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Pique: The economic crisis is global in scope, but what are some of the things we can do provincially to mitigate the impact?
JS: We need to do three things to survive the current downturn and bounce back from it: restore confidence, maintain jobs, and protect people. Restoring confidence is a global task and we can do our part. The provincial government can help maintain jobs by undertaking as many capital projects as possible during the recession period. A downturn is a good time to make investments, whether in infrastructure, education, reforestation, or development and implementation of new green technologies. The provincial government can protect people through training and educational opportunities and strengthening the social safety net.
Pique: Most parties support the move to deficit spending in light of the crisis, but differ in how that money should be spent. What do you see as priorities for the spending package?
JS: Even as a Ph.D. economist, I can't predict with any certainty how deep the downturn will be or how long it will last. We need to have a number of well-founded stimulus initiatives ready to go so that we can respond quickly and use the expenditure opportunities to further our long-term objectives, such as greening the economy. As long as the stimulus takes the form of investment instead of current spending we can afford a substantial stimulus. What we can't afford is not having the right amount. Too little and we extend the recession, too much and we risk inflation.
Pique: Many industries in B.C. have taken hits recently - forestry is in decline as an industry and employer, tourism is down between 10 and 20 per cent. How do we rebuild those industries, and in what areas should the province diversify in the future?
JS: Both forestry and winter sports are threatened by climate change. The mountain pine beetle has devastated the interior forest industry and those forests must be replanted to ensure a future industry in those areas. Whistler has done a good job of attracting visitors from different geographical regions over the years, and must continue to do so with an increasing emphasis on the emerging Chinese market. This must be balanced with an emphasis of local visitors from B.C., Washington, and Oregon. The Sea-to-Sky corridor also has the potential to further develop knowledge industries by continuing to attract workers who want to live in a beautiful environment near eco-sports opportunities. Whistler is already an epicentre of sustainability consultants.
Pique: There has been debate recently about what constitutes an Olympic cost, whether to include the Sea to Sky Highway Upgrades or Canada Line, or the upgrades to the Vancouver Convention Centre because of the timing. How do you define an Olympic cost or Olympic benefit?