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

First Journey Trails CEO Thomas Schoen (from left), Jimco Services’ James Doerfling, Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars and Sugar Cane Archaeology’s Marvin Bob break ground on a new mountain biking trail network project at WLFN. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
WATCH: Williams Lake First Nation breaks ground on multi-use bike trail project

Phase one of the project will see the construction of a 1,750-metre hiking and biking trail

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

Kira Stowell rode her way to first place in the senior pole bending event at the combined High School Rodeo in Quesnel in the only event of 2020. All regional high school events have been cancelled, although there are still hopes for provincials. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
High school rodeo events cancelled

Rodeos were planned for Williams Lake and Quesnel in early May

The COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus is closed April 22, 23, Interior Health confirmed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake COVID-19 vaccine community clinic closed April 22, 23

Interior Health said closure comes as all appointments caught up, or rescheduled earlier

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

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

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Most Read