MQ Notes from BC Business Council Summit: Part 1

What will BC’s next economy look like? Chapter Two of the BC Business Council’s Outlook 2020 series is entitled: Foundations for the Future:  Innovation, Human Capital and BC’s Next Economy. Yesterday morning we were in the Pan Pacific “Crystal” Ballroom (you know the one with all the ceiling of solid little hanging crystal pendants — talk about a design problem — how to design a space for several hundreds of people that has good ventilation, views and a sense of place and energy about it — but that is another topic).

The “we” in this case is notable — need to look into the average age of participants but it seemed older than it should be for the topic of the future economy.  Maybe we need to have a Summit where we each invite a 20-something or a 30-something.

Anyway David Baxter — our favourite demographer — led off the morning.  In nutshell — baby boomers are entering their senior years and the pine beetle eating habits have changed the structure of our economy.  How are we going to pay our bills given our top-heavy age profile?  Interestingly enough while women still outlive men, that is gradually changing and eventually we’ll be housing more elderly couples.

A moment of levity came with a slide of a young boy holding a knife in an electric socket — this was in response to the question of “why” women live longer than men.  Baxter called it the “goofball” gene.

So how will we pay our bills?  Migration, work longer, work smarter and increase our productivity, increase employment in general and enlarge the availability of work.

Comes down to an import-export dilemma — we export fuel, natural gas, forest products, mineral products and services internationally.  All good.  But we import more than we export now — partly because we don’t grow our own food (also requires a longer discussion — not sure I buy all David’s arguments about why local food won’t work as part of the equation) so we need to import food products and of course manufactured goods are a large % of what we import.  As Baxter writes:  “…what we do, primarily, is to import manufactured products that we pay for by exporting natural resources (raw and processed).”

Interesting about our trading partners — US is number 1 ( 52% of our exports),  Japan number 2 (15%) — and South Korea (6%) (not China) is number 3.  So we need to pay attention to that.

All-in-all a good set-up for the panel on human capital and on innovation.  Blogs Part 2 and 3 coming up.

You can find David Baxter’s full report at: http://www.bcbc.com/Documents/2020_200909_Baxter.pdf

What I was left wondering is where does the new, green economy fit into this demographic/economic picture?  In the next little while we’ll be talking a lot about the green economy — the Province and the City are both setting out green economy agendas.  The Gaining Ground conference (www.gaininggroundsummit.com) has the green economy as an important theme.  If we think about it in import and export terms — what will the clean tech sector, for example, contribute?  And what policies need to be in place for this sector to flourish?

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