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

Construction on Columbia Avenue Redevelopment Phase 2 will continue for several months. Photo: Nancy Morton
Northbound Columbia Avenue traffic to be diverted to 6th Ave.

Find out what to expect in the construction zone this week

This painting is a piece from Young Visions 2021, opening April 22 at the Kootenay Gallery. Photo: S. Painter
Showcase of artwork by Kootenay Columbia students opens April 22

Young Visions 2021 runs April 22 to May 29 in the Kootenay Gallery of Art, Castlegar

ballot box
Advance polls open this week in Castlegar byelection

Voting location is Castlegar Community Complex

.
Kootenay Boundary COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Four new cases in Castlegar last week

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Interior Health improves access to mental health supports amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Stock)
Interior Health connects people to mental health resources amid COVID

310-MHSU line receives positive feedback in early months of rollout

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

Most Read