As the Member of Parliament for Prince George ? Peace River, I am pleased to once again celebrate Mining Week with the residents of Tumbler Ridge and with the mining industry throughout British Columbia and across Canada.
Our region is uniquely positioned to capitalize upon the spectacular growth occurring in the Asia-Pacific region and the increasing interest generated by strong values in metals and minerals.
Through successive federal budgets our Government has been carefully planning for the future so that Canada?s mining sector is able to both seize new opportunities and weather challenges as they arise.
The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative is investing $1-billion to improve our international transportation and trade links in order to develop more business opportunities and jobs for British Columbia. Our enhanced ability to transport our natural resources to international markets through critical Gateway facilities, such as the Port of Prince Rupert, is fostering renewed excitement over mining opportunities in our area.
Despite this strengthened infrastructure, our Government understands that even the most promising mining developments can be hindered by a complex regulatory process. That is why we created the Major Projects Management Office (MPMO) to streamline the review of large natural resource projects. With an investment of $60-million over two years, the Government seeks to cut in half the average regulatory review period from four years to about two years, without compromising our regulatory standards.
In February, I joined my colleague, the Hon. Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, for the grand opening of the MPMO. The mood was optimistic with staff eager to start working with Canadian firms, including a number of mining companies, to get new projects underway.
Further federal support from the mining sector has come through the extension of the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit. Budget 2008 also committed $34-million towards geological mapping. These measures have attracted the endorsement of the Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC) as indicated by Byng Giraud, Vice President, Policy & Communication: ?This Budget recognizes the importance of mining to Canada and British Columbia. The extension of the mineral exploration tax credit for another year and provision of new finding for geological mapping were the primary things the industry was looking for and the Federal government delivered. Overall we are satisfied the Canadian government is paying attention to the mining sector.?
The MABC also welcomed our Government?s $250-million carbon capture and storage initiative. This incentive will assist with the development of environmental technologies or processes that will allow for development in the Canadian coal sector. Other new federal measures that will support success for mining ventures include accelerated capital cost allowances for eligible manufacturing and processing equipment and for carbon dioxide pipelines, a component of carbon capture and storage systems.
The mining sector does face challenges, primarily a shortfall of mining workers that the MABC estimates could hit 80,000 within the next decade as an aging population and a growing industry create intense demand for skilled labour.
In order to address the existing and continuing skilled labour shortage in our region, the Government of Canada has introduced legislative amendments to modernize the immigration system so that families are reunited faster and skilled workers arrive sooner. Under the proposed measures, Citizenship and Immigration Canada would have greater flexibility in processing new applications, especially from skilled workers. The legislation is intended to provide greater flexibility in addressing a range of labour market needs.
In January, I had the great pleasure to be in Tumbler Ridge to announce a $365,000 three-year funding package for Tumbler Ridge Employment Needs Development Services (TRENDS) to help unemployed workers in the Tumbler Ridge area prepare for, secure and retain jobs.
Tumbler Ridge has a future that just keeps getting brighter each year. The community is blessed with a high standard of living and quality of life, due in large part to the abundance of natural resources and the mining industry.
I would like to commend the residents of Tumbler Ridge for their hard work, perseverance, ingenuity and hardy adventurous spirit. You have capitalized on the assets that nature has provided to your area, from coal to timber to dinosaur artefacts, to name a few, and you?ve created an enviable lifestyle and a place that you can be proud to call ?home?.
Add to this seemingly endless miles of some of the most beautiful untamed wilderness in the world; mountains, wildlife, fresh water lakes and streams, and it becomes clear that Tumbler Ridge is truly blessed.
I look forward to working with all levels of government and with private enterprise towards an even more promising future.