Skip navigation

Campbell sees 'golden decade'

Continued from Page 1

"That will definitely be one of his priorities," Prof. Mauser said.

On the economic front, meantime, you will likely see Mr. Campbell focus his attention on two areas near to his heart: the growing opportunities that exist in the Asia Pacific and the continued diversification of B.C.'s resource-based economy.

"The potential that exists in the Asia Pacific is absolutely huge for us," Mr. Campbell said. "People sometimes forget that 24 per cent of our trade right now is with the Asia Pacific. In Ontario, it's 2.5 per cent of their trade. But what's happening is the weight of the world economy is shifting towards China, Japan and India, and British Columbia is particularly positioned to take advantage of that shift."

He said the social and cultural connections B.C. has with China and India, in particular, are going to help build strong bridges for future prosperity.

Meantime, Mr. Campbell said the resource sector would always be a key part of the B.C. economy. The forests aren't going to move to Wyoming. The coal deposits aren't going to suddenly trot off to Australia. But at the same time the province needs to encourage the explosion in other industries -- something he said is close to happening.

"People in B.C. don't understand that our biotechnology industry is about to break free," Mr. Campbell said. "It is being recognized around the world for not just its critical mass but the product it's developing. That excites me because that is going to push forward a whole series of opportunities for other sectors of the economy like tourism and tourism development.

"We have $4-billion in resort development on the boards right now -- four billion that is approved and ready to go and will be taking place over the next 10 years. That represents enormous job opportunities that range from young people working on lifts to guides working in the woods to people working in managing and marketing. That's a result of a diversified economy."

Of course, there are always challenges on the twin fronts of education and the environment in British Columbia and the next four years will be full of them for the Liberals. But more than those two areas, health care might represent the single toughest test for Mr. Campbell as he looks down the road.

Baby boomers are placing a burden on the health-care system.

Mr. Campbell believes, no doubt rightly, that the problem this dynamic is creating is bigger than any one provincial government. It is an issue with which society, as a whole needs to wrestle, he said, although he concedes it will likely consume a great deal of his time.

"The reason we've established the council on seniors and aging is we have to think about what we demand people do in regards to things like registered retirement savings plans," Mr. Campbell said. "People in their 70s are contributing enormously in every way they used to when they were in their 50s.

"We have to look at how we build communities to accommodate that new reality. What kinds of facilities do we need to provide to deal with this, what kinds of services? I think it's one of the truly huge societal challenges we face as a country, but, by extension, it will also be a huge challenge this government faces in the next four years."

(B.C. is pushing to increase the age at which seniors must convert their registered retirement savings plans into registered retirement income funds.)

If there is one area Mr. Campbell didn't receive much credit for in his first term it was the new relationship he forged with Ottawa. In the past, that association has been chronically acrimonious. In fact, one of the many truisms about B.C. politics was: If you wanted to get a quick bump in the polls all you needed to do was pick a fight with the feds.

Mr. Campbell decided to try a more diplomatic approach, which relied less on whining about how badly B.C. had been treated over the years and instead focused on the notion that the federal government would be silly to ignore a province that had quietly become an economic powerhouse with a glaringly bright future.

At federal conferences, he took on a leading role among the premiers. Not a fan of empty rhetoric that seldom leads to solutions, Mr. Campbell, a policy enthusiast, gained a reputation for trying to bridge the divisions that existed between the provinces and Ottawa.

Recommend this article? 1 votes

Back to top