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Open letter: A choice for British Columbia

Published by Derek Lothian on October 26, 2011

As Canadians, we are acutely aware that living beside the most powerful and prosperous country in the world can be a double-edged sword.

That relationship has given us privileged access to a huge and lucrative market and created the most valuable trading relationship among nations. Yet the glow of the U.S. marketplace can be so bright it sometimes blinds us to opportunities to diversify and secure Canada's future prosperity.

Lately, it's become very clear that the global economy is undergoing profound changes, with a historic shift towards the rapidly growing economies of the Pacific Rim. As a country dependent on exports for its high standard of living, trade with the Pacific Rim has profound implications for Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, the U.S. accounts for nearly 75 per cent of all Canada's exports. In addition, almost all of our energy exports go to the U.S. This creates a dangerous dependency on a single customer.

No business or family would willingly put all its eggs in one basket (or market) -- and neither should Canada.

Fortunately, we have the energy, resources, goods and expertise that the growing markets of the Pacific Rim demand. And even more fortuitously, Canada's West Coast ports offer a strategic gateway to those markets - a gateway to half the world's population!

This represents a unique opportunity for British Columbia to demonstrate the dynamic leadership necessary to take full advantage of fundamental changes in the global economy.

For centuries, the markets and opportunities for Canada were on the Atlantic, and particularly in the great and growing population centres of the Northeastern U.S. As a trading nation, we oriented ourselves towards new opportunities and created the necessary infrastructure to access those markets. And in the process, Canada built one of the most successful economies on earth.

In order for Canada to continue to compete globally, we must do so again.

Led by British Columbia, Canada must understand and embrace the opportunities of the 21st or "Pacific" Century and assemble the infrastructure and expertise necessary to take full advantage of the opportunities it represents.

Canada has talked about a "Pacific Gateway" for years: a tantalizing dream to position British Columbia as the leader of a coordinated national effort to leverage our strategic position into jobs, investment and prosperity for many decades to come.

Turning that dream into reality will require large, responsibly managed investments. It's time to build the ports and pipelines, create the transportation systems, develop the skills and assemble the financial muscle to lead our country in tackling the challenges of global economic change.

We have signed this open letter to British Columbians because we believe that the wonderful opportunities that await this province depend on making the right decisions today. We are calling on individuals who see these opportunities and understand the benefits of real growth to send a message to friends, family and elected representatives in your community. We must stand up for projects that expand our port facilities and the complementary rail, road and pipeline linkages. And governments and industry must meet the established stringent environmental and regulatory standards and properly consult with Aboriginal Canadians. Timely completion of natural gas pipeline and liquefaction capacity, as well as pipelines such as Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, is essential for our economic future. Saying "yes" to these projects is saying "yes" to creating the infrastructure in B.C. that will position us for global leadership in socially and environmentally responsible trade.

We believe in the spirit demonstrated during the Winter Olympics, when British Columbians embraced this new world and its incredible possibilities. The Pacific Century should be British Columbia's Century. The time to demonstrate vision and leadership is now.

Tom Sigurdson
British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council

Greg D'Avignon
Business Council of British Columbia

Mark Olsen
Construction and Specialized Workers' Union Local 1611 (Labourers)

Don McGill
Teamsters, Local Union 213

Joe Shayler
United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local Union 170

Brian Cochrane
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115

Iain Black
Vancouver Board of Trade

John Winter
BC Chamber of Commerce

Tim McEwan
Initiatives Prince George

Manley McLachlan
BC Construction Association

Hon. David Emerson
Hon. Chuck Strahl

Colin Kinsley
Northern Gateway Alliance

Dr. Jayson Myers
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

Hon. John Manley
Canadian Council of Chief Executives

Hon. Perrin Beatty
Canadian Chamber of Commerce


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