to look at health care, education, government travel expenditures were cut 22% but instead public service came back with a 50% reduction by finding other more cost effective ways like using video conferencing from jail to courthouse instead of the sheriff taking an inmate back and forth. Still we have a big challenge with education, lots of work to do yet; we have the most competitve corporate tax regime in the G 7 countries, P3’s are working and companies are coming here looking at clean energy, we are paying 20% less tax than we did ten years ago, minimum personal reduction of 37% so paying less today. HST- we did a lousy job of communicating, should have done much more last fall. An Ipsos Reid survey showed that 2/3 of British Columbians didn’t know it doesn’t apply to basic rent or groceries. The number one myth is that during the election we promised that we wouldn’t bring it in, then three months later we did. No promise was made. We had no option with the Feds to exempt items previously exempted. We had no update from Finance during election, afterwards we were told that instead of half billion we thought the deficit would be it was two billion. The premier was not happy; he said come back with options. It would be either to increase tax, slash revenues, or go deeper into debt. HST- the Feds put money on the table, same timeline as Ontario so we had to move quickly, no luxury of time now were paying the price. The effect on border communites won’t be negative, it will be the opposite, small business will get all taxes back, it will lower costs, and 113,000 jobs in next ten years will be created in mining, technology, accounting, motion picture industry. Business is supportive because it will generate more business, in others places people are wondering if their kids and grandkids will have the same opportunities and quality of life they enjoyed, BC is not out of the woods yet but is in a better position than other places. The best years are still to come.”
At the end of his presentation Minister Hansen was asked questions by the audience, one of those was by a local restaurant owner who said before when taxes were collected by the business they would receive an amount back for doing so, now they won’t. The minister’s answer that now they “won’t have to fill out the forms” was met with disappointment by some eliciting a comment that “obviously Hansen had never filled out those forms personally” and possibly wasn’t truly aware of the answer to the question.
I found his speech upbeat and positive and thought most enjoyed the presentation. People attending were from the business sector, law, ministerial, local government and media as well as interested citizens.
Hansen and Bennet were each presented with a unique glass creation by local artisan Stephanie Rogers.