Betty Hinton, MP Masthead
Member of Parliament for Kamloops Thompson Cariboo
[Columns]
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Betty Hinton MP Column

January 5, 2004

I’ve joined my fellow MP, Darrel Stinson (Okanagan Shuswap) in writing to the federal and provincial levels of government encouraging them to continue to push for free and fair trade for our constituents who depend on the forestry sector for their livelihood. Although there are some of the larger companies that are saying, “let’s take the softwood lumber deal being offered by the U.S.” there are still many people out there who feel as though Canada is throwing in the towel unnecessarily. Our country has an excellent reputation in the world forestry industry, we have the wood supply and we have many outstanding people trained in all aspects of the industry. I guess what Darrel and I, and others like us, are saying is “give us a level playing field and we’ll show you what we can do.

Still on the subject of forestry, I am very excited about the recent news from China that their government has introduced a new building code that, for the first time ever, includes provisions for North American style wood-frame construction. Kudos to Premier Gordon Campbell and leaders in the forestry industry who were in China, in November. China is a huge marketplace and I appreciate the fact the province is getting their foot in the door early. Now, we just have to keep the pressure on to ensure our region is part of the initiative – it can’t all happen at the coast. I will, now that the holidays are over and people are back to thinking about business, meet with people in the forestry industry in our region and put together a letter to Gordon, outlining just what we can do as part of B.C.’s export project to China.

Another item of note in the Chinese news in late December was the amendment put forth, and accepted, by the National People’s Congress that “private property obtained legally shall not be violated.” This decision will give official status to entrepreneurs; a group that the leaders of China have started to realize are the engine of economic growth for their country if they want to be part of the global economy.

This decision will pave the way for other sectors in the Canadian economy to start getting involved in joint ventures with business people in China. We already have, through many of our Chinese-Canadian families, ties and understanding of the culture. I also have to mention our international students, many of who will become the entrepreneurs of the future when they return to their homelands. We are also situated geographically for relatively easy travel between the two countries.

All of these changes, far across the oceans, bode well for B.C.’s economy. There are other signs that 2004 will be a time of opportunity. Real estate prices have held well. Construction is at an all-time high. Retailers were smiling throughout the Christmas shopping period.

In the midst of this “good-news day” for our province, Canada’s new Prime Minister decides he’s going to “freeze” spending. One has to wonder, are these Quebec-Ontario-centred leaders so far removed from our province that they don’t see the economic realities facing us here on the west coast. It seems to me as soon as we pull up our socks, find a new direction to get this great province out of its boom and bust syndrome, the federal Liberals immediately throw water on the economic engine we’ve re-invented.

The interesting thing about the PM’s recent announcement about a freeze is that none of us are sure exactly what he can freeze. After all there is no Parliament in session, hasn’t been since mid-November and apparently won’t be until end of January or early February (you and I will know the date when the PM’s office decides to tell us via a media release). Therefore, he can’t bring in a new budget.

Many of the “capital projects” in the country are funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (an at-arms length foundation set up by the Liberals). Their billions for university research are untouchable. Then there is the millions he promised to set aside to appease the major cities. That money - $2 billion – is being handed over to the mayors, to be used for their “needs.” That will be an interesting partnership to watch in future months. The federal Liberals have had difficult ties for years in getting consensus with a dozen provinces and territories, how they’re going to get along with 200 cities is yet to be determined.

Back to B.C. I believe or province is poised on edge of some exciting developments. My job in 2004 will be to ensure the needs and the strengths of our region are heard in the rooms where decisions are made. In the House of Commons I’ll continue to speak out publicly, and in the corridors and committee rooms on your behalf.

May we all have a prosperous and healthy year. Together we can.


 

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