Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston tours Peace Region

British Columbia's minister of jobs and trade Bruce Ralston wraps up a two-day tour of the Peace Region today with a stop at the Coal and Energy Forum in Chetwynd.

Ralston arrived Tuesday evening, and has been meeting with government, business, and education leaders in between tours of industry operations, including Louisiana Pacific and Conuma Coal.

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Ralston said he's maximizing his time touring the province before the legislature resumes sitting next month.

"I've tried to get out and hear what's going on in various sectors," Ralston said in a phone interview from Tumbler Ridge.

In Dawson Creek, Ralston said he met with Mayor Dale Bumstead and Chamber executive director Kathleen Connolly about energy and transportation issues, and Northern Lights College President Bryn Kulmatycki about the training and employment needs of the region.

He had a chance to tour Lousiana Pacific's facility, which is expanding to produce house construction siding and creating 55 new jobs.

Conuma Coal continues on a strong growth track that keeps active in the community, and has been a success story for the Northeast, he said.

"I heard about Conuma Coal, but meeting with the CEO and hearing the story of Conuma and… what they've done so far in terms of hiring, the diversity of their labour force, the way in which they've engaged the labour force, and the degree to which they're active in community supporting community activities, and reaching out and creating training opportunities, and inspiring young people to enter the industry, has really made a strong impression on me on this trip," Ralson said.

Ralston had planned to tour an Encana gas plant on Tuesday, but a billion-dollar transit announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Lower Mainland changed his plans.

Ralston did not tour the $10.7-billion Site C dam being built outside of Fort St. John, a project that had more than 3,000 employed at last count. 

"I wasn't able to fit it in this time," Ralston said, who couldn't say whether he will in the future.

"We'll see. Technically, I'm not the minister responsible, that's the minister of energy. That may be something I do in the future, I'm not sure."

Ralston plans to meet Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman later today following the forum in Chetwynd, where he is scheduled to speak.

Ralston said he'll be reminding the premier and his caucus colleagues about the importance of the Northeast when he returns to Victoria.

"We're well aware of the importance of the region, both as a job generator and a revenue generator," Ralson said, noting he's visited a number of times since he was first elected in 2005.

"There's quite a range here. Sometimes, I think the region feels maybe that their voice isn't heard. But that's why I continue to visit, and that's why I wanted to visit again at this time."

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

@ Copyright 2018 Pipeline News North

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