Premier Christy Clark says she’s going to “defy the odds” and lead her Liberal party to victory in the upcoming provincial election, despite the Liberals low standing in the polls and what she says is the media’s belief she can’t do it.
“I’m a fighter,” declared Clark during a stop at a Kelowna electronics manufacturing firm Wednesday. “I know I’m going in as the underdog. I’m okay with that. I’m going to defy the odds.”
Clark’s confident proclamation came amid news that her party is trailing the Opposition NDP badly in public opinion polls, in the wake of a damning report about government employees using provincial money to do partisan election work for the Liberals in order to win ethics votes in the upcoming election. Clark has apologized and her party has paid back $70,000 of taxpayer money that was spent.
The embattled premier, whose who has had to address several controversies in the last few months and now has just eight weeks to turn it around before the election, came to Kelowna—historically friendly territory for politicians on the right of the political spectrum—Wednesday to announce the benefits of a new small business accord aimed at maintaining B.C. as what she called the most small-business friendly province in Canada.
The accord recognizes small business as a key driver of job creation and economic growth and contains six “action” items for the provincial government:
• Consider the needs of small business in policy and program decisions to enhance business certainty, access to qualified labour access to capital and technology adoption.
• Foster a regulatory environment that small business can access, navigate and influence effectively and efficiently.
• Design government program and resources affecting small business so they are well-developed, accessible, properly funded and effectively communiated.
• Forster thoughtful collaboration among all levels of government, including First Nations.
• Deploy educational and training programs that are future-focused and aligned to meet the changing needs of small business and the labor talent it develops.
• Create long-term opportunities for small business through government procurement.
Clark said she came to Kelowna, and specifically Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing Corp. on Kirschner Road, because this area is a hot bed of small business and Anodyne is a good example of a small business that has grown substantially in the last 18 months.
The designer and manufacturer of aircraft audio systems, intercoms, tactical FM radio systems, illuminated panels and display products, as well as external PA systems, audio amplifiers and remote switch assemblies has grown by 50 per cent in the last 18 months and has increased its staff from 49 employees to 88 since it started in 2009.
While 98 per cent of all businesses in B.C. are considered small businesses, 13 per cent of the province’s total number of small business are located in the Okanagan, said local MLA Steve Thomson.
Clark said her government plans to provide incentives for local governments if they can demonstrate they are acting within the spirit of the new accord, will appoint a senior official to consult directly with small business owners and will develop a mobile skills trainers program to provide training and certification using existing equipment in colleges and industry. She is also pledging to look at how the province procures goods and services in order to “level the playing field” for small businesses that want to deal with the province.
“The government is a big buyer of services,” said the premier. “We need to increase the amount we spent with (small B.C. businesses.).”
One of the ways Victoria plans to do that is to reduce the paperwork involved for companies responding to a request for proposals from the province to a maximum of two pages from, in some cases, the current 80 pages.
The incentive for municipalities to work more with small business will be up to $10,000 for as many as 20 cities or towns that show they are acting in the spirit of the accord.
During her tour of the Anodyne operation, Clark was shown several areas of the operation, including where speakers used in helicopters are built. While there, she was told that the company provided the speakers and sound systems used on the helicopters in a scene from the latest blockbuster James Bond movie Skyfall.
Dave Veitch, president of Anodyne told Clark that that in the scene where helicopters attack and blow up Bond’s ancestoral home in the Scottish highlands, the speakers mounted on the outside of the helicopters and the sound systems used to blare the music were provided by his company.