One of the principle promises in today's throne speech was an Asia-Pacific Gateway Strategy. From a policy and political standpoint that strategy makes sense. The region's economic importance cannot be denied. According to Industry Canada, trade exports from British Columbia to Asia were worth $7 billion - the highest among the provinces. So it pays to pay attention to the region. And, by focusing on an issue that matters to British Columbia's Asian community, the Liberals have an excuse to hobnob with them - winning vital votes for the upcoming election. Unfortunately, past experience indicates this strategy could become little more than a poorly-managed public relations exercise.
Cast your mind back to the government's February 2003 throne speech. The Liberals announce a Heartlands Economic Strategy to "open up new opportunties for economic growth" in the Interior. That strategy also made sense from a policy and political standpoint. Structural economic problems in the region needed (and still need) to be addressed. And the Liberals were anxious to shore up their support in the Interior. After all, just a month later, Ipsos-Reid Corp. polling showed just 37 percent of area residents would vote for the Liberals - compared with 44 percent provincewide.
But what started out as a good, if underdeveloped, idea quickly became little more than a brand name attached to any funding announcement rolled out in the Interior. And, if the Liberals aren't careful, their Asia-Pacific Gateway Strategy could suffer the same fate.