PENTICTON - Two B.C. cabinet ministers have met directly with regional district board directors on their home turf for the first time.
Agriculture minister Norm Letnick and Tourism and Skills Training minister Shirley Bond met with members of the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen board of directors on Thursday, Feb. 5 for a general discussion of regional matters.
Letnick led the discussion, calling the seven Okanagan MLA’s that made up provincial representation in the valley Team Okanagan. He said the MLAs met regularly to discuss issues of regional importance, including such things as zebra and quagga mussels, Okanagan College, water and highways.
Then it was the directors' turn to question the agriculture minister.
West Bench Director Michael Brydon and Summerland Director Peter Waterman both expressed an interest in preserving and maintaining the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“Hearing you espouse the two major tenets of the land reserve are extremely reassuring to me. As you know, Summerland recently made a major commitment to protect its agricultural land,” Waterman told Letnick.
Waterman also noted Letnick’s reference to producing niche varieties of orchard crops.
“We’ve got a big brother to the south (U.S.), we’ll let them do the big numbers, but we’d rather make the money,” he said.
Tourism and Skills Training minister Bond briefed the directors on her meetings with local business people earlier in the day.
“I had a very productive discussion with many business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders in a variety of sectors. It was very helpful, and it was actually energizing and encouraging," Bond said. "There’s a fantastic manufacturing cluster right here in the southern part of the Okanagan that I didn’t realize — the expertise and the incredible companies that you have."
Bond told the board her job was to look after investment and making sure the province was attracting businesses and supporting their growth.
“We’re very optimistic about our future, and regions like this (South Okangan) are going to play a great role in that,” she said.
Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit took the opportunity to question Bond about film industry animation tax credits, noting local efforts to recruit the animation segment of the business.
He has concerns about qualifications animators are facing to be eligible for a B.C. tax credit and told Bond animators being recruited in July wouldn’t be eligible for the tax credit until the end of the year, reducing its incentive to attract film companies. He suggested an eligibility requirement in the order of 30 days residency would make the tax incentive more attractive.
“That’s a great observation and I’m happy to go back and look at how that impacts the ability to recruit workers and bring people to British Columbia," Bond said. "Our animation and film sectors are growing exponentially, and we’ve made a commitment to look at post — production tax credits which we hope to be able to deliver at some point."
“If you think that is an issue, I would be happy to take it back to the finance minister,” she said.
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