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A bright-ish outlook

Economic symposium looks at general trends



Though talk of economic recovery is forever floating around Whistler, some financial industry experts think it's going to be a while before British Columbia and the rest of Canada find normal. That was the opinion of Jim Allworth, a Royal Bank of Canada investment strategist who spoke on the national economy at the inaugural Outlook Economic Symposium held at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Monday.

"The financial crisis is going to cast quite a long shadow," he said. "We're in a period where we're going to be working out the damage we did leading up to it. I don't know how long it will take to do it but it's going to take longer than most people think."

Allworth estimates it will take seven years for the economy to firm up, but admits some colleagues predict it will be longer.

According to symposium speakers like Sam Shaw of Encana Energy Corp. and B.C.'s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell, all the hype about the burgeoning China market is relevant, especially given B.C.'s strategic geographical placement as world economies shift away from Atlantic U.S. and Europe and towards the growing nations of Asia Pacific. But that potential is only applicable to an extent, because those shifting economies are still undeveloped and to some extent unstable. In the meantime, Allworth and Urban Futures director Andrew Ramlo insist the most critical markets are closer to home. Despite the horror stories of crumbling governments in California, skyrocketing national debt and endless foreclosures, the U.S. economy is still the most powerful in the world. It eclipses China's and despite the rhetoric surrounding an imminent Chinese world economic takeover, the reality is there is little to suggest that outcome is around the corner.

The U.S. still accounts for 26 per cent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP), making it the world's largest economy. China, under the most optimistic of conditions, has about 10 per cent of the world's GDP and is unlikely to catch up and claim global economic dominance in the foreseeable future.

Regional Vice President Pacific Northwest Fairmont Hotels Resorts Mark Andrew confirmed that too much focus too early on the Asian market could lead to problems elsewhere.

"The Chinese market is an exciting opportunity but it is a small piece of what the success of British Columbia is about," he said. "For Whistler in particular, China is going to want to come and explore new parts of the world but when I'm in Beijing and I'm selling to an operator looking to bring a group to Canada, they get very excited about the mountains, but they get a lot more excited about Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Hermes, because that's what they're really interested in."