Return to all News Releases and Op-Eds

News Releases and Op-Eds

Op-Eds >>

D'Avignon Op-ed: B.C. is risking its prosperity by turning off investors (Vancouver Sun & Saskatoon Star Phoenix)

Over a month ago, B.C. declared a state of emergency, marking the start of one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. In response, British Columbians came together and have continued to respond to the crisis with donations of time, goods, shelter and cash for those affected. The uncertainty and stress people and communities face is, in part, being abated by the support from all British Columbians. However, as I watch the nightly news, I have found myself asking why does it take a crisis before we feel the need to assist our neighbours and communities?

We face a similar reality in our economy. Despite B.C. outperforming other North American economies last year, we have fundamental challenges to long-term prosperity that have been smoldering for some time. These are not the fault of any single group or government, but they have implications for us all and call for forward-looking, collaborative action.

For decades, real earnings have failed to keep pace with rapidly escalating housing costs for too many working families. Our aging population will consume over $563 billion in B.C. government-funded health-care costs over the next two decades, yet we resist the change and innovation needed to meet these realties. Technology is profoundly affecting our personal and working lives, as is the competition for talent and investment, yet B.C. businesses and public institutions are not adequately preparing for the workplace of tomorrow.

One of the biggest challenges we face is a growing reputation as a jurisdiction unable to get things done in a timely and cost-effective way and the lack of certainty we provide to investors and others who deploy capital.

B.C. is a small, open trading economy reliant upon exports of goods and services and inward investment to sustain our relatively high standard of living. For investors and companies, it is not a privilege to be in B.C. or Canada — they have a choice as to where to invest. Increasingly, we see that large pools of capital, including public-sector pension funds, are deciding to put their money elsewhere.

Creating investment certainty is fundamental to achieving shared prosperity. Economic and employment growth and rising earned incomes generate the money that governments use to fund public services and address social needs. Our ability to sustain healthcare and child care services, education, expanded transit and environmental protection ultimately depends on business investment, jobs and entrepreneurial activity that generates revenue.

Unfortunately, our current trajectory threatens to make it too costly and risky to invest in B.C., with the result being a hollowing out of rural communities and our urban centres turning into playgrounds for the wealthy but unaffordable for ordinary citizens. If B.C. becomes a place where project approvals, which are granted based on existing rules and rigorous review processes, can subsequently be overturned by a change in government, we will send a message to the world that this province is no longer an appealing or predictable place to invest.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline project and numerous LNG projects are no longer mainly about energy development or climate policy, but rather have become a litmus test to determine whether B.C. and Canada want to furnish safe, reliable energy to meet growing demand in emerging economies.

Yes, the fact is that global oil and gas demand continues to grow because energy and natural resources are foundational to modern, industrial economies enabling smartphones, wind turbines and electric vehicles. Today, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island benefit from access to energy, including that shipped on the Trans Mountain pipeline to keep buses, cars, small businesses, schools and our way of life moving.

Meanwhile, growing economies in Asia, India and Africa are also hungry for energy and other natural resource products. If Canada does not participate in global markets for energy and raw materials, we can be certain that other suppliers will happily step up to welcome the opportunity. The world will continue to move forward, regardless of what Canada and B.C. choose to do.

Looking at the list of more than $300 billion in major projects proposed for B.C., a significant proportion are in the mining, oil and gas and infrastructure sectors. Will we work together to realize these opportunities in a sustainable, innovative way, advancing reconciliation with First Nations and benefitting communities? Or will we instead dismiss these opportunities outright, re-directing such projects to other jurisdictions that are less focused on innovation and where worker safety and environmental stewardship may be a lower priority than they are in B.C.? 

The first step to a better tomorrow is acting today through a collaborative, solutions-oriented approach, rather than waiting for crisis and the firestorm to commence. The needs of our neighbours, our province and our country are not diminishing, but we will only meet them through credible policies, strong institutions and a stable and predictable investment climate.

Greg D’Avignon is president and CEO of the Business Council of B.C.

As published by the Vancouver Sun and the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.