BC Business Matters:
Healthy Gains in Retail Spending in BC
After a number of years of sluggish growth, retail sales in BC have made some impressive gains recently. A year ago, retail spending in the province was basically flat. In the second half of 2013 and through the first quarter of this year the retail environment improved, with annual growth in retail sales advancing to around 4%. Over the past three months, spending has accelerated again, climbing to a 7% annualized growth rate.
Stock Markets at Record Levels, Improving GDP and Low Inflation…
How long will it last?
We head into the Labour Day weekend after digesting a recent barrage of mostly positive economic data for the second quarter of 2014 in North America. In the United States, after a tough first quarter, the economy posted an impressive performance in Q2 with 4.2% (annualized) real GDP growth, along with low inflation and solid metrics across several other key indicators. This pickup in GDP growth corresponds with accelerating job creation and modest income gains for American households.
Mixed BC Inflation Readings Signal Stable Overall Picture
BC has recently seen some volatility in the monthly inflation numbers. The July all-items Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 1.4% from one year ago, which was well below the 1.9% year-over-year increase recorded in June. So far in 2014 inflation has been trending higher after a period of very little change over the second half of 2013.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - The Costs Vary By Industry
Policy-makers in a growing number of jurisdictions are committed to taking steps to reverse – or at least slow the growth of – greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming.
Job Market Improving…But Employment Growth in BC Remains Soft
July’s revised labour force report from Statistics Canada shows that employment growth remains sub-par in the province. The total number of people working did not change in July. But this sideways result follows an increase of 6,700 jobs the previous month. The past two months have seen a decent gain in the aggregate number of people working in the province and extends the modest positive trend that has been in place for seven or eight months.
Math, Science and Reading in British Columbia
What were you doing at 15? Thinking about what career you were going to pursue as an adult? Probably not, and for most kids school is a bit of daily torture. Adults on the other hand are busy and constantly evaluating our children and teenagers on their reading, math and science skills, and often wringing our hands about test scores. For good reason. There is a strong correlation between how well educated we are and how well our economy performs both now and in the future.
Trust: Why it is important in the public policy process and ways to reverse its erosion
There are lots of conversations these days about trust or the lack of it, particularly around the development of natural resources but also applying to business generally. But what exactly is trust? Why is it important to business and government?
Is the U.S. Economy Poised for Multi-Year Boost from the Housing Sector?
Is it possible that America’s economy might surprise us with a sustained growth surge? The question came to mind as I recently slogged through a series of blog entries and reports on the web site of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The Center’s researchers keep close tabs on U.S. housing markets and have a particular interest in the factors believed to influence the demand for housing.
Too Little Investment Puts Prosperity at Risk
Canadian economists and policymakers have long worried about the country’s sluggish productivity growth and a seemingly ever-widening gap with the United States on this important measure of economic performance. At the heart of Canada’s poor productivity record are relatively low levels of investment, particularly in certain categories of assets that are strongly associated with productivity improvements in modern economies – machinery, equipment, software, and business research and development. A decline in investment in physical infrastructure as a share of gross domestic product over the past several decades is another aspect of Canada’s broader capital spending shortfall.
Climate Progress in BC
If you read the recently released 2014 Progress Report on Climate Action in BC and some of the related commentary, one would think BC is doing really well on meeting its climate objectives. It’s not surprising to see the government pat itself on the back, but the self-congratulation is overdone in the context of the 2020 33% legislated reduction target that was put in place in 2007. We have only run 2.4 km of a 40 km marathon race. It was clear in 2007 that the government of the day was too ambitious in adopting the 33% goal, and the latest data confirm this.
The Tsilhqot’in Decision – 10 Suggestions for What's Next
There can be little debate that the Tsilhqot’in decision is a landmark case in aboriginal law - creating greater clarity around the nature of aboriginal title under Canada’s Constitution; largely confirming past jurisprudence, and thereby providing important clarity with respect to the Crown’s (limited) ability to ‘justifiably infringe’ on aboriginal title rights; and resolving in the affirmative the application of provincial laws on the land base relative to aboriginal rights and title interests, subject to certain conditions.
The Tsilhqot'in (William) Decision - a Diversity of Views on Implications
For the past three decades determining the extent and nature of aboriginal rights and title in Canada has been an increasingly important component of natural resource development. British Columbia, with its abundance of natural resources, diversity of First Nations and limited treaties, has been at the forefront of not only important legal decisions (Calder, Sparrow, Gladstone, van der Peet, Delgamuukw, Haida and now Tsilhqot’in) but also a rapidly growing number of collaborative economic initiatives between First Nations, government and industry that are designed to ‘reconcile’ economic activity with aboriginal rights and title interests.
The Changing World of Post-Secondary Education
Outgoing UBC President Stephen Toope was interviewed for a story appearing in the Globe and Mail on June 27. In the interview, Dr. Toope touched on a number of challenges facing Canadian universities, including rising student expectations, governments’ interest in ensuring that post-secondary graduates are “job-ready,” and heightened international competition for top-ranked faculty and graduate students.
Interprovincial migration is again adding to BC's population
In the first quarter of 2014, BC saw 1,300 more people move into the province from other parts of Canada than leave to settle in other provinces. This marks the first time in nearly three years that BC has experienced positive net in-migration from other provinces. The shift from a net loss to a net gain is a positive sign because changes in interprovincial migration are driven largely by working-aged people. A net inflow means there will be more workers available in the BC labour market and also suggests job opportunities are becoming more plentiful – relative to other provinces and in particular Alberta – than was the case over the past couple of years.
Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Choices: How the Mayors got it right and wrong at the same time
Last week the Mayors’ Council, representing 23 local governments in Metro Vancouver, released their long term vision for the region’s transportation system. On many aspects of transportation planning the Mayors’ proposed blueprint moved the region closer to a comprehensive vision that could, conceivably, pass the muster of a regional referendum. To their collective credit, the Mayors for the most part resisted the temptation to play politics with the priorities - the investment side of the plan displays a degree of reasonableness that has often been lacking in transportation debates in the region.
What will $48 Trillion get you?
The strong correlation between energy use, economic growth (GDP) and improving standards of living is well documented. All societies that have significantly improved quality of life have relied heavily on energy and energy systems to do so.
Is New US Coal Law All About Smoke and Mirrors?
On June 2, 2014, the US EPA issued a proposed rule for reducing carbon dioxide emissions (incorrectly referred to as carbon by some which is a different element ). The goals for reductions are 25 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030. The rule is solely focused on coal-fired generation plants.
Productivity and Wages
An important long-term challenge facing British Columbia is to improve upon the province’s rather lackluster productivity record. In recent years, BC has trailed the national benchmark on overall business sector productivity by around 10%. In 2012, BC ranked sixth in the country in business sector productivity. Moreover, the province has had very limited success in boosting economy-wide productivity since the 1980s.
Overqualified Workers and the BC Government’s “Skills for Jobs Blueprint”
Late last month the provincial government provided some details on its planned re-engineering of the public post-secondary education (PSE) and training system, which will see additional funding directed to expand capacity to educate/train young people in high-demand occupations – and, presumably, result in fewer dollars being available to fund programs in other parts of the PSE system. One of the key factors behind the revamp is a belief among policy-makers that the “supply” of and “demand” for skills are out of alignment in the current labour market.
On the Size Rankings of National Economies – and Where Canada Stands
The World Bank has just released updated estimates of the size of all national economies for which reliable data could be collected. A much remarked finding of the Bank’s new report is that based on one set of projections, China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s biggest economy.