Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the motion of the member for North Island-Powell River.
One thing which is very important is that the government has set the stage for a major thrust to increase trade in the Asia-Pacific. My colleague the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific has been at the forefront of this effort. The Prime Minister has been at the forefront leading trade missions to various countries in the Asia-Pacific. When we look at the trade statistics, clearly we are making major progress in Canadian trade with the Asia-Pacific region. Right up front is the presence of British Columbia as the gateway to the Asia-Pacific.
Next year is the year of the Asia-Pacific. I would like to point out to the hon. member that this January, Canada assumes the chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation. I would also like to point out that the government is well under way at this point in planning events throughout the year and that these activities will culminate in our hosting the APEC economic leaders meeting in Vancouver in November next year.
As all members of the House know, British Columbia is indeed Canada's gateway to the Pacific. This is becoming more and more important, not just for British Columbia but for the whole of Canada.
To mark this meeting of Asian and Pacific leaders, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada also inaugurated the year of the Asia-Pacific. Cultural, academic and trade activities, as well as other related events, will take place throughout Canada in order to showcase the solid relations that exist between Canada and its Asian and Pacific partners, and to raise their profile.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, working in close co-operation with other federal departments and the province of British Columbia, has already opened an office in Vancouver to support the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation activities which will highlight British Columbia as the gateway to the Pacific rim.
The government recognizes that British Columbia has a strong and growing economy. We know well that this economy relies on small business and trade and on exports, and that the growth in the Asia-Pacific is very important to the growth of the economy and the well-being of people in British Columbia.
Our government is making sure that businesses throughout Canada have the information they need to grow, to expand and to participate in these new markets in the Asia-Pacific. As an example, in British Columbia the Canada-British Columbia Business Service Centre responds to thousands of queries every month from people all over the province who are starting or expanding their businesses or expanding their markets. The centre, which has been developed under the tenure of our government, is an excellent example of how the federal government can work in partnership with provincial governments. It shows how we make use of innovative technology to meet the needs of those businesses that create the jobs in the current economy.
I should point out that just two weeks ago the Internet web site run by the Canada-British Columbia Business Service Centre won the Distinction 96 Gold Award for renewing services and program delivery. Each month this web site helps more than 50,000 visitors find the practical information they need to start and expand their small businesses. This is very important for British Columbia and it is very important for small business in British Columbia.
Our government has also worked in new ways to develop a program called Strategis which we have put onto the worldwide web so that businesses can find the information they need, the information they want when they want it. On Strategis there are thousands of new technologies which are available. On Strategis there is the ability to connect up very easily with business partners across Canada. Indeed for foreigners interested in doing business with Canada, Strategis is a virtual marketplace for Canadian goods and services. It is but one component of what we are doing as a government.
Let me point out another effort which is helping British Columbia to participate as the gateway to the Asia-Pacific. This is the international trade personnel program. My department, western economic diversification, is delivering this program. It is helping
companies in British Columbia and across western Canada to hire recent graduates to help them develop their export market.
The program has been very successful and its reports already show significant market penetration as a result of the activities of these eager young graduates. Many of the markets that are being penetrated are in the Asia-Pacific region, and this means jobs for young people, for recent graduates in British Columbia.
Growth in British Columbia and in the Asia-Pacific relies on these small businesses, the emerging industries. This is where we are putting a considerable effort.
My department, western economic diversification, has also recently created investment loan funds in co-operation with banks and other financial institutions. These loan funds provide access to capital on fully commercial terms for small businesses in new growth sectors like biotechnology, health, environmental technology, information technology, telecommunications, tourism and other knowledge based industries. This is a further example of what we are doing in partnership with financial institutions to provide loans in areas where the risks are higher and where the needs are great.
Not only do small businesses need access to financing but they need help in knowing how to expand and grow their businesses. Western diversification officials in British Columbia are working with firms in the emerging economy to help with their business planning as well as responding to calls from entrepreneurs who are seeking advice. Members of the third party from time to time have found western diversification so useful to small businesses that their offices are now regularly referring clients to the western diversification office for help and advice.
Throughout British Columbia, WD supports a network of 32 community futures development corporations. These CFDCs are run by volunteers who work hard to create jobs and to help with the growth of small businesses in their communities. Let me give a few examples.
In Powell River the CFDC has helped to develop the waterfront. The Strathcona CFDC in Campbell River on northern Vancouver Island has helped to solve a pollution problem caused by fish waste and at the same time helped develop a local industry, turning organic waste into marketable compost. It was able to do this with financial help provided through western diversification to make sure that we have a strong on the ground organization.
In the Campbell River area of northern Vancouver Island nine loans totalling $316,000 using the working opportunity fund have been made to local small businesses. This is another example of the CFDCs working and helping locally in economic development.
In the Terrace area of northwestern B.C. we recognize the importance of aboriginal businesses to the development of a strong economy. Here the CFDC is making loans to businesses run by aboriginal people to foster the creation of badly needed businesses and services in the First Nations communities.
The government believes that in the future it is the young people in particular who are important to growth and it is opportunities for young people of which we need to be most aware. In April of this year western diversification provided $200,000 in new loan capital to each CFDC to provide financial assistance to British Columbia's young people to create their own businesses.
I have visited with several of these CFDCs and talked to many of the young people who have benefited. The experience has been excellent with this program and the response from young people and from the CFDCs to this program and this funding have been very rewarding.
Western economic diversification has also established the women's enterprise initiative, recognizing that more and more of small businesses are being operated by women. In British Columbia the Women's Enterprise Society is working hard to bring more and more women into the economy as entrepreneurs, sharing and participating with other entrepreneurs.
The hon. member says he is concerned about the closure of DND bases in British Columbia. Let me remind him of the government's commitment to assist communities during these times of economic adjustment. In areas where the downsizing of a facility will have a major effect on the local economy the government has stepped in to help. In the communities around CFB Masset, responsibility for solutions to economic adjustment has been delegated by the government to the community. The community is charting its own future with financial support from the Government of Canada.
Similarly, through the infrastructure works program local communities have identified needs. Over 400 projects have now been approved in British Columbia with the federal share exceeding $220 million or one-third of the total cost. These projects are expected to create or maintain more than 9,000 short term and 400 long term jobs. Eighty-five per cent of the program funding is allocated to water, sewer and local transportation projects. These will not only enhance the local infrastructure but they will also improve health and the environment.
We are looking to the future to build a strong base of science, research and technology in British Columbia. The federal government is contributing $167 million over five years to the Tri-University Meson Facility at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. TRIUMF is one of the world's leading facilities for subatomic particle research. The applied research conducted at TRIUMF has already resulted in the creation of new commercial
products in biomedical, radiopharmaceutical and medical isotope research, products like PET scanners and pion therapy beams.
TRIUMF generates economic activity for western Canada through its purchase of products and services, and through technology transfer and commercialization. In addition, some 700 scientists from around the world come to British Columbia to conduct research and attend scientific conferences organized by TRIUMF.
The hon. member should also know that the federal government has supported many networks of centres of excellence headquartered in British Columbia. British Columbia is home to the networks for research on telelearning, on bacterial diseases and on genetic diseases. In addition to that, the federal government has invested some $600 million in the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing and $3 million in the Biopharmaceutical Innovation Resource Centre Fund.
The good news is that these investments in critical research and development, coupled to their commercialization, are likely to have very substantial benefits for the British Columbia economy for many years to come.
In partnership with the provincial government, the federal government has provided $5 million over the last two years under the agreement on communications and cultural industries. This money has been invested in over 45 projects to promote culture and technology development in British Columbia.
To make sure that people in communities throughout British Columbia have access to the information highway, the government created a community access program and to date 34 rural and remote communities in British Columbia have been hooked up to the Internet and even more will be connected over the coming two years.
The government has been active in making sure that there is information available for small business, that communities have support for economic development, that science, research and technology in British Columbia have solid support. It has also negotiated open skies agreements with the United States to increase tourism in British Columbia. It has successfully managed the infrastructure works program in partnership with the provincial government and local levels of government.
The government has done a substantial amount for and with the people of British Columbia as part of the partnership which is this country of Canada, people working together to make things happen.
British Columbia is a major contributor to Canada, not only from an economic point of view but, more important, through the contribution of all its citizens. It contributes to the strength of our country culturally economically, scientifically and to the unity of our great country.
The hon. member should also know that in the time I have been here the Liberal members from British Columbia have spoken strongly, loudly and forcefully for the province of British Columbia and that is one of the reasons why British Columbia and British Columbians are doing very well at the moment.
I ask that my time be shared with my colleague, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.