With a provincial election just eight months away, Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism and innovation was in Penticton recently to speak about the provincial Liberals successes and future plans.
Bell was guest speaker at a recent Free Enterprise Friday event, speaking on government plans to expand the export economy, with China and India as target markets.
“Build on exports, build on first dollar industries that will allow you to have the strength of economy necessary to focus on social services, health care, education and everything else,” said Bell. His ministry had identified eight sectors where this principle could be applied, including agriculture and tourism, already key economic drivers for the region.
“The wine industry is a great example of agriculture with a high quality product that has served us well in the Okanagan Valley,” said Bell, adding that tourism is also big in terms of what the province can deliver, pointing out that visitors can go from luxury experiences to complete wilderness in 15 minutes.
“If you are from China that has 1.4 billion people … where they live on top of each other, that’s the proposition they are looking for,” said Bell, adding that there were big possibilities in a non-traditional sector.
“One that gets me excited, that I didn’t even think of, is international education,” said Bell, using the Okanagan Hockey School as an example.
“I think you are going to see some pretty special things here around the hockey school,” he said. “We have been in discussion with folks there and we think there are some unique opportunities.”
There are more than 90,000 international students coming to B.C., generating about $2.5 million in economic activity.
“We’re not shipping anything out of the province, we are bringing new dollars into the economy,” said Bell, estimating that there is room in the province for up to 12 private institutions to draw more international students.