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Mill closes permanently and tax panel turns into ghost panel

VANCOUVER – The latest pieces of the premier’s “jobs plan” to fall apart reinforce concerns that the province is adrift and that the Liberals have no plan to support families, say the New Democrats.

“In the wake of the failed HST, British Columbia needs a government that will steer the province back to recovery,” said New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston. “The Liberals so-called jobs plan looked hastily thrown together from the start and three months since the announcement, serious signs of weakness just confirm that there really is no plan.”

The tax review panel was to be tasked with developing recommendations to “to help support a globally competitive, diverse economy” and “simplify and streamline the sales tax system” without revisiting the failed HST.

Ralston said the finance minister has so far failed to appoint a single member to the panel that is expected to report before February’s budget is developed.

“It undermines business confidence when nearly three months after the Liberals announced the panel, they haven’t been able to find a single member to sit on it,” said Ralston. “With very little time left to prepare next year’s budget, the tax advisory panel has become a Liberal ghost panel.”

On Wednesday the Kitwanga mill, one of the sites used by the premier as a symbol for jobs in northern B.C., announced that it is filing for bankruptcy and selling the land. The premier said at the site earlier this year “We’re looking at an incredible resurgence for this region of the province.” Two months later the mill closed its doors temporarily, and Wednesday that closure became permanent.

“One of the key photo opportunities for the premier’s launch was at the Kitwanga mill,” said New Democrat deputy finance critic Doug Donaldson. “But now that the mill is shut down, the workers and families find the premier is nowhere to be found.”

In November, the premier’s trade minister Pat Bell tried to reassure British Columbians that the Kitwanga mill was solvent, saying, “Eventually you will see a pellet mill there, and you'll see the sawmill running.”

Donaldson said “sadly Wednesday’s announcement of bankruptcy and the pending land sale demonstrates that the Liberal’s promise of the pellet mill and running sawmill has come up empty.”

Adrian Dix and the New Democrats are pressing for concrete measures to increase economic competitiveness in B.C., including a comprehensive trade strategy focused on achieving clear targets, and addressing the skills shortage that could deter investment, delay projects, and create a situation where jobs go unfilled by B.C. workers.