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Newfoundland and Labrador PC leader Ches Crosbie shares party's job creation plan


Leader outlines Tory plan to get people working; non-commital on living-wage proposal

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie is placing jobs at the forefront of the provincial election campaign, claiming the Liberals are not doing enough to keep them in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Prosperity comes by way of jobs and growth, and priority one has to be bring back jobs,” Crosbie said Monday in downtown St. John's, where he unveiled some aspects of the party's job creation plan. “That's why as premier, I will focus like a laser on creating jobs and growth. It's the only way to get our province back on the path to balance."

Crosbie announced measures Monday that addressed both rural and urban populations. For businesses, he said government needs to foster a supportive investment climate that allows them to create jobs. Crosbie said in speaking with small business owners, he has heard lots of complaints about red tape getting in the way of projects. He noted that last January, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) ranked Newfoundland and Labrador dead last in its red tape report card, issuing the province a D.


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"Under the Liberals, we ranked worst in Canada, and that's costing us jobs," he said. "That's why a PC government led by me will enact an aggressive red tape reduction strategy to liberate business owners to spend more time generating new products and services, attracting customers and, most importantly, creating jobs."

Part of this would involve offering more secure digital access to common government services and introducing digital signature legislation to accommodate binding transactions and agreements.



Remote work opportunities

Crosbie pitched the party's desire to embrace the new digital economy through the creation of a pilot project to attract remote workers from companies based outside the province. He said Statistics Canada data shows four in 10 Canadians work in jobs that can be handled from home.

"Let's get them working here," the PC leader said. "They may be earning dollars from away, but they are spending those dollars here, supporting local job growth in the process. Many individuals and families working elsewhere are looking for new lifestyles away from the big cities. They can enjoy a better, safer and healthier quality of life here in our beautiful province."

A new $10-million venture capital fund would focus on generating more "clean, high-tech, next-generation jobs," Crosbie said, adding that government would entice private investors to invest in local companies through a new venture capital tax credit.


"... we're back to finish the job." — Ches Crosbie


The fund would be available to start-ups and other local companies looking to expand operations.

To aid people living in communities that find themselves unable to compete in the online economy due to inadequate service, Crosbie announced a plan to ensure that 98 per cent of all residents have reliable internet and cellular service by 2025.

"It was a PC government that connected Newfoundland and Labrador to the world, achieving more than 80 per cent connectivity on our watch," he said. "That created a more competitive telecommunications environment, which helped to make rates more affordable for people. Now, we're back to finish the job."


St. John's East-Quidi Vidi PC candidate Vaughn Hammond. — Andrew Robinson/The Telegram - Andrew Robinson
St. John's East-Quidi Vidi PC candidate Vaughn Hammond. — Andrew Robinson/The Telegram - Andrew Robinson


Premier’s task force

Crosbie was asked about Premier Andrew Furey's Economic Recovery Task Force and whether he will look at and consider its recommendations once they're available.

Crosbie noted he still believes the release of the task force's final report should have preceded any election call, given the rampant speculation it will suggest dramatic cuts to the public service. He said he has heard from many residents who are unhappy about that. But he will look at it, he said.

"If there are useful suggestions, valuable suggestions in the report that deserve to be implemented after whatever full consultation, depending on the suggestion, needs to be undertaken with the public, then I certainly will consider implementing that," he said. "There's no point paying for a task force to do a report if you're not going to pay attention to it."


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He was also asked about public advocacy for a living wage. The minimum wage has not increased in tandem with inflation — it moved up 50 cents last fall to $12.10 per hour. A telephone survey commissioned last fall by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees found 68 per cent of respondents supported a $15 per hour minimum wage.

The issue was brought up Monday in relation to the presence of Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) provincial director Vaughn Hammond as a candidate for the party in this election. The CFIB has in the past publicly denounced a $15 per hour minimum wage.

"It's not just Mr. Hammond who has an opinion of value there," Crosbie said. "There's a whole small business community and you do have to weigh (the fact) they are a job creation machine — the small and medium business community. When they give you advice about what they can afford in terms of paying wages out, you have to listen to them. I'm not giving a decision on that, but he is a voice for a valuable, job-creating sector of the community, and I'm very happy to have him on the team."

Crosbie said further announcements will be made in the coming days about job creation work through tax cuts to incentivize hiring, as well as measures specific to the hospitality and tourism, mining, forestry, fisheries and offshore sectors.

Andrew Robinson is a business reporter in St. John's.


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