Quester Tangent needs local, provincial and federal governments to create strong communities — and allow companies like his the means and the atmosphere in which to pay good wages and help keep their employees happy.
The company’s vice-president and chief operating officer delivered that message to B.C. New Democratic Party Leader John Horgan, MLA for Surrey-Whalley Bruce Ralston and Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman during a tour of their Central Saanich manufacturing facility this week.
Horgan has been touring the province, speaking with various business sectors and others about provincial and local issues. He was, most recently, in the south Okanagan, prior to returning to the Island this week.
Horgan said he’s heard plenty from Saanich Peninsula industry that there’s a constant demand for more affordable housing. Yet, Collins told him during the tour that he’s not fully on board with that camp.
“I would rather focus on the business than affordable housing,” Collins said. “The job of the provincial government is to provide community (through education, health care, etc.). My job is to be able to make enough money to pay employees enough money to want to come here.”
Collins said the high cost of living in the south Island has made recruiting engineers for job vacancies at Quester Tangent difficult.
“We want to be able to pay the salaries needed for the talent we want,” Collins said.
Quester Tangent is a leading North American manufacturer, supplier, and integrator of train electronics and software solutions for the passenger rail and locomotive industries. They recently signed a contract with China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) Limited to deliver Train Monitoring and Diagnostic Systems, Networks and Engineering Services for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). CRRC’s deal with the CTA is worth $1.3 billion.
Horgan agreed that government’s job is to do the things that Collins pointed out, adding that business has to do its part.
One of those areas, Horgan continued, is to invest in education to create a more skilled workforce, able to take jobs like those at Quester Tangent. He said an NDP government would focus on more investment in secondary schools.
At the same time, however, Horgan noted housing affordability rains a serious issue for people looking to live in places like the Saanich Peninsula.
“People are generally paying more and getting less.”
In the region, Holman has been working with various stakeholders on an affordable housing inventory, trying to create a picture of what’s available, where the demand is and create a baseline from which housing providers and developers can build.
Horgan said, as his party’s leader, he often gets a lot of wish lists from people, wanting more from the government. He said he feels the governing B.C. Liberals have shortchanged education and continue to forecast its revenues from nonexistent Liquefied Natural Gas sources.
He used one of his trademark lines — “blackjack, booze and bungalows” — to describe where the Liberals get most of their general revenue. He called all of that non-sustainable sources of tax dollars.
Better yet, he said, is to create the environment for businesses like Quester Tangent to thrive and contribute to the community being built by the various levels of government.
The province heads to its next election in May, 2017.