B.C. is an important transportation gateway for the entire country. In a province founded and grown on the extraction and movement of resources and goods, our geography is our most valuable resource. This strategic advantage must be leveraged through policies which ensure the continued growth and efficiency of our gateway. It requires the promotion of both interprovincial and international trade, and the development of the physical infrastructure necessary to move our goods and resources to markets. The future of our regional, provincial, and national economies will be dependent on how effectively our gateway is able to connect us with economies around the world.


Where they stand

Major export and gateway initiatives of the BC Green Party include the promotion of value-added wood products abroad, working with the federal government to sign trade agreements, and developingthe infrastructure necessary to export electricity to Alberta.

Our Analysis

It is difficult to comment on the Green Party platform in terms of gateway resources. They ostensibly focus on the forestry industry in their trade agenda. While they rightly acknowledge that raw log exports are a symptom of market conditions, rather than a cause of the forestry industry’s woes, they propose a very heavy handed approach by restricting log exports. As they point out in their platform, the future of the value-added forestry industry will rely on innovation and technology, and this should be the focus of the provincial government.

Furthermore, they do not have any mention in their platform of how the government can support exports or help B.C. businesses access new markets beyond the forestry sector. It is no surprise that the BC Green Party does not support LNG or oil and gas development, however, they have failed to provide an alternate vision as to how they would grow other exports or leverage B.C.’s position as Canada’s Pacific Gateway.

The Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2016 found that B.C.’s domestic market is far smaller than those of its competitors around the world. The Shanghai-Pudong corridor alone has more people than all of Canada. However, what B.C. does have is the ability to supply these growing Asian markets with needed goods and materials. The future of our province will rely on export-led growth, whether those exports are to Asia, the United States, or even the rest of Canada. Yet, the BC Greens have not proposed any policies in their platform to help support this economic necessity.

The BC Greens make no mention of the Gateway, the importance of the Asia-Pacific market, or trade-enabling infrastructure in their platform.

The BC Liberal platform promises the expansion of many of their programs to increase B.C.’s export capacity. They will expand the Export Navigator pilot program, increase the presence of Trade and Investment Offices in the U.S. (specifically in Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington D.C.) and provide the BC Chamber of Commerce with $50,000 to support their #TradeTalks exporting conference. They have also pledged to support Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s exploration of stronger transportation connections between Seattle and Vancouver and increase exports of agrifood and seafood products by 25% by 2020.

Their platform provides funding for trade-enabling infrastructure projects such as the Ashcroft Terminal inland port expansion.

They continue their promise to develop B.C.’s Liquefied Natural Gas Industry (LNG) and push to tap into growing energy demand in Asia. They aim to have three LNG facilities moving to construction by 2020. They promise to further develop the oil and gas reserves in the Montney Basin, and promote downstream refining within B.C.

Our Analysis

The BC Liberals have the most thorough export development strategy of the three parties. They mix both industry specific supports and goals with a broader approach to increasing export capacity. We welcome the expansion of trade and investment offices in important markets such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Washington D.C. A stronger link to these cities will be vital to the future of our tech sector, and a stronger presence in Washington D.C. will be vital for the years ahead as there may be a marked shift in U.S. trade policy.

They also continue their support for LNG. While the energy glut has undercut the economics of these projects, it is important to make the long-term investments necessary to take advantage of the market when it becomes for favourable. It is less clear how they intend to “unlock” the Montney Basin and whether a downstream industry in B.C. makes business sense.

Their platform also outlines BC Liberal support for important trade-enabling infrastructure projects such as Roberts Bank Terminal 2, inland port expansion at Ashcroft Terminal, and the Massey Tunnel Replacement. In British Columbia our proximity to high-growth Asian markets is one of our greatest natural advantages and it’s important that all parties leverage this economic advantage.

The BC NDP platform provides supports for specific industries to tap into new markets. Their “Grow BC, Feed BC, Buy BC” strategy promises a marketing campaign aimed at helping B.C. food producers export. The BC NDP platform wants to expand the global market for B.C. forestry products, and reduce raw log exports and instead support value-added wood products. To help these products enter new markets they will support the industry in meeting building material tests. They also identify manufacturing as an important exporter in our province. Their platform promises to “partner with manufacturers to develop a multi-year growth strategy to support the sector in meeting its staffing needs and to expand exports.”

For LNG exports, the BC NDP has proposed four conditions that each project must meet. These include offering jobs and training for British Columbians, especially local people; a “fair return” for resources; full partnership with local First Nations; and completing a made-in-B.C. environmental assessment.
They have also promised to “revitalize the land reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission for the 21st century.”

Our Analysis

The BC NDP has taken a sector-specific approach to promoting B.C. exports and the Pacific Gateway. Specifically, they look to increasing the export of value-added wood products and B.C. food products. While these are two very important sectors that B.C. can leverage, we would have liked to see a stronger vision for how a BC NDP government would support these industries in a competitive global landscape. For example, China has seen skyrocketing demand for high-quality food. This is a demand that B.C. is very well positioned to take advantage of, however, their platform makes no mention of these emerging opportunities beyond a “Buy BC” marketing campaign. They do mention how B.C.’s agricultural, technology, and manufacturing sectors are well positioned to benefit from access to the Asia-Pacific, however, we would like to see how the BC NDP would maximize these potential benefits. We are curious to see what their multi-year growth strategy for manufacturing will entail. It is unclear how exactly they would support manufacturers to expand exports.

It is unclear how exactly they will reduce the number of raw log exports and “keep more logs in B.C. for processing.” If these policies are too restrictive they will disrupt natural market forces and would artificially inflate a sector, damaging its long-run viability. A more forward-looking way to support forestry would be an exploration of how B.C. can leverage its centuries of knowledge and expertise to become a world leader in export practises and technologies.

There is not a single mention in their platform of supporting the physical movement of goods or of the Asia-Pacific Gateway. Proper transportation infrastructure is not only vital to the future growth of our province, but our Gateway is a strategic national asset and whichever party forms the next government must treat it as such.

They also propose four additional conditions for LNG development and make no mention as to whether these are principles or would somehow be codified into regulations. It is unclear what a “fair return” for resources would entail. One can assume this refers to creating a new royalty structure, but that would be conjecture on our part as their platform does not contain any criticism of B.C.’s current royalty regime. Without clarity on the nature of these conditions, it is difficult to understand the position of the BC NDP on projects such as PNW LNG, which they had previously opposed.