MLAs allege secrecy on 'zone'
Delta’s two MLAs have accused the provincial government of secrecy when it comes to establishing a foreign trade zone in B.C.
In February, the Liberals began seeking an independent consultant to research the possibility of creating a foreign trade zone, where foreign goods may be stored duty and tax free prior to being shipped to another country. In these designated regions, trade barriers such as tariffs are reduced or eliminated in order to attract foreign investment and international business.
Delta South Independent MLA Vicki Huntington expressed concern that, if located in Delta, a foreign trade zone would encroach on farm land.
“We’ve learned some hard lessons in Delta and when this government secretly gets this far down the road in any planning, it’s usually a done deal,” she said in the legislature last week.
“This isn’t about jobs, it’s about greed. It’s about flipping lands in Delta, and it’s about the destruction of the finest agricultural land in Canada.”
Huntington asked: “Will the minister tell us today that his government will not remove land from the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) to create an industrial wasteland in Delta?”
Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, called Huntington’s speculations “unfounded.”
“There is no determination, locations of any such, and no decision has been made on that. I think that would be far too premature,” he said.
Lekstrom could not predetermine what the final feasibility report will say, but said that foreign trade zones have the opportunity to create jobs.
“I am all for continuing to enhance our gateway to the Asia-Pacific,” he said. “If we have the ability to create jobs for British Columbians and their families and their children growing up here, I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that happens.”
During the same debate, North Delta NDP MLA Guy Gentner asked why the Liberals are “choosing to sneak this policy through, just like they did with the HST?”
“If this is such a good deal for British Columbians, why so much secrecy?”
Lekstrom replied the request for proposals—which sought an independent consultant to research foreign trade zones—is a public document posted on the Internet.
The document says the province wants to establish itself as the preferred gateway for Asia-Pacific trade, but visiting foreign delegations and port-related companies have commented on a lack of foreign trade zones in B.C. Existing foreign trade zones in Canada are found at Centrepoint, Manitoba and Gander, Newfoundland.
Developing a foreign trade zone in B.C. “could increase the province’s competitiveness in global markets and attractiveness as a gateway for international trade and encourage new economic activity,” the document stated.
It said that Global Container Terminals, which operates Deltaport through TSI Terminal Systems Inc., is chairing a committee of interested parties, which has been seeking improvements to the existing federal foreign trade zone program.