Vancouver-Quadra Liberal MP Joyce Murray from stopped in Nelson on Tuesday as part of a Kootenay tour.
“I came to the West Kootenay to get the perspective of rural small business people and their representatives as part of my understanding the issues of small business and tourism across Canada,” said Murray.
Murray is the Liberal critic for small business, western economic diversification and the Asia-Pacific Gateway.
“I see my role to be, to have that rural lens as well as the urban lens with concern to business and tourism,” she said.
While in Nelson, Murray met with Mayor John Dooley and Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson.
“I’m hearing that what really works well in areas like the East Kootenay or West Kootenay is partnerships. Where chambers and municipal government and other organizations representing tourism and these issues work together that’s been very effective,” she said.
“I think that’s a good thing for the federal government to be aware of. I’m hearing that at times the federal government isn’t partnering with initiatives or even like here in Nelson, is declining to share services and collaborate with the city and the provincial service-providing organizations and are going off and doing their own thing.”
In addition to Nelson, Murray stopped in Cranbrook, Creston and Trail, and throughout the area she heard some common issues.
“There are definitely common themes as I travel throughout rural BC, but there are also some things unique to an area that for example has a very strong industry like the coal industry in the East Kootenay, and there will be some things that are different in a place like Nelson that don’t have a major industry,” she said.
“Nelson has a reputation as a place to come and live and a place to come and visit that some other areas are still trying to develop. The need to bring tourists that will actually come and stay and not just drive through but will stop for a day or two or three, and will explore the particular great activities.”
Murray said one of the specific concerns to Nelson, from a small business perspective, is the dependence on small business and personal tax levels for funding services provided in the area.
“There needs to be a sensitivity to that and anything that the federal government can do to support the municipality helps take the pressure off of the small businesses and the taxes they pay,” she said.
Murray said that upon returning to Ottawa she will meet with the Canadian Tourism Commission.
“I will certainly be talking to the people that allocate those funds and have the job of showcasing Canada, about the importance of rural regions and rural communities in the work that they’re doing, that’s one thing,” she said.
“I’ve heard from a number of communities that they can’t get the skilled people that they need. Tradespeople are retiring over the next five to 10 years, and when they can identify a tradesperson from Germany or somewhere else they can’t come in because our immigration system is not supporting that need to bring in people to fill these really top jobs,” said Murray.
“In the Nelson area as well as the East Kootenay there is a lot of competition with the oil patch for highly paid, skilled trades jobs, so we need to bring them in from somewhere and the federal government has a role in recognizing that and developing a strategy.”