British Columbia Minister of Jobs insists throne speech supported growth in Vancouver Island's forest products sector, says he hopes wood products exports to Japan will soon reach double-digit growth

Lorena Madrigal

Lorena Madrigal

Oct 13, 2011 – Alberni Valley Times

PORT ALBERNI, B.C. , October 12, 2011 () – B.C.'s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation insists the job plan detailed in last week's throne speech does not ignore Vancouver Island, as some critics suggest.

"I don't think it does at all," Bell said, adding it is built upon key components that will support economic growth on Vancouver Island in sectors like forestry and tourism.

In Port Alberni, Western Forest Products Alberni Pacific Division (white wood) sales historically have been to Japan.

Bell admits Japan has been challenged in its reconstruction efforts, but the rebuilding of damaged ports and infrastructure is underway, and progress will be made in the coming months.

He added Japan "has been a tough market," consistent overall but with some decline.

Locally, the cedar market remains a key component. Bell is working to open up the export market for landscape products made from cedar to both China and Japan. Overall, he hopes to achieve double-digit growth in the export of wood products to Japan in the near future.

As for the U.S., which has traditionally been a strong buyer of B.C. cedar products, Bell insists we should keep our focus on the East.

"I don't think we should wait for the U.S. to recover [economic-ally]," he said. "We will be waiting a long time."

He believes of all the Canadian provinces and U.S. states, B.C. stands "the best chance of getting through this unscathed," because of our strategic location, our ports, our natural resources and our diverse economy.

"We might surprise North America," he said.

He predicts stability in the B.C. economy over the short-term and moderate growth over the mid-to long-term.

For communities like Port Alberni, Bell recommends they align their growth strategies with those of the province. He said Mayor Ken McRae understands this, and is on board. Bell added the Valley's forest industry is recovering well from its darkest days several years ago.

The throne speech made myriad promises regarding job creation and economic growth, including the creation of a Jobs and Investment Board, millions of new investment dollars to natural resource ministries, and a new Major Investments Office to work with investors, taking projects on paper and make them a reality.

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