Education and industry groups dominated the discussion on Tuesday as the provincial government's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services visited Prince George for pre-budget consultations.
For more than three-and-a-half hours, 10 MLAs heard from a cross-section of the community: from healthcare and literacy advocates to groups concerned about invasive species and groups promoting physical activity. But much of the morning session at the Ramada dealt with educational and industrial issues facing the region.
"We heard today from colleges and universities, education issues, we just heard from some of the mineral exploration issues with some of the issues about some of the issues they're concerned about we've heard from literacy groups, you name it," committee deputy chairman Mike Farnworth said.
Both UNBC and CNC made presentations about the funding crunch they're facing, while CNC students talked about the need for reduced tuition. Meanwhile, logging, mining and other resource groups along with Initiatives Prince George spoke about the challenges facing their sectors as well as the need for infrastructure improvements in the region due to the growing economy.
Committee chairman Dan Ashton said the geographical and cultural diversity of the province make the province-wide consultations essential. Prince George was one of the last stops on the month-long tour and over the next few weeks the committee will begin to prepare its report to the legislature.
Ashton expects the six Liberals and four NDP members of the committee will have little problem putting their partisan differences aside to produce a balanced report.
"We want to come up with something that realistically represents what the people of B.C. have asked of us," he said.
The committee finished the day with evening hearings in Williams Lake. Quesnel residents will have their chance to have their say through video conference on Oct. 16.
Ashton hopes the committee will utilize even more video conferences in the future to give people in smaller communities a chance to participate in the process.
Meanwhile, Farnworth said he still hasn't made a decision on making another run for leader of the provincial NDP. He finished second to Adrian Dix two years ago and the party is expected to vote on a new leader sometime in 2014.
"I'm very seriously considering it," Farnsworth said.