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Federal Conservative leader shares recovery plan

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:05 PDT, Fri July 16, 2021

Last Updated: 3:08 PDT, Fri July 16, 2021

Federal Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole shared his vision for post-pandemic recovery this week in Richmond.

At the local chamber of commerce’s first in-person event in over a year, O'Toole offered five "pillars" that focus on recovery and preparation for the next pandemic, including Canada’s ability to manufacture vaccines and personal protective equipment, as well as the creation of a million jobs. 

Chamber president and chief executive officer Dan Baxter said while the plan presented was light on detail, the pillars “seem to be checking some of the right boxes in terms of supporting jobs, business and hopefully economic growth.”

“(O’Toole) is definitely focused on recovery, which is good—we need our political leaders to be focused on that right now because of where we are in the pandemic,” says Baxter. “It’s beyond resiliency, beyond trying to keep the lights on. We’re trying to help our businesses get to the next level.”

Baxter says chamber members have struggled to find workers, particularly the right employees to help their businesses grow.

“We’re transitioning from the resiliency phase to the recovery phase, transitioning away from those (economic) supports. If we don’t, all the work that we’ve done in the last 16 months could be undone,” says Baxter.

He says another interesting facet of O’Toole’s presentation was his discussion of Hong Kong, given that Richmond is a very Asia-Pacific influenced community.

“When we critique Chinese actions in Hong Kong, it’s not about the people or the country itself,” says Baxter. “Having that ‘eyes wide open’ conversation as we engage with the important trade partner that is China, and coming to a community like Richmond and having that conversation—(O’Toole) didn’t shy away from it.”

Businesses are feeling more optimistic about the future, according to the most recent B.C. chamber network survey in April. Another survey is currently taking place, with results to be shared after it concludes.

“With the vaccine rollout, there was high optimism,” says Baxter. “Now that we’re into step three of the restart plan, businesses are starting to see that path forward.”

On the possibility of a fall federal election, Baxter says it wouldn’t be surprising.

“The campaign words and platforms are there, obviously it’s the early days of that, but there’s a general sense that we’ll probably see an election this year,” he says.

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