Liberals show they don’t take skills shortage seriously

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VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government showed they aren't taking the province's looming skills shortage seriously by insulting B.C.'s top universities and playing down the problem in comments made Tuesday, say New Democrats.

“We finally have an explanation why the Liberals’ three-year budget plan includes a $70 million cut to skills training and post-secondary education,” said Mungall. “Apparently the Liberals believe a skills shortage is a good thing to have.”

Mungall said that Finance Minister Mike de Jong's comment that the skills shortage is “a good problem to have” shows just how out of touch the Liberals are with the needs of businesses and communities. De Jong was responding to B.C.’s research universities after they sounded the alarm about the skills shortage facing British Columbia.

“Last week the mayor of Barriere was talking about the shortage of medical technicians in his community and how that meant that residents often have to drive to Kamloops for simple diagnostic tests,” said Mungall. “I’m sure he’d disagree with the minister that a skills shortage is a good thing to have.”

The finance minister wasn’t the only Liberal MLA who showed they don’t understand the skills shortage facing British Columbia. Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger claimed that B.C.’s research universities are “fat cats” that are training people in fields that “are not that much in demand compared to the current economy.”

“Given that Venture Kamloops’ 2012 Labour Demand Study showed a demand for nearly 3000 workers in the health sector in Kamloops over the next five years, it’s bizarre that a government MLA would suggest that B.C.’s research universities are not training people in fields in high demand,” noted Mungall.

Mungall noted that New Democrats have committed to a $100 million needs based non-repayable student grant program to ensure that every British Columbian has the opportunity to get the skills employers are looking for.

“Tuition has more than doubled under the current Liberal government and B.C. students now graduate with an average of $27,000 in debt, the highest debt load west of the Maritimes. It’s gotten to the point where financial barriers are keeping people from seeking training at a time when we need more skilled workers than ever,” said Mungall.

“New Democrats are offering change for the better, one practical step at a time, while the Liberals offer nothing but tired excuses. We have a plan to address B.C.’s skills shortage and ensure that B.C. can compete in a 21st century economy where knowledge is the key to prosperity.”