Premier visits Penticton to pledge support for small business

Christy Clark covers familiar territory with campaign-style speech that praises small business and hammers NDP

Premier Christy Clark delivers the keynote address Friday at the B.C. Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Penticton.

Premier Christy Clark delivers the keynote address Friday at the B.C. Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Penticton.

Small business was smothered in praise Friday, as Premier Christy Clark deliver a campaign-style keynote address at the B.C. Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Penticton.

Her 25-minute speech also included shots at the B.C. NDP and a funding commitment for a new micro-business training program.

Clark began her address by telling delegates that chambers of commerce are “a hugely important voice for my government,” and “unique in representing small businesses in every single region in every single sector, so what you say really makes a difference.”

“And it is small business, more than any other in the province, that remembers the value of community. The value of, not just of the town, but of the local neighbourhood in a town in helping knit us together,” she continued.

“And that’s why it’s so important to support small business, and when I say support small business, I mean support a thriving private-sector economy in every region of the province.”

Clark then cast herself as a champion of free enterprise, and took a jab at NDP and its public-sector ties.

“There are two recipes for going about managing an economy and managing a province. One of them is mine, and that’s to make sure we’re growing the economy, that we are getting out of your way.

“The other way is to invest in a government economy,“ she said. “I don’t believe that we should be growing the government economy. I believe that we should be growing the private-sector economy.”

BC Chamber of Commerce CEO John Winter, who hosted a brief question-and-answer session with the premier after her speech, used his closing remarks to criticize public-sector unions.

“These unions are lobbying hard to make sure that any government measures designed to help governments grow get defeated, which of course reduces government revenues,” Winter said, in reference to the HST.

“But that doesn’t seem to stop their demands for higher wages and benefits. I have no idea why they don’t get the bigger picture about the economy.”

Earlier in her remarks, Clark announced $3.1 million for a pilot project that will fund management training for micro-business owners with fewer than five employees.

The program will be administered through the BC Chamber of Commerce and be made available to up to 1,200 people who have no formal training after high school. Participants will be able to access up to $1,500 each. The program is expected to roll out in July.