Connectivity and environmentalism were hot topics of conversation between B.C. premier John Horgan and Washington State governor Jay Inslee during the American’s visit to the province this week.
Meeting as part of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference—a two-day annual event that brings together business leaders, academics, and government leaders from both sides of the border—the pair signed a joint memorandum of understanding to deepen ties between the region.
The Cascadia Innovation Corridor, which runs from the south of Oregon into Washington State and up the West Coast of B.C., comprises Canada and America’s fastest growing economies. As well as increasing its trade globally, Washington now exports more to B.C. than it does to all other provinces combined. In turn, if Washington was a country, it would represent B.C.’s third largest international export market. As of 2018, British Columbia’s exports to Washington are nearly equal to the value of all the province’s exports to China.
The Cascadia region is also united by cross-border social ties, which have deepened since the fall of 2016 with the launch of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor initiative. Data from a Research Co. study revealed that 66 percent of B.C. residents feel they have more in common with people from Seattle and Portland than those in Toronto or Ontario—a figure that has increased by eight percent over the past two years.
Speaking to the tightening links between the regions—an area that headquarters tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, Nike, SAP, and Hootsuite—Horgan and Inslee highlighted the ways that cities along the West Coast are increasing their connectivity. Over the past two years, a seaplane service has been established between Seattle and Vancouver, and remains a popular flight among business people. In addition, a feasibility study into setting up an ultra-high-speed rail line between Oregon and B.C. has begun with backing from Microsoft, and is expected to conclude in June 2019.
“Governor Inslee and I are working together to make life better for people across the region, and the Cascadia Innovation Corridor is critically important to that work,” Horgan said in a press statement. “This forward-thinking initiative brings together governments with the tech sector to grow the innovation economy. Our government will continue to work collaboratively to advance these shared goals and create good jobs for people on both sides of the border.”
Environmentalism was also a key point of discussion for the two leaders. Both were concerned about the effects of global warming and the acidity of the ocean, particularly in regards to the West Coast’s salmon population and its resident orcas. Inslee specified that his government was in-step with B.C.’s green policies, despite the federal government’s refusal to address the issues from the top level.
“B.C. and Washington State share so much more than just a border,” said governor Inslee. “Our people and our businesses recognize the benefits of collaboration and partnership, and we recognize that investing in our workers and protecting our environment goes hand-in-hand with building a strong economy. We’re already seeing results from our partnership and I look forward to continuing to make our region a global hub of innovation and connectivity.”
As well as Horgan and Inslee’s memorandum of understanding, a number of developments in the Cascadia region were announced at the conference. First was the launch of the Incubator Pilot Program: an initiative established by the University of British Columbia, the University of Washington, and Mitacs (a Canadian non-profit that connects skilled researchers with businesses). The scheme aims to foster new networks between startups, and help companies identify academics that can help build their products.
Co-working giant WeWork also unveiled the launch of its new Cascadia Passport at the event. Offering 24/7 access to any of the company’s locations across the area—including offices in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver—the initiative allows individuals to take meetings, conduct business, and build lasting partnerships as if the region were one city.
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