Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


October 26, 2015

Motion 27 — International Trading Partnerships

S. Simpson: I’m pleased to get an opportunity to join this debate around the issue of the impacts and implications of trade for British Columbia. I think everybody in this Legislature — everybody in British Columbia — understands that we’re an economy where trade is pretty critical to our future.

We’re a relatively small economy. We depend largely on natural resources. We talk about diversification. It hasn’t much happened, but we do depend on trade.

Trade is critically important to our future. We need to understand it better, and we need to take advantage of those opportunities when they’re in front of us. Trade deals, though, as we know, have real implications for the province. Trade, like every other kind of deal…. There are good deals, and there are deals that are not so good. You need to weigh and measure those as you move forward.

Members on the other side have been talking about the TPP agreement. I look forward to seeing the terms of that agreement, the language, to see what is written there. I certainly look forward to the debate in the House of Commons, probably next year when this becomes a matter for the House of Commons and the new Prime Minister to decide.

Maybe even more importantly than the debate in our own federal parliament will be what happens in the United States, where a number of presidential candidates on both sides have said they do not support that agreement. In fact, the Republican majority in the Congress and the Senate have said it will not pass without amendments. So it will be very interesting to watch that discussion in the United States as well.

I think the TPP may create opportunities for us, and we’re going to have to wait to see what it looks like at the end of the day — depending on what our House of Commons says, depending on what the U.S. says, primarily.

I think, though, the real question for us today has to be how well our government prepares us for trade opportunities. How clear is the government about objectives? How much do we really understand the parameters around job creation, around building our local economies, around ensuring the environment is protected in these agreements, and understanding who really benefits from any given trade agreement?

We need to know that people in Surrey, Williams Lake, Comox, Castlegar and other communities across this province are the primary beneficiaries of a trade agreement. We need to understand that by understanding the implications for those communities as we move forward. We need to understand that the success of the B.C. economy around trade relationships will not be how well somebody does in a corporate tower in Toronto or New York. It will be how well families do in this province. That’s what we need to pay attention to.

We need to ensure, in the trade agreements that we are fully engaged in, and we need to be as engaged as we can be, that in fact families are benefiting. The problem we have is we have very little diversity in our economy and in our trade relationships, and we have very little value-added. Those are critical.

I would note that in 2012, the B.C. Business Council report on this issue said: “Taken as a whole, resource-based products actually loom larger in the province’s merchandise export mix today than they did ten years ago, making up almost 80 percent of our total in 2011, up from 76 percent in 2002.” What they were saying is that the intention was to reduce and diversify away from those products and commodities to other products and things we do. In fact, the situation has gotten worse.

We know when you look at the question of value in the forest sector, wood products rebounded at the end of the recession that ended in 2009 by about 98 percent, but it was all low-value softwood. It was raw logs.

In fact, we have seen a dramatic drop in value-added in this province. Half the companies that were competitive in the value-added sector have gone out of business since 2002. Employment has fallen by 40 percent and sales by 60 percent. The president of the Independent Wood Processors Association says his members have suffered because of inattention from the B.C. Liberal government.

If we’re going to succeed in trade agreements, the government needs to be working to diversify the economy, working to enhance value-added, working to prepare communities to be successful. Whatever agreements are signed in Washington or Ottawa or London will not have the impact they need to have in this province unless we are ready to take advantage of them.

The challenge we have is that this government has not put us in place to take advantage of them. We have not diversified our economy. We have continued to rely on an old economy. We have not done the work we need to do, and as a result, we are not going to get the benefit we should get, sadly.

https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/40th-parliament/4th-session/20151026am-Hansard-v30n1

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