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

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

Dianna Plouffe, right, with Mayor Gladys Atrill in front of Town Hall following the announcement she will be the new CAO> (Facebook photo)
Director of corporate services named Smithers CAO

Dianna Plouffe replaces Alan Harris who is retiring at the end of April

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Witset. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

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

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

Most Read