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iPolitics: Evening Brief: Tweets, trade and ‘very loving’ tariffs

A strong economy is allowing Canadian officials to push for a better deal in negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said today. Talks on the deal are “critically important” but Canada will remain firm in getting the best possible agreement, he told the Business Council of British Columbia.

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BIV: Canada tables European-style gender-focused budget

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The Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) criticized Morneau’s budget for its “endless string of operating deficits” and lack of measures to put Canada on an even competitive footing with the U.S.

"The government is not doing enough to address the fact that Canada has become too costly, too complex and too slow-moving to take advantage of new global opportunities - or to facilitate the investments needed to boost productivity and real wages,” said BCBC president Greg D’Avignon.

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Vancouver Sun: Federal budget 2018: B.C. wants to see more action on child care, transit and housing

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Business Council of B.C. chief policy officer Jock Finlayson said his organization is supportive of measures in the budget that include Indigenous reconciliation, gender equality and support for innovation and research.

What’s missing, however, are measures to come to grips with the much more competitive landscape that businesses are dealing because of U.S. protectionism and U.S. tax reforms.

“There’s a continuing erosion of our relative attractiveness for investment to the U.S. in traded-good industries,” said Finlayson.

That includes energy, all other natural resources and manufacturing, he said.

Finlayson pointed to the prospective liquefied natural gas export industry in British Columbia that never materialized.

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Vancouver Sun: Speculation over speculation taxes, affordability and foreign investment

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Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of B.C., which estimates that over 35 per cent of economic growth in the province in the last few years is attributed to home building and renovation activities, was asked about the future of foreign investment in residential real estate.

“This budget signifies that policy-makers have decided we don’t need foreign investment in residential real estate. It couldn’t be clearer and I think it will be effective in discouraging that. And we certainly have domestic demand for housing. And I think it’s a signal, and one that I support, that policy has to be focused on the needs of the working, productive population here, not global capital markets, so that’s fine,” he said. “But we don’t want to discourage foreign investment generally in our economy nor do we want to discourage people from moving to Canada under our various immigration programs because that’s important in what makes our society and economy successful.”

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Vancouver Sun: Budget 2018: NDP's $5.5 billion in tax hikes - where the new money will come from

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The payroll tax takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019, to offset the loss in revenue from MSP premiums. Small businesses with payrolls less than $500,000 are exempt; the tax is on a sliding scale for companies with payrolls above $500,000, to a maximum of 1.95 per cent. The new tax came as a “nasty surprise,” said Jock Finlayson of the B.C. Business Council. “We weren’t expecting it.”

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Globe and Mail: New B.C. housing measures are ‘bold steps,’ minister says

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Jock Finlayson of the Business Council of British Columbia estimates that the real estate sector has accounted for at least one-third of economic growth in the province over the past three years.

He said the new measures may slow sales of high-end homes. "But for the rest of the market, the picture is less clear. The fundamental drivers of housing demand – demographic growth, the job market and borrowing costs – have not changed, so there may be no effect on the larger market beyond a perhaps a few months of uncertainty and reduced transactions."

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Bloomberg: British Columbia Budget Dismays Businesses While Investors Shrug

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“The new budget will do little to boost business investment,” said Jock Finlayson, chief policy office of the Business Council of British Columbia. Compared with their U.S. counterparts, B.C. businesses on average invest less than 60 percent per employee in machinery, equipment and other assets that boost productivity, he said. 

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National Observer: B.C.'s budget calls for momentous change in housing, childcare

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The Business Council of British Columbia said it is is concerned about the cost of the new tax.

“Our initial assessment is that this new tax will increase overall payroll costs for our members by several hundred million dollars a year,” Greg D’Avignon, the Business Council’s President and CEO, said in a statement.

The BCBC said it supports the childcare investment and is cautious about the housing measures.

"While further review of their potential impact is warranted, the planned changes, taken together, are unprecedented in scope and may cause some disruption to the market,” D'Avignon said.

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BIV: B.C. Budget 2018: Reaction to affordable housing policies

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Jock Finlayson, chief policy officer at the Business Council of British Columbia, called the $500 million of revenue to be generated from new housing tax announcements “significant,” noting the funds will likely go toward housing affordability initiatives, and toward general government programs. 

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CTV News: B.C. budget promises big child care savings, end to MSP premiums

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But Jock Finlayson, vice-president of the B.C. Business Council, said on the housing side, the government is more focused on relaxing demand pressures than offering more immediate help to municipalities and developers to increase supply.

“If you're worried about pricing and affordability there is a supply side to the market to look at,” he said. “It's not all about demand. That's kind of missing.”

Also published in the Ottawa Citizen and Financial Post.

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CBC: 'Ignored for too long:' B.C. NDP government takes aim at housing costs with tax measures

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While much of the government's housing plan was widely praised on budget day, some groups say the province isn't doing enough to add supply.

The Business Council of British Columbia wants the province to do more to speed the pace of development, while the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition says not enough money has been earmarked to create housing for the province's most vulnerable.

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Globe and Mail: B.C.'s new measures aim to temper rising real estate prices

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The Business Council of B.C. said the housing measures were unprecedented in scope and may disrupt the market.

Jock Finlayson, the council's chief policy officer, said the high end of the market will feel a hit, because some new measures would increase taxes on houses worth $3-million and more. The question is the impact on the broader market. The moves will be a live public policy experiment. If prices do decline, it probably won't be extreme. "I don't think it's going to collapse," Mr. Finlayson said.

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Times Colonist: Foreign buyers tax coming to Victoria, Nanaimo

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Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., said: “It’s quite unprecedented in the housing market to have several measures like that brought forward so we will see how it filters through and affects the market. We don’t know at this point.

“It could be disruptive. It may be nothing more than a hiccup.”

Government initiatives will impact the upper end of the market, Finlayson said.

About half a billion dollars of additional revenue generated from the various housing-related announcements will go to support government afforable housing efforts and other government programs, he said.

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BIV: B.C Budget 2018: Business groups slam payroll tax

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"Our initial assessment is that this new tax will increase overall payroll costs for our members by several hundred million dollars a year," added Greg D'Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of BC. 

The BCBC also notes that the government expects a fairly drastic decline in new housing starts (27% this year), which underscores the need to encourage growth in export sectors – a theme largely missing in the budget.

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Vancouver Sun: B.C. budget spends big on child care and housing, expands foreign buyer tax

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The MSP move to a payroll tax came as a “nasty surprise,” said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the B.C. Business Council.

“We’re not very happy with a new employer health tax because we weren’t expecting it,” he said.

But Finlayson also said he sympathizes with the pressure on the government to do something about housing affordability and generally supports the initiatives.

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National Post: B.C. will formally challenge Alberta's wine boycott under national free trade agreement

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B.C. is within its legal rights to launch the action, said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer at the Business Council of B.C., but “it’s not surprising or particularly provocative.”

“It’s not as if (the challenge) is going to resolve the issue or have a next step immediately,” Finlayson said.

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Vancouver Sun: BC Budget: NDP’s first fiscal plan will likely not live up to voters’ many expectations

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“If they decide they don’t want to run operating deficits, it’s unclear where the revenue will come from,” said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the B.C. Business Council. “We are not expecting major tax increases in the budget. We may be wrong.”

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“From 10,000 feet the position B.C. is in looks relatively favourable, certainly compared to many other places,” said Finlayson. “But they are operating in a very tight fiscal framework. The bottom line is on the major spending promises, they are going to have to move incrementally. There just isn’t going to be room for dramatic initiatives.”

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Globe and Mail: Alberta and B.C. walk into a trade minefield

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Jock Finlayson, chief policy officer for the Business Council of B.C., said both provinces can end up bruised if they mess with that trade balance.

"Any tit-for-tat responses from the two provincial governments in the coming weeks and months will end up hurting consumers and businesses in both jurisdictions," he said. "A trade war between two provinces that are economically very interdependent should be avoided at all costs. The losers under such a scenario will vastly outnumber the winners."

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Globe and Mail: BC's loans for first time home buyers saw little pickup last year, report finds

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Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., said the government should scrap the program and instead look at policies that temper, rather than fuel, demand.

"If policymakers are worried about upward pressure on prices, they should not be undertaking programs that stimulate demand," he said.

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Times Colonist: BC ride-hailing report makes 32 recommendations to pave way for regulations

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"It's great to see all parties supporting ride-sharing options that would provide choice for passengers," said Ian Tostenson of Ridesharing Now for B.C. "We are encouraged by today's report and look forward to the NDP government moving forward on this file in 2018."

The coalition is sponsored by Lyft and Uber and includes the Vancouver Board of Trade, B.C. Business Council, Vancouver Economic Commission, B.C. Chamber of Commerce, Urban Development Institute, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Finger Food Studios and the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

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