Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia (submitted)

Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia (submitted)

FINLAYSON: Government should focus on strengthening B.C.’s leading export industries

To revive the economy, this piece in the strategy is integral, writes Jock Finlayson

As Premier John Horgan and his cabinet colleagues explore options to kick-start the economy while the province slowly emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, they have several strategic options to consider. For example, they could seek to boost industries which employ the most people or those that underpin economic activity in the individual regions that make up the province. They could look to accelerate new business-startups or, instead, put more emphasis on encouraging existing B.C. companies to expand and hire more people. They may decide to double down on industries that have performed well during the pandemic – such as digital services — or, alternatively, concentrate on reviving sectors that have struggled.

One way B.C. policymakers can approach the task of economic recovery and re-building is to focus on the fundamental drivers of our prosperity, or what some analysts call the province’s “economic base.” A paper published by senior B.C. public servants in late 2019 defines the economic base as activities that “bring dollars into the provincial economy through exports of goods and services.” In a small jurisdiction like B.C., export-oriented industries are vital to sustaining and improving living standards. Without competitive export industries, B.C. would have far less capacity to pay for imports. We would also find it harder to grow local companies and the high-paying jobs which are abundant among export-capable businesses.

The industries which generate export earnings for B.C. are diverse. They include businesses in the natural resources and manufacturing sectors as well as others that produce services that are sold to out-of-province buyers. Some of these industries export internationally, while others mainly sell goods or services to the rest of Canada.

In 2019, the total value of B.C.’s exports of goods and services to all external markets – other provinces plus other countries combined – was about $118 billion. The table below divides total exports into four categories, based on the type of export (good or service) and whether it was sold internationally or to other Canadian provinces.

Goods sold to other countries are B.C.’s top source of export earnings. Natural resource-based products account for two-thirds of this category, with forestry providing the biggest slice, followed by ores and minerals, energy, and agri-food products. Several of these industries have been spearheading B.C.’s recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, with exports of lumber, minerals and natural gas all rebounding since mid-2020. Other B.C. products sold in international markets include primary and fabricated metals (notably aluminum), machinery, advanced technology products, and processed food. Our province also exports a similar mix of natural resource-based and other manufactured goods to the rest of Canada, amounting to around $13 billion in final export sales in 2018.

Turning to services, each year B.C. sells in the vicinity of $30 billion of services to other Canadian provinces. Included in this category are transportation, professional and technical services, financial services, and money spent in B.C. by both leisure travelers and business visitors from elsewhere in Canada. B.C.’s status as Canada’s dominant transportation and trade gateway to the Asia-Pacific is reflected in the high value of service exports to the rest of Canada.

B.C. also earns income by selling locally produced services to international customers. Again, these include transportation services, professional, technical and financial services, and spending by international tourists. Film and t.v. production is also on the list of international service exports. It, too, is contributing to B.C.’s ongoing economic recovery. Of note, prior to the arrival of COVID-19, film and television ranked as the fastest growing industry in the province in the decade to 2019. Education is another important international service export, with billions of dollars spent in B.C. by the 130,000 or so foreign students enrolled in B.C. colleges, universities and schools prior to 2020.

Rebuilding a strong economy after the COVID-19 crisis is a top priority for provincial policymakers. Creating an attractive business and investment environment for the industries that comprise B.C.’s “economic base” will be essential to meeting the challenge.

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of British Columbia

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Fire rips through shop in small South Okanagan town

The building was destroyed despite community efforts to fight the fire

The Save Sickle Point Committee, a grassroots community group, has teamed up Penticton’s Tempest Theatre and Film Society to release short film on Sickle Point. (Contributed)
WATCH: Conservationists release short film on saving ‘precious’ Sickle Point

Sickle Point, the last intact wetland near Skaha Lake, is facing the prospect of development

The municipality of Summerland will develop a code of ethics for municipal staff. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland to develop code of ethics for staff

One-page values document will serve to guide municipal staff

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Marylou Jensen. (Contributed)
Kelowna RCMP searching for missing senior

Marylou Jensen left her Grenfell Road home on foot at 5 p.m.

A dumpster was on fire behind a residential complex in downtown Penticton Tuesday afternoon. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
Dumpster fire extinguished in downtown Penticton

There has been a string of dumpster fires lately

Skogie’s Express Tunnel Wash on Anderson Way in Vernon. (Submitted photo)
Lawsuit dismissed after vehicle damaged while inside Okanagan car wash

Civil Resolution Tribunal dismisses driver’s claim following a collision inside Skogie’s car wash in Vernon

The future of the Eagle Pass Lookout cabin is being discussed. (File photo)
Options presented for future of former Eagle Pass fire lookout in Shuswap

Stakeholders met in 2020 to discuss the restoration, or possible removal of the cabin

(Mayor Cindy Fortin - Peachland)
Peachland mayor declines early vaccination offer

Mayor Cindy Fortin said she wants seniors, immunocompromised individuals to get the shot first

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Conservation officers caught three men over fishing bull trout in Kinbasket Lake. (Facebook)
B.C. men fined $1.7K for overfishing near Revelstoke, Golden

The seized fish were donated to the Golden Food Bank

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)
Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

Most Read