B.C. premier says refugees may get 'warmer welcome' in smaller communities
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, November 15, 2015 11:28AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 16, 2015 11:02AM EST
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says her province is looking forward to welcoming new refugees before the end of this year, and that the population influx will help B.C.'s growing economy.
"We've got the strongest economy in the country (and) you can't build an economy without people," Clark told CTV's Question Period. "So we're looking forward to welcoming those refugees."
The premier said her provincial immigration minister met recently with her federal counterpart to discuss the Trudeau government's plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees before 2016.
"They haven't really dug down into the details of exactly what they'd like us to do," Clark said. "(But) my message to the prime minister was 'We're here to support what you do. We want to welcome more people."
However, Clark cautioned that the province's largest city, Vancouver, wouldn't be able to absorb all the newcomers on its own.
Vancouver already faces a lack of affordable housing, a high homeless population and limited job opportunities, Clark said, making it a difficult place for new immigrants to adjust to Canadian life.
"Not all of the (refugees) would be best settled in the City of Vancouver, where housing is really expensive, where jobs may not be as plentiful," she said.
Instead, Clark recommended resettling people in smaller communities further north, such as Prince George, B.C.
"It's my hope that we can help settle those refugees in communities where they're going to get the best start," she said. "Some should be up in the northeast, where they've got almost zero unemployment and the cost of housing a lot lower."
Beyond the practical advantages, Clark said she believed Syrian refugees would find it less lonely to live in smaller communities, rather than large metropolises such as Vancouver.
"Sometimes settling in a smaller community is a much warmer welcome," she said. "So let's … encourage them to go to communities where they will have the best chance of success, the warmest welcome, and the best chance of making sure that they can find work and afford a home."
Clark said she has yet to discuss exact numbers or locations with Ottawa, but that she trusts "those are details we'll work through."
In the meantime, she said she and her province are ready to help in whatever way is needed.
"I went to church every Sunday growing up and my Anglican preacher would say every Sunday, 'If you can help, you should," she said. "And that's what we want to do."
LNG, carbon taxes and the B.C. economy
Clark also spoke about the province's economic and environmental policies with Question Period.
Clark held up the province's carbon-tax system as an example for the rest of Canada, calling it the "most successful carbon pricing of anywhere in the world."
The premier credited the "revenue neutral" system, which lowers other taxes when carbon taxes rise, with helping to grow the province's economy without harming the environment.
Later in the interview, Clark brought up the economy again while calling on the federal government not to launch a new assessment of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
A proposal to expand the controversial pipeline is currently before the National Energy Board. But on Friday, Natural Resources Minister James Carr told the Canadian Press that reviews of pipeline projects are going to go through a "transition phase" to help mend public confidence in the process.
It is unclear how that "transition" will affect the Trans Mountain proposal.
"If they want to change (the current environmental-assessment system) and make it work, then we are open to that. But for heaven's sake, don't go through and try to create another duplicate system," Clark said.
"We've worked really hard to protect our economy from the struggles that other provinces are seeing. We can't go backward on growth."
Speaking further about energy projects in the province, Clark said she remains "optimistic" that a liquefied natural gas industry will further boost British Columbia's economy in the future.
Clark's government has long been a proponent of building LNG plants in the province to satisfy high demand from Asia.
But the proposals have met with opposition from First Nations and environmental groups, which say the projects threaten British Columbia's unique ecosystems.
Despite this, Clark said her government has 20 proposals on the go, and that she is confident at least some will be approved.
When that happens, she said, the extra revenue could be funnelled into social spending and healthcare.
"This is a project really worth pursuing," she said.