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Skills training a priority

Bruce Ralston says he is well aware of the NDP's record on economic issues.

And despite how members of other political parties try to paint it, the record is not that bad, says the provincial critic for finance and public accounts.

Ralston, who was in Parksville Tuesday as the feature speaker at a fundraiser for Parksville-Qualicum NDP candidate Barry Avis, said there are some people he's never going to convince, but the record speaks for itself.

"Reasonable people would look at the record of other NDP governments across Canada as effective, prudent money managers and economic managers," he said in an exclusive interview. "What (opposition leader) Adrian Dix is trying to do is shift the debate to a more fact-based, policy-driven discussion, rather than people just hurling insults based on preconceptions."

If he and his party are successful, one of the key priorities on Ralston's will be to  invest in skills training.

"Lots of businesses are in a position where, in order to expand or even maintain their current activity, they need skilled people," he said. "Fully, 80 per cent of future jobs will require post-secondary education — not just university, but adult literarcy, pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, technology training, business training or post-graduate research in science and the professions. The province doesn't have all the economic levers, but this is one thing a province can focus on."

The lack of focus on skills training in B.C., he added, was shown by a job fair held recently in Dublin, Ireland.

"Alberta has a better system than B.C.," Ralston said. "There are some real opportunities there."

When asked what his top priority for change would be if he becomes the new finance minister, Ralston was blunt.

"The central obligation of the finance minister is to be straightforward about government finances — in good times and bad — and certainly the record of the B.C. Liberals, most notoriously in 2009, is that they didn't tell the truth about the finances. The Liberals have a problem as they go into this budget: people will have a great deal of difficulty accepting what they have to say."

Ralston said he expects to see an approximately two per cent growth rate in B.C. and he wants to ensure a new government would meet this fiscal reality.

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