British Columbia

B.C. premier sees Buckingham Palace visit as chance to expand trade with U.K.

The Queen is set to mark the addition of the Great Bear Rainforest to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

Clark will become first B.C. premier in more than 40 years to attend official Buckingham Palace event

The Duchess of Cambridge (left) walks beside her husband, Prince William, as they tour the Great Bear Rainforest in Bella Bella, B.C., along with premier Christy Clark (centre right) and a conservation officer (right) on Sept. 26, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The Queen is set to mark, in person, the addition of the Great Bear Rainforest to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

Premier Christy Clark will be at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday alongside Queen Elizabeth to recognize the 6.4-million-hectare forest on B.C.'s coast.

"This is the first time in 40 years that British Columbia has been invited to be part of an official ceremony at Buckingham Palace. I am going to be accepting an award on behalf of British Columbians for the work we have been doing on the Great Bear rainforest," said Premier Christy Clark.

"It's a big moment for British Columbia to have that international recognition for the balance we have found between protecting our environment and protecting jobs."

Recognition during royal visit

The Great Bear Rainforest was officially recognized as part of the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy by the monarchy when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled to Bella Bella during their eight day visit across British Columbia and Yukon. The initiative was launched in 2015 to create a network of forest conservation programs involving all 53 countries in the Commonwealth.

"The establishment of the canopy is a loud and unambiguous statement ... that nature is fundamental to the health of our societies," Prince William said on Sept. 25 when the couple was in Bella Bella.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were presented with paddles by First Nations members during a plaque unveiling in the Great Bear Rainforest in Bella Bella, B.C., on Sept. 26, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

British tourism booming

But Clark's visit is more than just a celebration with the Royal Family. The premier is also set to meet with business leaders and British politicians alongside Canada's high commissioner to the United Kingdom.

The U.K. marked the biggest growth region for tourism to British Columbia in 2016, with visits up 32 per cent compared to last year.

The expectation is that number will continue to rise after the spotlight the royal visit brought to the province. 

"This is a real opportunity on British soil to get more attention for the Great Bear Rainforest and really welcome British tourists to our province. Show them what we have to offer and let them think about the great beauty of the place," said Clark. 

The Great Bear Rainforest is the home of the Spirit Bear, a rare subspecies of the American black bear. (© Kim Petersen/nationalgeographic.com)

Possible trade deals

The province is also looking at this trip as an opportunity to take advantage of potential new trade agreements with the United Kingdom as it faces a post-Brexit reality. Last year, B.C. exported $398 million in goods to the U.K., a number that has remained consistent over the past decade and makes up about 1 per cent of the province's exports.  

Clark says the province has the ability and resources to increase that.

"This is our moment," said Clark. "If the British are out there looking for new friendships and growing trading relationships, we want it to be with British Columbia. We already do lots of trade with them. On tourism obviously, but also on lumber. We have more to do on aerospace and high tech. They are big places of growth for us potentially."