B.C. VIEWS: Asia-Pacific project marches on

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Premier Christy Clark takes a Chevy Volt electric car for a spin in downtown Toronto last week.

VICTORIA – Here are a few items that didn’t make the daily news cycle as B.C. residents prepared for the long-awaited summer of 2011 to begin.

• After her meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa last week, Premier Christy Clark delivered a luncheon speech to the Economic Club of Toronto.

Her big talking point for the speech was the rise of the Asia-Pacific region, “the fastest-growing middle class in the history of humanity.” The theme ran through her pitch to the federal government for a share of Ottawa’s largest-ever shipbuilding contract, and her recent meeting with western premiers in Yellowknife.

No word on how Clark’s enthusiasm for the west as Canada’s economic engine of the future went over with the Bay Street crowd.

• After the speech, Clark took the wheel of a Chevy Volt electric car for a spin around Toronto with a GM Canada vice-president riding shotgun. She pronounced the car “fantastic technology.”

This is pertinent as B.C. residents get ready to pay the latest increase in B.C.’s carbon tax. Effective July 1, the tax on a litre of gasoline rises from 4.45 cents to 5.56, with comparable increases to other carbon fuels.

Clark has inherited Gordon Campbell’s aggressive climate change-clean energy agenda, and it’s not yet clear what will become of it. She has committed to the last consumer carbon tax increase in 2012 (up to 6.67 cents on a litre of gas), but the fate of the big hydroelectric push remains uncertain.

Those plug-in electric cars need to start selling before Campbell’s gamble of developing increasingly costly electricity starts to pay off. One potential competitor is natural gas-powered vehicles, taking advantage of huge new shale gas discoveries in B.C. and elsewhere.

• Campbell’s pending appointment as Canada’s high commissioner in the United Kingdom should warm the hearts of conspiracy theorists.

The story broke when Clark was in Ottawa, and when reporters asked for her take on the appointment, her first comment was that he’ll be a big help in negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Students of Bill Vander Zalm will know that he sees the harmonized sales tax and EU trade as an effort to impose world government and set B.C.’s sales tax rate in Europe.

Early in his goofy anti-HST campaign, Vander Zalm claimed this was plan B for world government after the conspirators failed to impose a global carbon tax.

If the HST is a conspiracy, it’s a mighty big one. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon never tires of reminding people that 140 countries already have value-added taxes, including China and those other Asia-Pacific tigers that are dominating the world economy.

• Douglas College in New Westminster and the Heilongjiang Institute of Science and Technology in Harbin, China have celebrated the graduation of 137 students in their dual-degree business administration program.

The program began in 2003, with an exchange of instructors. At the Harbin campus, students take 52 courses to qualify them as specialists in global financial markets and international banking.

• By last year, there were 94,000 international students in K-12, post-secondary and language schools in B.C. According to the advanced education ministry, if considered an export service, international education is B.C.’s fifth largest export, accounting for seven per cent of exports from the province.

Meanwhile in B.C., discussion of international trade still tends to revolve around lumber and logs. And according to a recent poll, Vander Zalm is still considered by many to be an authority on trade and taxes.

It’s time to join the world’s adult conversation.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

twitter.com/tomfletcherbc

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