Pressure on B.C.’s minister of jobs

Pat Bell's latest assignment is simple. As Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, all he has to do is take B.C.'s success in reaching out to Asia for forest products, extend it to the rest of the economy, and make Premier Christy Clark's jobs plan work.

Jobs

VICTORIA – Pat Bell’s latest assignment is simple. As Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, all he has to do is take B.C.’s success in reaching out to Asia for forest products, extend it to the rest of the economy, and make Premier Christy Clark’s jobs plan work.

Bell is typically upbeat in an interview in his legislature office, offering a sample of tasty baked vegetable snacks. A Chinese company is considering a farm and processing plant for export to the U.S., and one of Bell’s duties is to secure that kind of new investment.

“I often find out that an investor has been over here looking for a specific opportunity, and they’ve gone back empty-handed,” Bell said. “And I know there’s an opportunity in, say, Houston B.C. for that investor. But I didn’t know they were coming, so I couldn’t coordinate it.”

He’s working to fix that, with a better inventory of land and other resources for every community. And he’s establishing a major investments office, to help B.C. land the rare big fish that come swimming by with a billion to invest in a large industry like mining or liquefied natural gas.

As lands minister, Bell signed sweeping land use agreements with coastal first nations and environmental groups. As forests minister, he worked with industry to develop the Chinese lumber market. Now he hopes to use the same principles for tourism, mines, energy, and if the market is there, vegetable snacks.

“The principles behind this are exactly the same as what we did in forestry,” Bell said. “Collaborate with all of the different key partners. Build a market, don’t compete with each other. Make a significant investment in what you’re trying to do, focus your efforts and be consistent.”

As Clark and Bell get set for a national trade mission to China, a reciprocal effort is underway. Bell said Minister of State for Multiculturalism Harry Bloy is developing a hosting program for visits here, working with the consulates for China, Japan, Korea and India.

Bell credits two texts with influencing the jobs plan. One is David Baxter’s 2002 report for the Urban Development Institute, which coined the term “first dollar” for industries such as international education and tourism that bring new money into an economy.

The other is Good to Great, the bestselling book by U.S. management guru Jim Collins that describes how great companies focus only on areas where they have a strategic advantage.

Recent U.S. calls for an import duty on shipping containers from Canada suggests that B.C.’s ports may have that kind of strategic advantage.

Another big task is to meet Clark’s goals for new resource agreements with aboriginal communities. That means building a working relationship on projects, as B.C. did with the Haida Nation after many years of hostile relations, Bell said.

“So that when these projects come ahead, instead of the first call the First Nation makes being to a rights and title lawyer, it’s to their economic advisor, saying how do we make this happen?”

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young Muslims offer helping hand to isolated residents throughout Lower Mainland

Neighbourhood Helper campaign aims to get help to people who can’t leave their homes

South Surrey man aims to ease stress of pandemic with free online yoga

Patrick Aubert says his one-hour classes are about rest, recovery

White Rock’s promenade to close to the public

Public access to popular waterfront walkway closing April 10: city

Christopherson Steps, 1,001 Steps closed due to COVID-19

Access restricted to Crescent Beach over Easter weekend, City of Surrey announces

LETTER: With a long road of recovery ahead, Surrey must keep RCMP

To change for the sake of change shows weak leadership, inability to understand needs of community

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

Controls can keep Canadian COVID-19 deaths under 22,000, health agency says

With poor containment measures, the death toll could be much, much higher, the agency says

People needing addictions services feel ‘abandoned’ during pandemic, B.C.’s ex-top doctor says

Widespread job losses and more homelessness due to physical distancing at shelters have added hurdles

Canada lost 1,011,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate up to 7.8%: StatCan

Unemployment rate hits levels not seen since 2010

COVID-19 world update: 6.6 million U.S. jobless claims; alcohol sales banned in Bangkok

Comprehensive digest of coronavirus news items from around the world

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

BC institution has highest number of positive results for COVID-19

11 inmates in Mission test positive for coronavirus, more than any other federal prison in Canada

Most Read