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

The Nellie McClung Library is booked for June 22 and 23

Friends of the Library announce a big summer book sale the Nellie McClung branch

Average housing prices would have to drop by $413,000 for Victoria to become affordable

Alternatively, salaries need to increase to $134,000 per year, more than double current levels

Bears have killed 17 people in B.C. since 1986

Number of bear complaints and bears killed rose sharply during same period

Oak Bay resident wins fight to remove tree

With St. Patrick Street tree removal, Oak Bay now aims to plant 6,401 trees

Victoria Mavericks baseball league showcasing top-level talent

Former and current college players highlight many rosters

Victoria Weekender: What’s happening this weekend, June 15-16

Car Free YYJ, a barber battle and an Outdoor Discovery Day

Homalco tour gives glimpse into area’s ‘People, Land, Water’

First Nation business mixes cultural components with wildlife excursions

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

Teen stabbed after end-of-night limo dispute in downtown Vancouver

A young man, 19, is in serious condition following a dispute between two groups

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody 6 months after release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

Most Read