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Times Colonist: Businesses cheer PST break on electricity, cut to corporate tax

[Excerpt] On the whole, the business community gave Tuesday’s budget a thumbs-up.

“In macro terms, it is a pretty good budget and it will have an impact on business and consumer confidence,” said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of B.C. He noted that when the PST on electricity, tax-rate cut and MSP initiative are combined, it has a solid impact on the bottom line.

“The MSP cut is a benefit to a lot of employers, a lot of large and mid-sized companies pick up that tab for employees. Those employers will see a reduction in payroll taxes, which should be good for jobs and hiring, as well as cash flow.”

 

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The Chronicle Herald: Reaction mixed from interest groups responding to B.C.'s 2017-18 budget

Greg D'Avignon, Business Council of British Columbia:

"Delivering a balanced budget within a climate of modest economic growth and a mixed outlook for commodities sets B.C. apart and signals that the province is a stable place to invest and do business."

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Goldstream News Gazette: B.C. BUDGET: Property transfer tax take to drop to $1.54 billion as hot market cools

[Excerpt] While the tax on real estate deals has become a huge cash cow for government, B.C.’s economic growth has also become increasingly reliant on the jobs associated with home construction, renovation, sales and related business.

“We have become quite dependent in terms of the growth dynamic on the broad housing and real estate sector,” said Business Council of B.C. executive vice-president Jock Finlayson. “As that cools off, and I think it is cooling off, we’re like to see the economy lose a bit of momentum.”

Finlayson said he’s satisfied that the government’s budget has allowed for that cooling, with its 2.1 per cent forecast for economic growth, slightly below the average forecast of economists.

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Merritt Herald: Medical premiums cut by half in B.C. budget

[Excerpt] Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of B.C. said large employers would benefit as well as individuals.

“A fair chunk of that MSP premium reduction is going to flow through to business or employers generally, including public sector employers,” Finlayson said.

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Times Colonist: $50-billion B.C. budget trims medical premiums, boosts education

[Excerpt] As for business, it will benefit from a decision to phase out the seven-per-cent provincial sales tax on electricity. The B.C. Liberals promise to cut the tax to 3.5 per cent on Oct. 1 and eliminate it on April 1, 2019.

The budget trims the small business tax rate from 2.5 per cent to 2 per cent beginning April 1 — the second lowest rate in the country behind Manitoba.

The Business Council of B.C said the PST cut on electricity will particularly help forestry, mining and manufacturing.

“Today’s budget offers a series of tax measures which, together, will help to keep B.C. on a path towards a more productive and competitive economy,” Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president, said.

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Business in Vancouver: Reactions to B.C. Budget 2017

Jock Finlayson, chief policy officer, Business Council of BC

“It’s going to be a fairly good budget from the perspective of business,” Finlayson said. “We’re happy with the removal of the PST on electricity. That’s going to be helpful for a lot of the export industries.

“The reduction in the MSP premiums, that will actually help employers because a lot of employers do pay MSP on behalf of their staff. And generally, the government’s stewardship of the of the province’s finances has been quite prudent and that tends top be well received in the business community.

“Having said that, there continue to be challenges around the competitive environment in B.C., especially for export industries, so we’ll be pushing the government – whoever it is – to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Tax Competitiveness.”

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Vancouver Sun: B.C. budget offers cut to MSP premiums, but no reduction to PST or income tax

[Excerpt]  Reaction to the budget was mixed – it earned praise from the business community and those who had long opposed MSP premiums, cautious support from teachers, and scorn from those who’d expected more money for child welfare and social services.

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BC Business Council vice-president Jock Finlayson praised the PST reduction on electricity for businesses.

“It’s a pretty good budget, I think it will have a tangible impact on business confidence and consumer confidence,” he said.

Finlayson admitted that government’s decision to focus almost entirely on MSP instead of other tax reductions “took us a bit by surprise,” but the PST electricity reduction had been the top request of the business community for tax reform. “We’re really pleased to see that move,” he said.

That was echoed by Catalyst Paper Corporation and coastal mayors in mill towns who praised the PST electricity change as a necessary measure to help save jobs in the coastal forestry sector.

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Journal of Commerce: B.C. economy charges forward while the world wavers

B.C.'s economy is pulling ahead of the rest of Canada and construction is leading the charge.That's the opinion of Business Council of British Columbia executive vice-president and economist Jock Finlayson, who was one of the keynote speakers at the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association's 20th annual CEO breakfast, held at Buildex Vancouver.

"Construction is a long-term growth industry for B.C. with growth over a 15-year period at twice the pace of the economy," Finlayson said, though he cautioned non-residential construction is much weaker than residential work. "It's not an exaggeration to say B.C. has a housing and construction-centric economy."

Jobs in the Lower Mainland are also "skyrocketing," he said, though most jobs in the province are concentrated in metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

B.C. was also the strongest province in Canada in terms of overall growth in 2015-16 and real gross domestic product (GDP) was 2.9 per cent in 2016. Finlayson predicted the province's GDP would slow to 2.2 per cent in 2017, and stay at that rate throughout 2018.

"This is based on a slowdown in lumber sales to the United States, along with a slowdown in retail sales and a slight decline in housing starts," he said.

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Globe and Mail: B.C. Liberals’ pile of surplus cash masks serious deficit in services

[Excerpt] Economist Jock Finlayson, chief policy officer for the Business Council of B.C., doesn’t believe Mr. de Jong will have much room to play with after all the spending promises have been accounted for.

“I think the surplus will be fully spoken for – and perhaps then some – by the time we pore through the details of the budget,” he said.

He said government can count on growing revenues, although growth will slow compared to the year just ending. “Tourism is firing on all cylinders, high technology is doing well, film and TV production is setting new records,” he said, as just a few examples.

“While there will be some room for targeted tax measures over the course of a three-year fiscal plan,” Mr. Finlayson concluded, “it’s hard to imagine the surplus is large enough to finance big-bang tax cuts.”

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Globe and Mail: Will the foreign buyers tax endanger B.C.’s housing windfall?

[Excerpt] Working from those figures, the Business Council of B.C. calculated that the real estate sector – including construction, renovations and other spinoffs – accounted for 35 to 40 per cent of the province’s economic activity.

“It has played a big role in B.C.’s growth story,” said Jock Finlayson, economist and chief policy officer for the Business Council. “It’s not the only thing, but it has made an outsized contribution. And the government’s stronger-than-expected revenues are due in part to the strength of the housing industry – which of course is now diminishing.”

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Journal of Commerce: Buildex Blog: the ICBA CEO Breakfast

[Excerpt] Business Council of British Columbia economist Jock Finlayson also addressed the CEO breakfast with a look at B.C.'s economic prospects in what he termed "an uncertain world."

Finlayson cited the new and "untested" U.S. administration, Brexit, shifting tides in the European Union, and a possible shift in China-U.S. relations.

However the outlook in B.C. is generally good, Finlayson said. The global economy remains in low gear, with growth globally only around three per cent.

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Vancouver Sun: B.C. Liberal government promises financial relief in throne speech

[Excerpt] B.C. Business Council vice-president Jock Finlayson urged government to first focus on tax reforms suggested by a recent tax competitiveness commission, which called for more exemptions on machinery and equipment to increase productivity.

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Globe and Mail: Trump ban drives Christy Clark to refine B.C. foreign buyer’s tax

[EXCERPT] Last August, senior economists Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock of the Business Council of B.C. warned that the new property tax on foreign buyers would make it even harder to lure outside talent to take jobs in the lower mainland. “Over time, sky-high housing costs threaten to precipitate a gradual hollowing out of corporate Vancouver,” they wrote.

On Monday, Mr. Finlayson said the tax was a concern to more than just the tech sector. “As soon as the tax was announced, we began to hear from some of our members who were worried it would hamper efforts to recruit global talent to companies and academic institutions in Greater Vancouver,” he said.

He said it is too early to measure whether the policies of the Trump administration will translate into opportunities to expand British Columbia’s tech sector. “But it’s an opportunity worth pursuing, not only for those with the qualifications to take mid-level and senior positions in B.C. technology companies, but also for academic researchers, senior-level executives, and perhaps even medical specialists with hard-to-find expertise.”

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Business in Vancouver: Subsidized daycare can pay for itself, study finds

[Excerpt] Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer for the Business Council of British Columbia, said there is support among his organization’s members for increased access to daycare, especially for lower-income families.

“Adopting a universal, low-cost model, paid for entirely by government, is another matter,” he said. “The latter would require a big tax increase, which would be expected to have negative impact on economic and job growth – thus partially offsetting the economic benefits of universal daycare emphasized in the Fairholm report.”  

Finlayson and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation point to Quebec, which has offered $7 per day daycare since the late 1990s but has some of the highest tax rates in Canada.

And despite having subsidized child care, some parents in Quebec still find it hard to find available placements for their children and end up paying market rates for private daycare.

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Business in Vancouver: Could B.C.-Washington state trade benefit from Trump bump?

 [Excerpt] The U.S. remains B.C.’s “No. 1 trading partner by a wide margin,” according to Ken Peacock, chief economist at the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC). BCBC data provided to Business in Vancouver shows the province exported $5.1 billion to Washington state in 2015, making it B.C.’s largest trading partner in the U.S.

That number is nearly equal to the amount B.C. exported to China that same year ($5.9 billion). “Over the past few years B.C.’s exports to the U.S. have grown steadily, boosted by the weaker dollar and the fact the U.S. economy has gained some traction,” Peacock said.

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Business in Vancouver: Outlook 2017: B.C. miners meeting 2017 with 'cautious optimism'

Political and market uncertainty will still plague commodity prices in 2017, but B.C.’s mining industry is cautiously optimistic that resource prices are stabilizing, if not recovering.

Both copper and metallurgical coal, which each account for approximately 40% of B.C.’s mining revenue, according to PwC Canada’s estimates, rallied to close out the year much higher than where they started. For an industry that has faced years of depressed prices, layoffs and idling operations, it’s welcome news.

“I think in 2016 we’ve seen that bottom out, or perking up,” Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer with the Business Council of British Columbia, told Business in Vancouver.

“Will it continue into 2017? I certainly don’t expect anything resembling a commodity market boom, but I do think we’ve seen the worst of metals and energy prices.” Finlayson added that because three-quarters of B.C.’s exports come from natural resource industries, the trend is a favourable development for the overall provincial economy.

Nothing, however, is certain.

Prices for gold and silver have already shifted down from rallies earlier in 2016, and no one seems prepared to bank on a commodity price recovery.

“We have seen perhaps one of the most challenging cycles as far as commodity prices are concerned,” said Karina Briño, president and CEO of the Mining Association of BC (MABC).

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BIV on Roundhouse Radio: Jock talks 2016 [12:15]

Jock Finlayson joined Business in Vancouver on Roundhouse radio to reflect on the biggest BC business news stories of 2016. [12:15]

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BIV on Roundhouse Radio: Ken Peacock talks municipal spending [27:38]

BCBC Chief Economist Ken Peacock discusses trends in Metro Vancouver municipal spending as outlined in his recent report [27:38]

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Maclean's: 75 charts every Canadian should watch in 2017

 

Canada losing its edge in trade with U.S.
Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president, Business Council of B.C. Twitter: @jockfinlayson

Jock Finlayson
“Canada long enjoyed the status of being the No. 1 source of American imports. No more. We were overtaken by China a decade ago, and more recently by Mexico. Since 2000, Canada has lost 5.5 points of U.S. market share. In some ways the picture is even darker, for the following reason: since 2000, Canadian oil exports to the U.S. have increased sharply. Absent oil, our share of the U.S. import market would be several percentage points lower than depicted in the chart. This highlights the worrisome erosion of Canada’s competitiveness on a North American basis, with manufacturing production and capital investment, in particular, having drained out of Canada into the southern United States and Mexico over the last 15 years. It remains to be seen whether the protectionist impulses of the new American president will alter the competitive landscape for Canada and other U.S. trading partners over the balance of the decade.”

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BIV: Canada signs national climate change strategy

If one ignores a very large gap in the centre of Canada – Saskatchewan and Manitoba – the country now has a “pan-Canadian” strategy for tackling climate change through things like stricter building codes, reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas sectors and building new transmission lines between provinces.

Late Friday, December 9, Canada’s first ministers jointly announced they had signed onto a national strategy that includes a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a suite of policies that will almost certainly result in higher building and energy costs for Canadians.

 

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Jock Finlayson, executive vice president of the BC Business Council, said a pan-Canadian framework for carbon pricing and climate action policies “makes sense to work toward a common platform for carbon pricing to ensure that all regions and sectors of the economy are contributing and are treated equitably.”
However, he shared Clark’s concerns that British Columbians could end up paying a much higher carbon price than residents and businesses of Ontario and Quebec.

“I am worried that businesses and industries in B.C. could end up paying more for fossil fuels than those in central Canada, given that B.C. is using a broadly-carbon tax while Ontario and Quebec are relying on complex ‘cap and trade’ programs to meet the federal government’s $50 target,” he said.
 
“Second, I am troubled by the thought that tax-inclusive fossil fuel costs will be escalating steadily in Canada at a time when the United States will be doing nothing on carbon pricing under incoming President Trump.

“If Canada moves to a $50 carbon price by 2022 while the U.S. sticks with a zero national carbon price, investment in the oil and gas sector and also across swathes of manufacturing will bleed out of Canada into the U.S. to take advantage of lower energy costs there. That will further disadvantage the Canadian economy, which is  already suffering from a loss of industrial competitiveness in the North American context.”

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