Premier names ex-MLA to new Asia trade post

Ben Stewart to make $150,000 a year, similar to cabinet salary before he stepped down or Westside-Kelowna byelection

Former Westside Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart

Former MLA Ben Stewart is B.C.’s new investment and trade commissioner for Asia, Premier Christy Clark announced Monday.

Stewart will be based in Beijing, but will travel to Japan and Korea to meet regularly with officials working for B.C.’s international trade ministry.

Stewart said his experience promoting the wine industry in Asia will help him in the job. Clark emphasized Stewart’s experience as an MLA and cabinet minister, which she said gives him quick access to her and other cabinet ministers.

“We need a representative in Asia who is known to have access to power and government here in British Columbia,” Clark said. “That is a critical part of doing successful business in Asia.”

Stewart, owner of Quail’s Gate winery, stepped down shortly after winning re-election in Westside-Kelowna in May so Clark could run in a by-election in July.

He will be paid $150,000 to serve in the Asia trade role, which is about the same salary he received as a cabinet minister before he was demoted to the backbench when Clark was selected as B.C. Liberal leader. The cabinet order appointing him allows the salary to increase to $170,000.

NDP international trade critic Bruce Ralston said B.C. has two dozen staffers in their Asian trade offices, with senior people who speak the local languages and are more qualified than Stewart.

“There isn’t a provincial senate, so I guess this is the next best thing,” Ralston said.

Stewart said he worked on trade issues in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan as well as Europe and Latin America, trying to open markets for B.C. wine. That experience taught him “how difficult it is to establish relationships from afar,” he said.

The announcement comes as Clark prepares for her own trade mission to Asia in late November, following similar tours by Forests Minister Steve Thomson and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman.

After the May election, Clark established a new ministry of international trade, headed by Richmond Centre MLA Teresa Wat, who will accompany Clark on the trade mission that continues until Dec. 3.

 

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Technology allows TNRD residents to see the heat

A new library program allows residents to borrow a thermal imaging camera and check for heat loss

Are you a victim of the thermostat wars?

The battle over the thermostat is quite heated in many households.

Community Income Tax volunteers will be at local libraries to help with tax returns

Lower-income singles and families can take advantage of free tax return service

Local News Briefs: Free Family Day weekend movie at the HUB

Plus an ice fishing derby, a Fancy Schmancy Tea Party, the Million Dollar Bursary is back, and more.

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

B.C. pot giant Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

Most Read