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BNN: BC Premier Christy Clark counts on LNG to drive economy after real estate-fuelled boom

[Excerpt] While it is true B.C. has by far the strongest provincial economy in the country, Clark failed to mention a huge proportion of that growth has been borne on the back of what most economists consider unsustainable gains in the Vancouver real estate market. According to the Business Council of British Columbia, roughly 40 per cent of economic growth in that province is directly related to housing.

B.C. has taken shots at Alberta’s overreliance on energy before. In its February speech from the throne, the provincial government set its legislative agenda for the year by warning it must “stay vigilant” to avoid the mistakes its neighbour to the east has made when “over the decades, Alberta lost its focus.”

Despite that cautionary tale, B.C. appears no more focused today on avoiding a very similar fate to the one Alberta is now facing.

“The hot housing sector, while boosting the economy today, is creating a somewhat unbalanced economic growth dynamic in the province,” Jock Finlayson, chief policy officer for the British Columbia Business Council, wrote in a July 26th report. “It also leaves B.C. vulnerable to potentially adverse market shifts.”

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Financial Post: Seattle and Vancouver look to create a West Coast hub for innovation

The Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference held in Vancouver last week was the next step in Seattle’s and Vancouver’s drive to create a West Coast hub for innovation to help businesses in the region compete globally.

Keynote speakers, including Bill Gates Microsoft, co-founder and co-chair of the Gates Foundation; Satya Nadell, Microsoft CEO; Brad Smith, president of Microsoft; BC Premier Christy Clark; Washington Governor Jay Inslee; and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray,  discussed the need for greater connectivity and alignment around education, biosciences, workforce, health care, transportation, and natural resources.

Greg D’Avignon, president and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia, said one key focus of the initiative is fostering relationships both within startup communities and between investors and entrepreneurs to increase the availability of capital and other support.

“There’s a real opportunity for small businesses when you have larger companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and Telus becoming incubators for small business vendors and service providers. Bigger companies provide access to talent, capital and the ability to scale to reach international markets,” he said.

D’Avignon claims Vancouver, and British Columbia in general, has more startups than any other region in Canada, with particular expertise in digital entertainment, special effects, biotech, life sciences, genomics and cancer care. “The University of British Columbia, for example, is a leading incubator for creating ideas for new companies moving forward,” he said, adding, Washington State is Number 1 for startups among the 50 states.

“This clustering will provide small companies with opportunities to find customers, share and expand ideas, and leverage a larger supply chain. Canada needs more global (small to mid-sized businesses) to expand into other markets. If you can be innovative with large and medium size companies in multiple jurisdictions, it creates plenty of opportunities for small companies to be involved.”

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Vancouver Sun, Peter O'Neil: Don't 'sabotage' Canada on LNG, says B.C. business group

 The Trudeau government would “sabotage” an enormous Canadian advantage in world markets by capitulating to environmentalist pressure to block an $11.4-billion West Coast liquefied natural gas project.

That is the B.C. business community’s warning in a letter to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as the federal cabinet prepares to make its final decision on the Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal.

On Monday, Ottawa is expected to announce its verdict on a project that is a key component of Premier Christy Clark’s strategy to boost the B.C. economy and her chances of getting re-elected next spring.

The federal cabinet is expected to discuss the matter at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

“We are writing to express our concerns with ongoing negative commentary from certain environmental groups who are opposed to fossil fuel development in Canada — and specifically, to proposed energy projects in British Columbia,” said Greg D’Avignon, president of the Business Council of B.C., in a letter that went to senior members of the federal and B.C. cabinets.

D’Avignon said that, contrary to arguments from environmentalist groups, Canadian LNG exports would allow Asian countries to transition away from more carbon-intensive methods of generating electricity. Such exports would also stimulate the national economy and create jobs and wealth, he argued.

If Canada doesn’t export LNG, other countries with worse environmental records would step in to fill the void, he said

“So it is difficult to understand why Canadian policy-makers would want to sabotage the country’s comparative advantage in energy resources,” the letter states.

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BIV Radio: Ken Peacock

[43:25]  BCBC's Chief Economist Ken Peacock joins BIV Roundhouse Radio to talk about his latest column in Business In Vancouver and why real estate is acting as B.C.’s economic buffer during the current energy downturn.

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Tech Vibes: Vancouver, Seattle Eager to Create 'Cascadia Innovation Corridor' Between Two Cities

The creation of a new global hub for innovation and economic development was the focus of a conference held this week in Vancouver.

The Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference brought together business and government leaders to explore the potential for joint partnerships in education, transportation, university research, human capital and other areas. The conference was jointly hosted by the Business Council of British Columbia, the Washington Roundtable and Microsoft.

Leaders on both sides of the border acknowledged the opportunity to create a single interconnected region that could be more competitive in today’s global economy—and took action to deepen relationships and strengthen partnerships. At the conference, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark signed a formal agreement that committed the two governments to work closely together to “enhance meaningful and results-driven innovation and collaboration.”

Seattle and Vancouver, the two cities at the heart of the new initiative, share a number of complementary strengths. And yet, according to a new Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study released at the conference, the level of connectedness between the two cities remains remarkably low for two cities so close together. While only 120 miles or 190 kilometers apart they behave more like cities that are thousands of miles apart.

“In an increasingly competitive global market for talent and capital, harnessing our collective strengths and the power of innovation will drive greater productivity and business growth across the region,” said Greg D’Avignon, Business Council of British Columbia President and CEO. “We welcome leading thinkers from both sides of the border to British Columbia to discuss how improved collaboration will create greater prosperity for the benefit of all residents in B.C. and Washington State.”

The region has the “potential to become an important innovation corridor,” but doing so will require regional leaders work together, the study said. This could be possible through sustained collaboration aided by an educated and skilled workforce, a vibrant network of research universities and a dynamic policy environment.

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604 Now: Bill Gates In Vancouver To Headline Conference

Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, will be attending the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference today in Vancouver.

Among B.C. Premier, Christy Clark, the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, and Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadellaare, will also be in attendance.

The conference will have a heavy focus on increasing connections between Vancouver and Seattle, with talks about “education, the workforce, health care, transportation and natural resources”, according to CBC.

Organized by the Business Council of British Columbia, the conference will hopefully allow for our province to establish a better link to places like Seattle, in order to work closely as one region.

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Economic Development Minister told reporters that we need to “recognize that we live in a globally connected world.” With global companies becoming local competitors, Bains emphasized that having a stronger connection to the U.S. will create more networks.

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Yahoo Finance: New Regional Effort Aims to Establish Cascadia Innovation Corridor

British Columbia and Washington leaders come together to strengthen collaboration, create cross-border opportunity

The creation of a new global hub for innovation and economic development is the focus of a conference being held today in Vancouver.

The Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference brings together business and government leaders to explore the potential for joint partnerships in education, transportation, university research, human capital and other areas. The conference is jointly hosted by the Business Council of British Columbia, the Washington Roundtable and Microsoft Corp.

Leaders on both sides of the border acknowledged the opportunity to create a single interconnected region that could be more competitive in today's global economy and took immediate action today to deepen relationships and strengthen partnerships.

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Seattle and Vancouver, the two cities at the heart of the new initiative, share a number of complementary strengths. These include a high quality of life, diverse communities, skilled and well-educated workforces, and strong economic and social ties to Asia. And yet, according to a new Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study released at the conference, the level of connectedness between the two cities remains remarkably low for two cities so close together. While only 120 miles or 190 kilometres apart they behave more like cities that are thousands of miles apart.

"In an increasingly competitive global market for talent and capital, harnessing our collective strengths and the power of innovation will drive greater productivity and business growth across the region," said Greg D'Avignon, Business Council of British Columbia President and CEO. "We welcome leading thinkers from both sides of the border to British Columbia to discuss how improved collaboration will create greater prosperity for the benefit of all residents in B.C. and Washington State."

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CBC: Bill Gates in Vancouver for Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference

Politicians, CEOs and academics from the Pacific Northwest will meet in Vancouver today to discuss creating a hub for innovation in the region.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadellaare all scheduled to attend the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference.

The conference, which was organized by the Business Council of B.C., will  focus on increasing connections between Vancouver and Seattle.The agenda includes talks on education, the workforce, health care, transportation and natural resources.

Canada's Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains says we live in a globally connected world, so it's important to explore ways that Vancouver and Seattle can work more closely as one region.

"Global companies are becoming local competitors. We need to recognize that we live in a globally connected world," Bains told reporters after speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade Monday.

"Any kind of relationship we can have with the United States for example, in this particular case, or other jurisdictions, to create those networks, to create those clusters, is something we should explore."

Bains said it's crucial to strengthen domestic talent through education and training, saying that learning to code is now equally as important as learning to read or write.

But he said immigration is also key to growing Canada's economy. He touted billions in investments the government has made in upgrading institutions and buildings and in research funding for individuals.

"Those kinds of investments attract the best and brightest to come to Canada, and then if we create an environment for them to grow their company, succeed and we provide a good quality of life, there's a good chance we'll be able to retain them."

He stressed that opening doors to immigrants doesn't mean taking away jobs from Canadians. The government wants to foster an environment for newcomers to create companies, he said.

"When individuals start up companies and grow companies, then they employ Canadians. That's the idea. We want to create an innovation culture."

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Globe and Mail: Home sales eclipse resources as B.C.’s top source of revenue

 British Columbia will haul in more tax revenue from the sale of homes this year than its combined revenues from the province’s historical economic foundation of mining, energy, forestry, Crown land tenures and natural gas.

The first fiscal update on this year’s budget, released on Thursday by Finance Minister Mike de Jong, forecasts the property transfer tax will bring $2.2-billion into the treasury, a massive increase from the $1.2-billion predicted in the budget introduced in the spring. Direct revenues from the province’s top five resources are forecast to total $1.8-billion.

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Economist Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of British Columbia, cautioned that the province’s economic growth, which is leading the country, is heavily reliant on a housing boom that is susceptible to a downturn.

“We estimate the residential real estate complex is generating up to 35 to 40 per cent of all economic growth in the province,” Mr. Finlayson said in an interview. That includes new home construction, the renovation industry, and the spin-off industries of intermediaries – lawyers, realtors, home inspectors and others – who profit from the turnover of real estate.

“For the B.C. government, it is producing something of a revenue bonanza. The question is, is it healthy in the long run to be dependent on it, and the answer is no, because you are vulnerable to a painful correction.”

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The Province: B.C. indigenous leader Shane Gottfriedson 'a guy who wants to get stuff done'

A B.C. First Nations leader, coming from a region of the province known for producing aboriginal rights trail-blazers, is at the centre of two unique efforts to generate economic activity on traditional territories.

Assembly of First Nations B.C. regional chief Shane Gottfriedson, who took over that role last year from current federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, will participate in a “groundbreaking” joint announcement here later this month.

The B.C. wing of the assembly is working with the federal government and a national aboriginal business organization to assemble “cutting-edge data analytics,” including information from a new national poll of 1,100 indigenous businesspeople.

The goal is to provide government, industry and aboriginal leaders with new information on “capacity, opportunities and critical challenges” within First Nations across the country.

Gottfriedson, the former chief of the Tk’emlups Te Secwepemc (formerly Kamloops) First Nation, was also a key player this week in an “historic” accord with the B.C. Business Council to create a “Champions’ Table.”

 

The regular gatherings will let chiefs and chief executives to “explore opportunities, identify barriers and discuss policy approaches for increased clarity, decision making and capacity for both parties,” according to a joint news release.

That effort was supported by a $2.5-million contribution spread over three years from the B.C. government.

The goal is to educate both sides of the partnership.

“The corporate sector needs to understand how to do business on First Nations land, and First Nations need to understand how business works,” Gottfriedson said in an interview.

Gottfriedson, 50, wants to create a “black book” of economic development on indigenous territories. His favourite catchphrase is that nations must transition from “managing poverty to managing wealth.”

It’s not all talk, said B.C. Business Council president Greg D’Avignon.

“He’s going to make a difference in B.C., not just for First Nations people but for the province as a whole,” D’Avignon said Thursday.

“He’s a guy who wants to get stuff done, and that’s not uncommon among the next generation of First Nations leaders.

“But he has got a combination of vision and execution. There are lots of people who think in big terms, and there are some people who are good at doing.

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Vancouver Sun, Editorial: First Nations-business agreement sets positive tone

The memorandum of understanding between the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and the Business Council of British Columbia released this week says all the right things. 

It sets out in respectful terms that the parties agree to “establish and define a collaborative and constructive relationship”, they will “engage to create a formal ongoing dialogue”, and they will “advance an agenda that supports the delivery of shared prosperity.”

To be sure, these sound like motherhood statements with which no one could disagree. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of words. As a veteran observer of aboriginal affairs told The Vancouver Sun editorial board this week, “First Nations don’t sign bullshit agreements.”

At a time when confrontation seems to greet every development, an understanding that emphasizes collaboration, economic reconciliation and a mutual desire to increase the prosperity of the province, marks a significant milestone in the economic relationship between business and First Nations. It is a giant leap from paternalism to partnership.

Of course, neither First Nations nor businesses were depending on this document to move forward. There are hundreds of existing agreements between businesses and First Nations worth billions of dollars that predate the agreement.

Indeed, in 2014, a database funded and developed by the Aboriginal Business Investment Council and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training offered an accounting of First Nations business development. It highlighted 1,099 self-identified aboriginal businesses, with more than 600 small businesses run by First Nation’s entrepreneurs, 50 community-owned development corporations, 80 formal joint ventures with businesses, 288 agreements between government or industry, 27 revenue-sharing agreements, and 12 agreements related to B.C.’s 19 operating metal and coal mines. 

It was pure coincidence that at roughly the same time as this week’s deal was released, oilsands giant Suncor Energy announced that the Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta would acquire a 34-per-cent stake in Suncor’s East Tank Farm project, a bitumen storage terminal, for $350 million. The band will issue bonds to raise the money. While the deal had nothing to do with B.C., it reflects the spirit of the agreement, a BCBC spokesperson said.

The deal makes clear that there is still work to do to ensure First Nations have the tools they need to equitably share in B.C.’s prosperity — access to capital through loan guarantees, for example, something the federal government has been talking about since January. 

The agreement states that the parties seek new opportunities to jointly advance the shared interests of sustainable economic development in B.C. through increased public engagement and understanding. That’s an objective many British Columbians will have no trouble buying into.

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Vancouver Sun: B.C. First Nations, business council pledge economic support with new agreement

B.C. business and First Nations leaders are touting a new formal agreement as a way to help lift indigenous communities out of poverty and build the province’s economy at the same time.

A memorandum of understanding between the Business Council of British Columbia and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, signed Tuesday morning in Vancouver, aims to bridge the divide between the two groups and help share the province’s economic prosperity.

“For far too long, we’ve administered poverty, and this is unacceptable,” said Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson. “No longer can we accept the deplorable conditions faced by many of our nations. We need to collectively find ways to ensure that no nation is left behind, that all of our First Nations people are supported.”

Marcia Smith, chair of the business council and a senior vice-president with Teck Resources Limited, described the agreement as the first of its kind in Canada, and told an audience of businesspeople and indigenous leaders that it would give investors more confidence in B.C.-based projects.

“We are going to work together to build shared understanding of aboriginal rights and title issues, economic opportunities and the priorities of First Nations communities,” she said.

 

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Globe and Mail: B.C. to restore Central Coast ferry service to boost aboriginal tourism

[Excerpt] The government’s announcements are part of a new economic agreement with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. Ms. Clark said her government will provide up to $2.5-million over three years to support the continued development of the assembly’s First Nations Sustainable Economic Development Strategy.

The strategy will include establishing a roundtable of First Nations “economic champions” from all regions of the province to advise leaders, as well as improving employment data for on-reserve communities.

The Business Council of B.C. and the provincial Assembly of First Nations also announced Tuesday that they have signed what they say is a “landmark” memorandum of understanding to ensure sustainable economic development.

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CBC: B.C. First Nations and business community set their sights on economic reconciliation

British Columbia's business and First Nations communities have signed a memorandum of understanding to recognize their commitment to economic reconciliation.

Shane Gottfriedson, the B.C. regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations, and Greg D'Avignon, the president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of British Columbia, both signatories to the agreement, spoke to Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.

Chief Gottfriedson said the agreement is about creating opportunities for sustainable economic development for First Nations communities.

"We're living in the 21st century now and it's time to look at collaboration and partnerships, and make sure that sustainable economic development and reconciliation is taking place."

He added that many First Nations communities are focused on educating their youth and increasing the quality of life for their future.

"Right now, it's about managing poverty, but we need to get into the game of managing wealth, creating a better quality of life for our people. We can't be left out from that."

D'Avignon said the business community was eager to break down barriers in working with First Nations communities through this public declaration.

"If we can create certainty and clarity with a legal framework and structures in place to get decision making with transparency and understanding ... we're going to be quite unique in the world. That will be a competitive advantage for British Columbia going forward."

The gesture coincides with provincial funding that supports a number of initiatives supporting First Nations economic development including:

  • A roundtable to encourage dialogue between First Nations and the business community.
  • The creation of sustainable economic development guides.
  • Improving the quality of employment data for on-reserve communities.

Premier Christy Clark noted in a statement that "improving the quality of life of First Nations people and ensuring they see the benefits from Canada's strongest economy is reconciliation in action."

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CBC Radio, Early Edition: What does economic reconciliation look like?

Shane Gottfriedson, the B.C. Regional Chief with the Assembly of First Nations, and Greg D'Avignon,the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia, talk about economic reconciliation.

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Investopedia: Could a Carbon Tax Work?

[Excerpt] British Columbia's carbon tax, introduced in 2008, is broadly considered a success. A May 2015 Duke working paper found that emissions in the province fell by 5% to 15% with "negligible effects on aggregate economic performance, though certain emissions-intensive sectors have faced challenges." The authors found the tax to be revenue-neutral; in fact the government returned slightly more money to households than it took in carbon tax revenues.

I appears that carbon pricing can work, in other words. Even business leaders in the province are more-or-less okay with the new status quo. "We were not very happy when it was first announced," Business Council of British Columbia's head of policy Jock Finlayson told the New York Times in March. But that opposition has since given way to "a sizable constituency saying this is O.K."

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The Georgia Straight: A close look at the B.C. NDP, Liberal, and Green plans for a higher minimum wage

[Excerpt] Jock Finlayson is executive vice president of the Business Council of British Columbia. He told the Straight that most employers are supportive of regular increases like the Liberal government’s peg to the consumer price index. On $15 by 2021, Finlayson said: “I think that would start to push the envelope a bit.”

He didn’t dismiss further increases outright, but he argued in favour of more nuanced policies: for example, looking at the relationship between the minimum wage and the average industrial wage, which was about $25 in 2015.

“I think there is room for healthy debate on what the statutory minimum should be,” Finlayson said. “Should it be 50 percent of the average [industrial wage] or should it be pushed up higher, as some people on the left will argue? I think that’s a reasonable debate to have.”

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Business in Vancouver: Carbon price comparison shows B.C. is not a laggard

A character in an Oscar Wilde play defined a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

When it comes to carbon pricing, it’s easy to fixate on the price rather than its value as a carbon reduction tool, and recently the Pembina Institute has taken a cynical view of B.C.’s commitment to battling climate change.

B.C. has frozen its carbon tax at $30 per tonne since 2013, and despite recommendations from its own Climate Action Team (CLT) to start raising it by $10 per tonne after 2018, there have been signals that the tax might continue to be frozen at $30 until a national carbon scheme is announced.

In June, the Pembina Institute labelled B.C. “a climate laggard when compared to Canada’s other most populous provinces,” based on the carbon tax freeze and the fact that B.C. will not meet its 2020 greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction targets.

But is B.C. truly a climate change laggard?

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Even if B.C. does nothing more with its climate action plan, the efficacy of its current policies shows it’s no laggard.

The real value of any policy is its stringency – its ability to reduce GHG emissions.  And on that score, the Ecofiscal Commission cites studies that show the emissions to be reduced in B.C. by 2020 at between 5% and 15% compared with 7% in Alberta, 11% in Ontario and 15% in Quebec.

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The Business Council of BC has urged the B.C. government to continue the carbon tax freeze until other jurisdictions have caught up.

Cement plants and greenhouses are among business that could suffer from carbon prices that are too high compared with competing provinces, states and countries that don’t have carbon pricing.

As Ecofiscal Commission chairman Chris Ragan points, if a high carbon tax drives an industry to move across the border to a U.S. state where there is no carbon tax, it’s a lose-lose situation because it means a Canadian province takes an economic hit and no net GHG reduction has been achieved.

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Business in Vancouver: No carbon tax hike in B.C.’s new climate plan

The B.C. government will not raise the carbon tax above $30 per tonne for the foreseeable future, and its new climate action plan fails to adopt some key recommendations made by the government’s own Climate Leadership Team (CLT).

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Of the 32 recommendations made by the CLT, the key one was raising B.C.’s $30 per tonne carbon tax by $10 per year, after 2018. It has been frozen at $30 per tonne since 2013.

But Premier Christy Clark defended inaction on the carbon tax hike, saying other jurisdictions have not yet caught up to B.C.

“We will consider raising the carbon tax as other provinces catch up,” Clark said.

There is a concern with “leakage” when one jurisdiction has carbon pricing that is higher than competing jurisdictions. Industries may simply move to jurisdictions with lower carbon prices – or no price at all – which means a loss to the economy, but no net reduction to actual emissions, which will simply be produced in some other jurisdiction.

“There's a recognition that B.C. has had the highest carbon tax in North America, and still will have in the next five years, even based on the plans other jurisdictions have made,” said Greg D’Avignon, president of the Business Council of BC. “And they’re mindful of the fact that B.C. has to remain competitive going forward, particularly for trade exposed industries and those that are energy intensive.”

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Vancouver Sun: B.C. Liberals rein in greenhouse-gas emissions goals, put off carbon tax change

The B.C. Liberal government has put off the heavy lifting on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a later date, under a new plan released today.

The much-anticipated update to a 2008 plan created under then-premier Gordon Campbell recommits the province to achieving an 80 per cent reduction over 2007 levels by 2050.

However, today’s 52-page plan only lays out actions estimated to achieve less than half of the needed reductions by 2050, and much less if the government’s much-hoped-for liquefied natural gas export industry materializes and significantly increases emissions.

While it’s already known that B.C. will not meet its 2020 target of reducing emissions by one-third, the Christy Clark-led Liberals are not setting a new interim target and will have to remove from law the 2020 legislated target.

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B.C. Business Council president Greg D’Avignon said the B.C. government’s caution in raising the carbon tax is prudent given that it’s the highest in North America, sixth highest in the world and no province has a carbon tax now. “We have to continue to make sure that B.C. businesses can compete,” he said.

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