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

Vernon author shorlisted in B.C. historical writing competition

The BC Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing will be awarded together with $2,500 to the author whose book makes the most significant contribution to the historical literature of British Columbia.

Lumby fire destroys five vehicles

Auto wrecker blaze believed to be accidental

New restaurant on The Rise in Vernon

Multi-million dollar project plans for a 30,000 square foot multi-amenity building with the restaurant and bar

A campaign encourages families to put down their phones and talk this Mother’s Day

OpenTable’s #DiningMode gets Okanagan restaurants on board with a no phone policy while dining

Vernon council will hold town-hall on downtown issues

Notice of motion on meeting put forward by councillor wins near unanimous approval

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Olympian Andi Naude retires from freestyle skiing

Penticton native skied in 62 World Cup single and dual moguls events in her career

Most Read