Abbott pledges tourism strategy

B.C. Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott made another appearance in the South Cariboo on Wednesday to speak with members of the constituency association.

By Carole RooneyB.C. Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott made another appearance in the South Cariboo on Wednesday to speak with members of the constituency association.Appearing before the faithful at the Hills Health Ranch, he outlined a few key aspects of his campaign platform in a last chance to win over undecided party members in the community prior to this Saturday’s leadership election.The Shuswap MLA was joined by some of his B.C. Liberal supporters, including Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, Vancouver-Langara MLA Moira Stilwell and Ed Mayne, who cued up to show their support for Abbott and witness his announcement about a new tourism marketing model.“We need to build a world-class destination strategy and a world-class destination model for tourism in this province,” Abbott said.If elected, he will promptly sit down and have a “long and fulsome discussion” with the Hills Health Ranch owner Pat Corbett, the Council of Tourism Associations and other leaders in the tourism industry to build that model for the future, Abbott explained.“I think as a government we lost a fair bit of confidence among tourism leaders with the very precipitous move of Tourism BC back into government,” Abbott said.Corbett said the new tourism model as presented “reflects completely” what the industry requires and is asking for, and that it creates the foundation to properly market the province.The other reason he supports Abbott’s model is it includes the long-term funding formula that sustainable, long-term market development requires, Corbett said, adding it will allow the new agency to plan on multi-year business plans.In the event that Abbott does not win, Corbett said the industry would lobby whichever candidate does become premier.“At this stage Christy Clark has indicated a general commitment in this direction, but it doesn’t have the depth and detail as yet, so we would only hope that if she became premier she would be willing to adopt the same core principles.”Kevin Falcon has been silent on the issue, so the industry would have to work with the former health minister to help him “get the vision,” Corbett added.After reiterating much of his campaign platform to the four dozen or so people who attended, Abbott fielded questions that included a query about the future of the carbon tax.Abbott explained his proposal to add a question to the referendum to ask if voters support further incremental carbon tax increases after July 2012.Citing the case of a smaller grower in Oliver with three acres of greenhouses who pays $35,000 a year in carbon tax levies on top of his natural gas heating costs, Abbott noted many B.C. growers are in a “competitive situation” with Washington state, where such a tax doesn’t exist.“I am loathe, loathe, to put our economic enterprises in jeopardy by undermining their competitive opportunities by layering on more carbon tax.”Barnett noted she talked to all the candidates and waited to see who would have the policies that would best deal with the issues of the Cariboo-Chilcotin, such as tourism and agriculture, before getting behind Abbott in his campaign.Agriculture has been “long forgotten” she said, not only with dollars and cents, but also with regulations, policies and other issues.