British Columbia, British Columbia’s Constitutional Proposals, Paper No. 2, “Canada’s Pacific Region” (1978)
By: British Columbia
Citation: British Columbia, British Columbia’s Constitutional Proposals, Paper No. 2 (Victoria: Queen’s Printer, 1978).
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Paper No. 2
CANADA’S PACIFIC REGION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA IN
Early Exploration 9
Early Settlement 9
Colonial Expansion and Union 10
British Columbia Enters Confederation 11
BRITISH COLUMBIA: CANADA’S PACIFIC REGION 13
The Unique Pacific Economy 13
Size and Significance 13
Geography and Economic Base 13
Trade Patterns 15
Other Economic Characteristics 17
Social Dimensions of the Pacific Region 19
Ethnic Background 19
Labour Relations 20
Political Culture 20
Other Social Factors 21
IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC POLICY IN A FEDERAL
Early-Federal Provincial relations 22
More Recent Issues 23
Maritime Issues 23
International Commercial Policy 23
British Columbia Within the West 24
APPENDIX–List of Statistical Tables 27
“British Columbia is clearly a large,
unique and rapidly growing region of Can-
ada. As such, the Province has concerns,
interests and aspirations which ultimately
translate into public policy needs that are
frequently very different from those of
other regions. In these policy areas it is
important . . . to be adequately repre-
sented at the federal level.”
One of the primary aims of a federal form of government is to en-
sure the effective accommodation of diverse regional interests in the
national decision-making process and in the relevant national institu-
tions. To a large degree regional concerns may be incorporated into
federal structures by giving provincial governments a direct role in
various institutions. In some instances, however, a direct role for all
10 provincial governments may be unwieldy and impractical, even
though a regional dimension must be recognized. Appointments to the
Supreme Court and representation on federal boards and commissions
are frequently cited as good examples.
When a regional (as distinct to a provincial) dimension is required
the issue becomes one of defining appropriate geographic areas and
apportioning representation among them. The question of relative levels
of representation among regions within specific national institutions is
dealt with in Papers 3, 4, and 5 of British Columbia’s constitutional
In essence, the Government of British Columbia is of the view that,
in order to provide a proper regional counterbalance to representation
by population (largely adhered to in the House of Commons), it is
necessary for the regions of Canada to receive greater representation in
the national context than would be accorded strictly on the basis of
population. This position is not anathema to the basic principal of rep-
resentational democracy. Rather it is designed to deal with the possi-
bility of one or two dominant regions being in a position to thwart at
will the interests of regions having a smaller population base.
The primary purpose of the present paper is to demonstrate that the
Province of British Columbia is a large and numerically significant
region with unique characteristics relative to the other regions of Canada.
As such, it is suggested that the Province be regarded as one of the main
regions of the country for purposes of representation of federal insti-
tutions. Needless to say there are many political units in Canada that
could lay claim to uniqueness, just as there are political units where
population and economic activity give them a certain importance. How-
ever, when the number of representational units must be kept signifi-
cantly below 10 (the number of provinces) it becomes necessary to
arrive at regions with unique concerns that need to be articulated at the
national level and whose population base is large enough to warrant
separate representation. British Columbia meets that test.
A Historical Perspective of
British Columbia In Confederation
A. Early Exploration
Although the Spanish had explored as far north as the Oregon coast
by 1603, it was 1774 before Juan Hernandez reached the British Co-
lumbia coast. In the following year another Spanish explorer, Juan
Bodega y Quadra, laid claim to all lands south of 57°20′ (approximate
latitude of Juneau, Alaska) for Spain. Three years later (1778) the
English explorer, James Cook, landed at Nootka Sound on Vancouver
Island. He was the first of many British navigators and traders, among
them Captain George Vancouver, who would commence a series of
detailed surveys of the British Columbia coastline.
Inland exploration of British Columbia did not begin until Alex-
ander Mackenzie crossed the Rockies and reached the Pacific Ocean in
1793. He was later followed by such explorers as David Thompson
(1804) and Simon Fraser (1805). The rugged and hazardous terrain
however, made inland exploration treacherous if approached from the
east and most of the inland penetration came from the coast.
Until well into the 19th century British interests in the Pacific Re-
gion were secured only by maritime fur traders making periodic visits
and by the North West Company with its isolated fur-trading posts.
The inland fur trade began in 1806 with the establishment of a fur-
trading district centred around Fort St. James. Even here, however,
there was extensive reliance upon coastal ports such as Fort George
(Astoria) at the mouth of the Columbia River for the trans-shipment of
B. Early Settlement
Immigration into the area in the early years was slow, in part be-
cause of isolation but mainly because the Hudson’s Bay Company, with
which the North West Company had merged in 1821, felt settlement
to be inimical to the fur trade. By the early 1840’s, however, the rate
of American immigration into the neighbouring Oregon country forced
the fur-trade company to acknowledge that the joint occupancy ar-
rangement, in effect since 1818, between Britain and the United States
must come to an end. In 1843 the Hudson’s Bay Company established
Fort Victoria on Vancouver Island as an alternative to its headquarters
at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. The wisdom of that decision
became apparent when three years later the boundary treaty was signed
and the 49th parallel became basically the boundary between the two
iations. Great Britain, recognizing the need to colonize the.territory
iow assigned to it by treaty, turned to the fur-trade company as.its agent.
t became the sole proprietor of Vancouver Island in return for its under-
aking to establish thereon British settlers. Thus, in 1849, Vancouver
sland became a British Crown colony, the ?rst such structure on the
Jorth Paci?c coast. _ _ _ _
Settlement proceeded but slowly for the gold discoveries in Cali-
ornia provided spectacular competition. By. 1854 there were but 450
ettlers on Vancouver Island but the foundations had already been ex-
ended, for, in 1852, the Queen Charlotte Islands had become a
ieutenant-dependency of the island colony. _
The most signi?cant event in the evolution of the Province ‘was the
iraser River gold rush in 1858 and its subsequent extension into the
Cariboo diggings in the early 1860’s. Thousands of gold-hungry miners,
irincipally Americans from California and Oregon, poured into British
erritory. The slumbering village of Victoria suddenly became a bustling
own as businessmen from San Francisco and miners alike ?ocked .in—
he former to re-establish their commercial enterprises, the latter quickly
0 depart for the Mainland, there to search for gold.
3. Colonial Expansion and Union
In 185 8 no formal government existed on the Mainland and to meet
:hat emergency legislation was hastily rushed through the British Parlia-
nent creating the Colony of British Columbia. This new Mainland
:olony was inaugerated at Fort Langley on November 19., 1858. Al-
:hough the Queen Charlotte Islands became a part of .thlS colony not
all of the British mainland territory was incorporated, indeed little be-
yond the 55th parallel was included. . .
By 1862 the miners were not only into the Cariboo country but also
far beyond the northern limits of the colony. Once again to meet the
challenge a new colonial juisdiction was created in that year—Stikine
Territory. It comprised all the territory westward of the 125th meridian
to Russian America, as Alaska was then called, and northward from
British Columbia to the 62nd parallel. _ Stikine Territory had but a short
existence for in 1863 the British Parliament by statute restructured its
mainland territory into a single colony. By withdrawing southward t0
the 60th parallel and reaching eastward into the Peace ERIVCI: country
this new colony called British Columbia had boundaries identical with
those of the present Province. By 1866 the mining boom was collapsing,
population was dwindling and government indebtedness increasing.
Retrenchment was the order of the day and on November 19, 1866 the
process of amalgamation was completed by the union of. Vancouver Is-
land with its mainland counterpart under the name of British Columbia.
D. British Columbia Enters Confederation
Eastward of the Rocky Mountains in British North America in 1867
the first stage of Confederation was accomplished; an event which
aroused little interest in British Columbia, whose people were facing
closer to home the continuing dilemma posed by American expansionism
as demonstrated that same year by the purchase of Alaska by the United
States. Conditions surrounding British Columbia’s entry into Confed-
eration were, therefore, much different from those faced by other Prov-
inces. There appeared to be three political options:
(1) Annexation to the United States, proposed primarily by
American business interests in Victoria with little support
elsewhere in the colony.
(2) Union with Canada, supported by Canadians now resident
in the colony as well as by many of its British citizens.
(3) Maintenance of the status quo, understandably supported
by the government officials of the day.
Although British Columbia was, like the Canadian provinces, experi-
encing economic depression international political forces were at work
which played a considerable role in its entry into Canadian Confed-
Great Britain considered British Columbia to be valuable in con-
taining the expansionist ambitions of the United States not only as
evidenced by their acquisition of Alaska but also by the pressure being
exerted by some American officials to have the colony included in the
package under negotiation for compensation arising from the depreda-
tions of the Alabama in the Civil War.
The Canadian Government, for its own reasons, was also interested
in British Columbia. In particular it wished to offset the threat of
American expansionist activity both eastward as well as westward of
the Rocky Mountains. Commercially, there was a desire to open up
transportation routes to facilitate trade with the Orient, to form a com-
mon market from sea to sea, and to obtain access to British Columbia’s
The decision could not long be delayed for in 1869 an annexation
petition to be presented to the President of the United States circulated
in Victoria. In the spring of 1870 the Governor presented to the colonial
Legislative Council a set of resolutions outlining the terms for union
with Canada. After a lengthy debate a somewhat revised series of reso-
lutions were accepted and entrusted to a delegation of three for negotia-
tion with the Canadian Government. In Ottawa they met with general
acceptance; indeed of the alterations made only two were of major sig-
nificance-—the promise of the construction of a railway to British Co-
lumbia to begin within two years and to be completed with ten years
of the date on union; and the guarantee of the introduction of respon-
sible government immediately following Confederation. Early in 1871
the revised terms of union were presented to a newly elected Legislative
Council in which for the first time elected members predominated. After
a brief debate they were unanimously adopted, incorporated into an
Address to the Queen, which in turn was accepted by the Canadian
Parliament early in April. The Imperial Government issued the requisite
Order in Council by which on July 20, 1871 British Columbia became a
Province of Canada.
British Columbia: Canada’s Pacific Region
A. The Unique Pacific Economy
1. Size and Significance
British Columbia’s 366,255 square miles makes it by far the largest
province west of Ontario, comprising approximately 15.7 per cent of the
area covered by all provinces. Similarly, British Columbia is western
Canada’s most populous province with nearly 2.5 million people. This
represents nearly 40 per cent of the population of the four western
provinces and nearly 11 per cent of the Canadian total.
Taking a longer term perspective, British Columbia is expected to
grow comparatively rapidly over the next several decades. Depending
upon the rate of population growth for Canada as a whole, the Prov-
ince could increase its relative share of the Canadian population to
between 12.3 and 13.9 per cent by the year 2001 (see Appendix Table 1).
2. Geography and Economic Base
“If the soil is fertile in food or minerals, if rivers offer
an easy avenue of exchange, if the coastline is indented
with natural harbours for a commercial fleet, if, above
all the region lies on the highroad of the world’s trade
like Athens or Carthage, Florence or Venice-—then
geography, though it can never create it, smiles upon
civilization, and nourishes it.”1
Geography is a fundamental factor in determining the pattern of
social and economic development of a region. It determines the nature
of peoples’ livelihood, where they will settle and live, the nature and ex-
tent of interaction between the region’s communities, and the kind of
connections established between the region and the rest of the world.
In British Columbia the two most influential geographic factors are
its mountainous terrain and its maritime position. The Province is
almost entirely contained in one physiographic unit, the Cordilleran
Region. Only the Peace River area, constituting about 8 per cent
of the Province’s land area and containing 2 per cent of the Provincial
population, lies in another physiographic region, the Interior Plains.
In addition to the Rocky Mountains, the region includes the Coastal
Range, the Cascades, and the Hazelton Mountains. Early explorers
quite naturally described British Columbia as a “sea of mountains.”
While the mountains formed a major barrier to overland access
and exploration of British Columbia, the 7 000 kilometres of coastline
along the Pacific Ocean provided numerous fiord-like inlets as potential
1 Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, Simon and Schuster, New York (1954), pp. 1-21.
harbours for early exploration and development. The mountains and
the sea were major factors behind the economic and social development
of the Province resulting in offshore connections rather than trans-
continental links with the rest of Canada. They also help to explain the
traditional sense of isolation between British Columbia and the rest of
Physiographic factors conditioned the kinds of activities early settlers
could hope to undertake and, therefore, also affected the demography
of the Province. For example, British settlers were attracted to mining,
fishing, shipping, dockwork, and trading. All of these were occupations
familiar to the British. Climatic factors further contributed to the early
settlement of the Province by attracting to coastal areas British immi-
grants accustomed to similar conditions. British Columbia’s moderate
coastal climate continues to draw Canadians and immigrants alike.
Transportation and communications patterns also reflect geographic
factors. The natural communications linkages follow the linear land
forms running north-south. Early attempts at establishing west-east
linkages were either futile, very costly, or both. Although technology
has partially overcome geographic barriers it is the natural north-south
linkages which still dominate some modes of transport. For example,
there are only four main highways from British Columbia into Alberta
compared to eleven from British Columbia into the United States Paci?c
Northwest. Appendix Table 2 further illustrates the north-south pulls,
indicating that British Columbians tend to be more prone to travel to
the United States than residents of any other region.
British Columbia’s maritime location has prompted the development
of large port facilities. Today, Vancouver is ranked as the largest port
in Canada. In addition, the Pacific Ocean has provided British Co-
lumbia with natural linkages to the Pacific Rim countries. The Prov-
ince’s ports have helped make possible the development of major Cana-
dian export markets in Japan, China, and Australia and they will be
central to Canada’s participation in future commercial developments in
the Pacific Rim.
The geography of British Columbia was also a major factor in deter-
mining the nature of the Province’s economic base. Today, as in the
past, most major economic activities relate to exploitation of natural
resources (Appendix Table 3). British Columbia’s primary sector is
led by forestry which accounts for from 8 to 10 times more value added
(as a proportion of gross domestic product in British Columbia goods-
producing industries), than in the rest of Canada. Fishing is 3 to 5 times
more important to the Province than to the rest of Canada as a whole,
while the converse holds true in agriculture where the rest of Canada
is 2 1/2 times more dependent. Other important primary sectors in Brit-
ish Columbia are mining (including coal, copper, zinc, hydrocarbons,
molybdenum, asbestos, etc.) and hydro-electric power.
The Province’s resource dependence is reflected not only in the
primary sector, it pervades the manufacturing sector as well. For ex-
ample, the processing of native resources accounts for a far greater per-
centage of value added in British Columbia’s manufacturing sector than
it does in the rest of Canada. In 1971 the proportion of manufacturing
accounted for by the processing of native resources was 3.6 times that
in the rest of Canada. In other manufacturing industries (textiles,
clothing, machinery, transportation equipment, electrical products,
chemicals, and miscellaneous) the reverse holds true. Sixteen and one-
half per cent of British Columbia’s manufacturing value added was
generated in these sectors while the corresponding figure for the rest
of Canada was 48.2 per cent. Looking at specific industries one finds
a dramatically greater orientation in British Columbia toward fish
products, forest products (shingle, veneer, sawmills), pulp and paper,
and primary metals. Thus, there is in British Columbia a heavy con-
centration of value added in resource (particularly forest) based indus-
tries, and very little production in many of the secondary manufacturing
industries, that are extremely important in the rest of Canada.
3. Trade Patterns
British Columbia has an economy that is highly dependent on trade
(both imports and exports) and one whose pattern of exports is an ex-
tension of the Province’s natural resource-dominated production. It
has been estimated by the Economic Council of Canada,1 for example,
that 44 per cent of Pacific Region employment in 1970 was dependent
upon exports to foreign markets. This was dramatically higher than
for any of the other four regions used in the comparison (see Table I).
Share of Manufacturing Employment Dependent Upon
Various Markets, by Region, 1970
*See PDF for table.
1 Looking Outward: A New Trade Strategy for Canada, Economic Council of Canada, Infor-
mation Canada (1975).
In terms of products exported, the total of forest products, mining,
and smelting comprise a remarkably high and stable percentage of total
exports. Over the period 1972-76 these products accounted for an
average of 84.2 per cent of total foreign exports (Appendix Table 4).
Throughout the period this percentage never went below 82.9 per cent
or above 86.1 per cent. Thus, British Columbia’s exports are almost
totally dominated by forest products and extracted resources involving
little or no processing.
Being a coastal region the Province’s export markets, and most cer-
tainly the areas holding greatest potential, are countries in the Pacific
Rim. Appendix Table 5 shows that roughly half of British Columbia’s
exports in 1976 went to the United States, followed by Japan with ap-
proximately 20 per cent, and the European Common Market (United
Kingdom included) with 18 per cent. It is also apparent that Japan
has been the market where the most of British Columbia’s export growth
has occurred over the past two decades (Japan accounted for only 3.7
per cent of British Columbia’s exports in 1952).
While exports to foreign countries comprise a major source of in-
come for British Columbians they are also heavily dependent on sources
outside the region for manufactured goods and food products. In fact,
several studies undertaken over the last forty years come to the same
“British Columbia exported raw materials to the world
to pay for exports of manufactured goods from the rest
In the case of manufactured goods, for example, 65.2 per cent of British
Columbia’s imports came from the rest of Canada with imports from
other countries constituting the remainder (Appendix Table 6). In
terms of all commodities Table II shows that British Columbia imports
(1966) Commodity Trade Balance ($000)
*See PDF for table.
1 Peters. J.E. and Shearer, R. A. The Structure of British Columbia’s External Trade, 1939
and 1963. B.C. Studies, No. 8, Winter 1970-71. Also see British Columbia in the Canadian Con-
federation: A submission to the Royal Commission on Dominion—Provincial Relations by the
Government of British Columbia, 1938.
from the rest of Canada far exceed exports to that area, while exports
to foreign countries are substantially higher than imports. As will be
seen below, trade patterns have been a major factor influencing British
Columbia attitudes on certain national policies.
4. Other Economic Characteristics
British Columbia’s economy is unique in Canada in other respects as
well. For example, incomes regardless of how measured, tend to be
among the highest in Canada while, at the same time, the Province
suffers from a relatively high unemployment rate (see Table III and
Graph 1). This contrasts with the Prairies where high incomes have
Index of Wages and Salaries per Employed Person,
Canada, by Region, 1953-75
*See PDF for table.
Average Annual Unemployment Rate
*See PDF for table.
been associated with very low unemployment rates, and with the At-
lantic provinces where high rates of unemployment are observed along
side of comparatively low income levels.
Even though rates of unemployment have tended to be high in
British Columbia, employment growth has been higher than for the rest
of Canada in both the 1960’s and 70’s (Appendix Table 7). The main
explanation for this lies in the fact that British Columbia’s population
growth has been exceptionally rapid and has tended to keep slightly
ahead of the rate of employment creation. Much of this population
growth results from the high levels of immigration to British Columbia
from other provinces and countries (Appendix Table 8). Immigration
has, in turn, been highly responsive to economic conditions in the Prov-
ince. Thus, when the economy performs relatively well it draws mi-
grants into the Province and when the economy shows considerable
slack there has been a slowdown in population growth. The Provincial
economy is expected to continue outperforming most regional economies
in Canada, ensuring a long-term rate of employment creation and popu-
lation growth greater than for the rest of the country.
The British Columbia economy is unique in one further respect.
It tends to suffer from relatively wide swings in economic activity over
the phases of the business cycle when compared with the rest of Canada
(see Graph 2). The largest part of this instability derives from the
export sector and is therefore subject to influences lying beyond the
control of governments in Canada. This, too, has sometimes created
a unique set of attitudes in British Columbia toward federal efforts to
stabilize the national economy, since most tax and spending programs
designed to mitigate the effects of recessions on the rest of Canada have
relatively little beneficial effect on the Province’s economy.
Percentage Change in Real Gross Domestic Product
*See PDF for table.
B. Social Dimensions of the Pacific Region
1. Ethnic Background
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries British Columbia’s resource
wealth attracted significant numbers of British, Americans Chinese
Japanese, Italians, and Scandinavians. As in Ontario and the Maritimes,
the main source of early immigrants was the United Kingdom. In 1911,
‘British-born’ formed 30 per cent of the British Columbia population
compared to 11 per cent for Canada, and 16 per cent on the Prairies
By 1971, 58 per cent of the British Columbia population was of British
origin (see Appendix Table 9), Wlth. no strong single minority (e.g.,
none over 10 per cent of the population). Thus, there is no bilateral
clash in the region between a dominant majority and a large minority.
British Columbia does, however, stand out as the Province with the
largest proportion of Chinese in the population.
It is also evident that the Prairie provinces are similar to one another
but different from British Columbia. In the Prairies, the demands of an
agrarian economy brought a much lower proportion with Anglo-Saxon
background and a much higher number of Germans and Ukrainians.
2. Labour Relations
The strength of the labour movement in British Columbia and the
pattern of industrial relations set it apart from the rest of Canada. Im-
migration patterns, geography, and British Columbia’s dependence on
forestry and mining industry contributed to this distinctiveness by link-
ing the Province’s labour relations more toward the Pacific Northwest
rather than to the rest of Canada. The high levels of unionization and
strikes by workers in the early years of the century were found through-
out the Pacific Northwest.1 British Columbia’s historic labour links to
the Pacific Northwest have been reinforced by the successful organizing
efforts of the international unions such as the International Wood-
workers of America.
Traditionally, British Columbia has been the most highly unionized
province in Canada, helping to give it a distinctive pattern of industrial
relations. British Columbia has on occasion suffered a high incident of
labour disputes and that fact has been unstrumental in the development
of innovative provincial labour legislation. The present provincial
labour code is one of the most distinctive and successful labour laws in
North America. It is contributing significantly to an improved industrial
relations climate in the Province.
3 . Political Culture
It has become trite to remark upon the distinctiveness of political life
and culture of British Columbia. But the political environment, like
the social, economic, and historical environments, largely reflects the
unique geography of the region and the kinds of people attracted to,
and necessary for, its development. British Columbia is a region of
rugged terrain and isolated communities that developed on the strength
of sturdy individualists working the mines, logging camps, fishing boats,
and so on. The extension of this into the political arena has been re-
flected in the traditional reference to British Columbia’s “frontier
1 S. J. Jamieson. “The Nature and Character of Collective Bargaining in B.C.—Its Challenges,
Trials, Accomplishments and Failures” in J. T. Montague and S.,M. Jamieson, eds. British Co-
lumbia Labour Management Conference 1963. Institute of Industrial Relations, UBC 1963, p. 73.
Looking somewhat deeper into the Province’s political psyche is
perhaps more revealing. In a survey done by Simeon and Elkins (see
Appendix Table 10), for example, British Columbia emerged as the
province where the public’s level of trust in their politicians and political
system was the highest in Canada. It was similarly found that British
Columbians, more than residents of any other province, felt their politi-
cal system to be efficient and responsive to their concerns.1 Thus, even
the political culture of the Pacific Region is seen to be somewhat unique
4. Other Social Factors
Being a coastal region with a moderate climate, British Columbia
also encounters some rather unique problems. The port areas, for ex-
ample, have developed severe drug abuse and trafficking problems in
addition to attracting relatively heavy concentrations of immigrants who
tend to settle, at least temporarily, near their point of entry to the
country. In these and other cases the Province has found it necessary
to provide social programs unique and substantial enough to deal with
the problems that inevitably arise.
Similarly, the nature of British Columbia’s labour market (character-
ized by relatively high rates of unemployment and subject to compara-
tively wide cyclical swings) requires employment and social assistance
programs designed specifically to meet the region’s needs.
1 Political efficacy was defined by Simeon and Elkins as the extent to which citizens feel they
can be personally influential in politics, can make their voices heard and can be effective; Political
trust refers to the extent to which citizens feel government and politicians to be competent, con-
cerned for and interested in their welfare, and worthy of respect.
Implications for Public Policy
In a Federal Setting
Fundamental differences between provinces in economic base, life-
style, political culture, and language, of course, are the basic rationale
for the existence of a federal form of government in Canada. These
differences give rise to inevitable differences in public choices, but to the
extent that the policy choices fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial
governments no intergovernmental conflicts need arise, for each prov-
ince’s policies can reflect the preferences of its own population. In-
evitably, however, the policies of the central government also affect
areas where there are important differencesin regional views. In these
policy areas it is important for differing regional views to be adequately
represented at the federal level.
British Columbia is clearly a large, unique, and rapidly growing
region of Canada. As such, the Province has concerns, interests, and
aspirations which ultimately translate into public policy needs that are
frequently very different from those of other regions. This has been
historically true in British Columbia and it continues to hold true today.
1. Early Federal-Provincial Relations
Although British Columbia entered Confederation under relatively
favourable terms it was soon evident that such favoured treatment was
not to continue. A brief examination of the Province’s early relations
with the Federal Government shows, for example, that by 1873 British
Columbia was embittered by the Dominion’s delay in the construction
of the Pacific Railway and irritated by federal tariff policies. The
National Policy (1878) was seen to involve high protective tariffs which
benefitted central Canada but had adverse impacts on British Columbia’s
Although British Columbia’s relations with Ottawa improved after
the depression and completion of the railway, there were still feelings
of dissatisfaction. In 1900 a delegation was sent to Ottawa to discuss
revision of the financial settlement. The Province maintained that the
Federal Government was draining the region’s revenues, thus preventing
the development of its resources. A second delegation in 1903 apprised
the Federal Government of four special difficulties faced by the Province
that necessitated new financial arrangements:
(1 ) The cost of administration, owing to the physical character
of the country;
(2) the distance from commercial, industrial, and administrative
centres of eastern Canada;
(3) the non-industrial character of the Province as compared
to eastern Canada. A large percentage of goods consumed
were imported, increasing the contributions to the federal
treasury out of all proportion to benefits being received;
(4) the disadvantage of the Province in relation to the markets
for its special products.
Further delegations to Ottawa sought to secure an agreement with the
Federal Government on appointment of a Royal Commission to investi-
gate British Columbia’s problems. This commission was not appointed
until 1937 (the Rowell-Sirois Commission).
2. More Recent Issues
While British Columbia has had over the years numerous concerns
with Federal policies, it is useful to illustrate with several recent ex-
As a coastal community, British Columbia has a natural interest
in all law-of-the-sea issues, particularly those concerned with fisheries
and ocean pollution. Both of these issues, as the ongoing maritime
boundaries negotiation and the fisheries dispute attests, have required
international co-operation, particularly with the United States. British
Columbia’s views on these issues have frequently diverged from those of
other regions as well as the Federal Government. The Province’s mari-
time character has also led to positions on policies affecting harbour de-
velopment and ocean shipping that were frequently not shared by other
International Commercial Policy
British Columbia has traditionally favoured liberalized world trade.
In terms of a general preference for low import tariffs on manufactured
goods this is a view the Paci?c Region, more or less, shares with the
Prairie and Atlantic Region. Priorities for reductions in foreign tariffs
differ, however. The Prairies, for example, would like to see reductions
in foreign protection of agricultural products and petrochemicals, while
British Columbia is more interested in seeing reductions in tariff barriers
against further processing of wood products and metal ores.
As witnessed by the favourable reception accorded the Hall Com-
mission report, the Prairie provinces have tended to view transportation
policy as a tool for regional economic development. They wish to see
many uneconomic rail spurs maintained along with subsidization of
grain transported to port. Because of its unique regional characteristics
British Columbia’s interests have often diverged from this. The problem
being that rail subsidization has necessitated charging higher prices on
commodities where rate restrictions are not as onerous. Thus, British
Columbia has been opposed to rail policies that have the effect of cross-
subsidization of commodities and regions.
Although much of western Canada is comparatively resource rich,
British Columbia’s economy has developed upon minerals, forestry and
hydroelectric power, while the Prairie economies are more oriented to-
ward agriculture and hydrocarbons. This has resulted in the two regions
having very different policy interests. In the energy policy field, British
Columbia’s interests lie between that of the oil-consuming and oil-pro-
There are, of course, numerous other policy areas where one could
go into considerable detail in elaborating the unique policy concerns and
positions the Province has been led to take. While that is unnecessary,
it is important to show the nature of British Columbia’s relations with
the Prairie provinces on federal-provincial issues.
3. British Columbia Within the West
On numerous occasions the four western provinces have co-operated
and endorsed joint positions on certain areas of national policy. West-
ern co-operation will, in all likelihood, continue in the future. It should
be stressed, however, that the western coincidence of interest derives
mainly from the fact of being part of the Canadian hinterland rather than
sharing pervasive social and economic similarities. Thus, the western
provinces can agree on the broad parameters affecting the sharing of
natural resource revenues with the central government, or the broad
directions that trade and industrial policy should takein. Canada, but it
becomes more difficult to ?nd common ground on the appropriate struc-
turing of equalization payments or on a list of specific industrial priorities
for reduction of foreign tariffs. As one moves to the more specific and
operational policy levels the dichotomy between the prairie west and the
pacific west becomes more and more apparent.
The fact that British Columbia must be recognized as a separate and
distinct Canadian region should in no way detract from western co-
operation. What it should do, however, is provide for a more precise
spelling out of the policy needs of the west on more specific issues.
Western co-operation should continue to be as important as ever in
effecting major directional changes in national policy.
In summary British Columbia is clearly one of Canada’s major dis-
tinct regions. The intermingling of geography, history, demography
and economics have resulted in the emergence of a Pacific region that is
large and growing, and one whose unique circumstances require effec-
tive expression at the national level. It is only through full and direct
representation on federal institutions that the natural barriers to inte-
gration of British Columbia into the national mosaic can be offset.
Unless more appropriate or restructured central government institutions
for expression of Pacific regional interests are put in place, the traditional
sense of alienation from the rest of Canada felt by British Columbians
will not be overcome and Canada, and British Columbia, will be the
worse because of it.
LIST OF STATISTICAL TABLES
Table 1–Regional Distribution of Population (1976) 28
Table 2–Origin of Residents Returning From United States 29
Table 3–Distribution of Value Added in Manufacturing, British
Columbia and the Rest of Canada, Native Resource Processing
and Other Manufacturing, 1961, 1971 30
Table 4–Foreign Exports of Principal B.C. Products–Percentage
and Rank of B.C. Exports 31
Table 5–Exports of B.C. Products to Principal Countries (Per Cent) 33
Table 6–Value and Percent of Goods Imported to British Columbia
by Source–1966, 1976 33
Table 7–Selected Economic Indicators 34
Table 8–Estimated Components of Population Increases in British
Columbia, 1962-1977 35
Table 9–Population by Ethnic Group 36
Table 10–Political Organizations 37
Regional Distribution of Population (1976)
*See PDF for table.
Origin of Residents Returning from United States
*See PDF for table.
Distribution of Value Added in Manufacturing, British Columbia and
the Rest of Canada, Native Resource Processing and Other Manu-
facturing, 1961, 1971
*See PDF for table.
Foreign Exports of Principal B.C. Products–Percentage and Rank of Total B.C. Exports
1952 and 1962-1976
*See PDF for table.
Exports of British Columbia Products to Principal Countries
*See PDF for table.
Value and Percent of Goods, Imported to British Columbia
By Source, 1966, 1976
*See PDF for table.
Selected Economic Indicators
*See PDF for table.
Estimated Components of Population Increases in British Columbia,
*See PDF for table.
Population by Ethnic Group
*See PDF for table.
*See PDF for table.
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