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News Releases and Op-Eds

Finlayson & Peacock: Fastest-growing Industries Show BC's Deepening Economic Diversity (BIV)

Amid a weak global economy and extended downturn in many commodity markets, B.C.’s economy has held up surprisingly well. Two decades ago, a worldwide mining/energy slump would have delivered a major blow to the overall provincial economy. No longer. The Business Council estimates that B.C.’s economy expanded by 2.6 per cent (after inflation) in 2015, and that growth will reach 2.8 per cent this year. These are not barn-burning figures, but to put them in context, Canada will be lucky to punch out an annual economic growth rate of 1.6 per cent over the 2015-16 period.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: B.C. needs to step up its game on innovation (Vancouver Sun & Troy Media)

The economic and business environment in which British Columbia operates is shifting. A number of trends are transforming the global economy in ways that can either help or hinder the quest for prosperity by countries and sub-national regions. The principal forces identified by the McKinsey Global Institute are: i) urbanization, particularly the rapid growth of cities in emerging markets; ii) accelerating technological change and the rise of the digital economy; iii) population aging and slower labour force growth; and iv) the onward march of globalization, via expanding cross-border flows of goods, services, finance, people and data – a trend that is heightening competition among jurisdictions for capital, talent and high-value business activity.

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Council appoints leaders from province’s diverse business community to Board of Governors and Executive Committee

The Business Council of British Columbia is pleased to announce the appointment of Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs at Teck Resources Ltd. as the new Chair of the Business Council for a two-year term. At the 50th Anniversary Annual General Meeting held today, the Business Council also appointed several new members to its Executive Committee and Board of Governors, representing BC’s largest employers.

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Statement from the Business Council of British Columbia on the devastation in Northern Alberta

The Business Council of British Columbia expresses our sincere shock and sadness at the devastation impacting Fort McMurray and neighbouring communities in northern Alberta. We stand with all Canadians in support of the families, workers and employers who have faced tremendous loss and challenge in this most difficult of times.

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Peacock Op Ed: Consideration for Transit: More People are Settling in Surrey than any other B.C. City (Surrey Business News)

Which B.C. city has experienced the largest population increase since 2011? Most readers will not be surprised at the answer: Surrey. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 43,000 additional people became residents of Surrey, which translates into an average of 900 more people per month over the past four years. During the same period, the City of Vancouver recorded the second biggest absolute population gain of just over 29,000, followed by Coquitlam (+14,000), Richmond (+11,700) and Langley District (+10,600).

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BCBC announces exemplary BC business leader as incoming Chair

The Business Council of British Columbia (Council) is pleased to announce Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability and External Affairs at Teck Resources Limited (Teck) as incoming Chair, to be appointed at the Council’s upcoming 50th Anniversary Annual General Meeting on May 12th. Ms. Smith is a recognized leader in BC’s business community and has been an active member of the Council’s Board of Governors since 2010 and a member of its Executive Committee since 2012.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Liberals step up state involvement, downplay role of enterprise in economy (Business in Vancouver)

Bill Morneau’s spending-heavy budget underscores two important shifts in the country’s economic and political landscape.

The first is Canada’s diminished economic prospects in an era of weak global growth and sluggish commodity markets. In the past two years, Canada has been buffeted by a substantial “terms of trade” shock, as the prices of our exports have fallen relative to what we pay for imports. Commodity prices, in particular, have plunged, a real blow for an economy that relies on natural resource industries for half of its exports and two-fifths of business investment.

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BCBC Column: Budget 2016: What's in it for British Columbia? (Vancity Buzz)

Tuesday’s budget dips the country deeper into deficit to bring long promised support to lift up the middle class, First Nations, veterans and students. Although short on a clear path towards economic growth, the budget does offer some goodies that will compliment other efforts by the Liberal Government to advance innovation, infrastructure development and investment.

So – what’s in it for BC?  Here’s a closer look at what yesterday’s budget means for you and the BC economy.

How far into the red are we going?

While no one likes to accumulate debt, with today’s record-low interest rates and when spent strategically to support economic growth, deficit spending can help boost an otherwise lagging national economy. It is also important to keep some perspective.  The $30 billion in red ink that the Finance Minister is planning for each of the next two years should be seen against the backdrop of Canada’s $2 trillion economy.    The federal government’s  debt-to-GDP ratio is the lowest of the G7 countries. With that being said, the Business Council would like to see a strong focus over the medium term to bring the budget back into balance.   

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RELEASE:
Modest plans for economic growth supported by significant increases in spending
Council urges government to keep an eye towards Canada’s long term fiscal health

Vancouver, BC – March 22, 2016 – The Business Council of British Columbia welcomes today’s federal budget, which provides a modest boost to a sluggish Canadian economy and signals a renewed focus on stimulating innovation and infrastructure investments. 

With the government’s decision to run deficits over the foreseeable future leading to a significant increase in debt, fostering an environment for sustained economic growth is essential to ensure the debt is kept manageable relative to the size of the economy.  The Business Council believes the government should aim to keep the debt/GDP ratio on a downward track over the course of the updated fiscal plan outlined in Budget 2016.

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RELEASE: BCBC welcomes new Advisory Council on Economic Growth

p style="text-align: left;" align="center">Vancouver, BC – March 18, 2016 - The Business Council of British Columbia welcomes the Government of Canada’s new Advisory Council on Economic Growth and looks forward to the opportunity to contribute to a sustainable growth strategy for Canada’s economy. 

In today’s environment of sluggish global growth and a widespread and significant downturn in commodity markets, Canada is facing long-term economic and fiscal challenges stemming from an aging population, lagging productivity and declining private sector capital investment.  The Business Council remains focused on addressing the erosion of Canadian competitiveness and applauds today’s announcement by the government as a positive step to advance those efforts.   

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Commodity Slump weighing on Canadian and global economies (Troy Media)

The ongoing decline in the U.S.-dollar prices of most internationally traded commodity products has hit Canada’s economy hard, depressing incomes, triggering layoffs and capital spending cuts by hundreds of resource companies (and their suppliers), and hurting business and consumer confidence across swathes of the country.  It’s important to realize that the commodity carnage isn’t restricted to oil.  It’s also affecting natural gas, coal, base metals, potash, various industrial raw materials, and some segments of the agri-food sector.  Lumber prices have also beaten a hasty retreat in recent months.

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Finlayson & Peacock Op-Ed: British Columbia is out-performing most other provinces (Vancouver Sun)

Against the backdrop of slumping commodity markets and tepid global growth, British Columbia near-term economic prospects are surprisingly positive, creating a largely favourable backdrop for this week’s provincial budget. A recent Business Council report highlights some of the reasons why B.C. is doing better than Canada on several widely-cited performance metrics — including economic growth, job creation, retail sales, and housing-related investment.

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RELEASE: Business Council Welcomes Budget Surplus and Commitment to Tax System Review

The Business Council welcomes today’s provincial budget and supports the government’s plan to generate modest operating surpluses over the next three years. The Council also applauds the government’s announcement that it will launch a Commission on Tax Competitiveness with a view to strengthening the tax base and improving competiveness for business operating and investing in British Columbia.

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D'Avignon & Finlayson: If we don't supply oil, others will (Vancouver Sun)

It is time for a mature conversation on oil exports, against the backdrop of the economic reality we face in Canada and around the world.  Simply put, the evidence confirms that all of us will continue to need all forms of energy, including oil, over the coming decades.  For Canada, the key question is whether we want to have the option to safely export our oil to global markets other than the United States, currently our only customer, and which pays less than the world market price and requires less of our product each year. In 2013, energy made up one-quarter of Canada’s merchandise exports, of which oil and gas constituted the vast majority.  Finding ways to access the world market for our country’s biggest export industry should be a priority for all governments in Canada.

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Finlayson & Peacock: Five key economic predictions for 2016 (Business in Vancouver)

It’s the time of the year when business and government decision-makers are tempted to throw caution to the wind and ask economic soothsayers to forecast what lies ahead.  Below we take up the challenge, knowing that we may miss the mark in one or two areas but confident that our overall assessment will stand up to scrutiny.

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Finlayson: Canadian economy will remain sluggish in 2016 (Troy Media)

As the clock ticks down on 2015, it is time to ponder what may lie ahead for Canada’s economy. The near-term picture isn’t particularly heartening.  After a disappointing 2015 that included a minor “technical” recession in the first half of the year, Canada looks poised for a somewhat better, but still generally lackluster, performance. 

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Finlayson Op-Ed: B.C.’ s industrial economy is fading (Vancouver Sun)

Statistics Canada recently reported that B.C.’s economy grew by 3.2 per cent after inflation in 2014, putting B.C. second among the provinces. Gains in residential and commercial construction and a solid advance in consumer spending were the key contributing factors. The job market, however, was surprisingly subdued, with employment rising by less than 1 per cent on a year-over-year basis.

As the clock winds down on 2015, it appears that B.C.’s macro-economy continues to perform fairly well, at least by Canadian standards. Economic growth should end up exceeding 2.5 per cent this year, with strength in retail sales, housing-related activity, tourism, film production, and parts of the advanced technology sector. At a time when Canada’s economy is being pummeled by a deep slump in global oil and metals prices, B.C. is holding its own.

Yet if we look below the surface, the economic picture in the province is less favourable. In particular, what might be described as the “industrial economy” is clearly struggling, with negative implications for business investment and exports.

The “industrial economy” consists of primary resource extraction and related downstream processing in the forestry, mining, and agricultural sectors; the production, transmission and exporting of energy; oil and gas refining, chemical production, and cement/concrete manufacturing; food processing; plastics; non-metallic minerals; metal fabrication; primary metal manufacturing; and beverage manufacturing industries.

Taken together, the industries carry significant weight in our economy. Collectively, they employ almost 200,000 British Columbians, most of whom enjoy wages and benefits that surpass the average. These industries also represent an important source of demand for the outputs of many B.C. service sectors, including transportation, engineering, scientific and technical services, other professional services, environmental consulting, and financial services. Perhaps most strikingly, the enterprises that comprise the industrial economy dominate B.C.’s export base, accounting for around four-fifths of the province’s international exports, year after year.

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Peacock Op-Ed: Canada’s Participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is Good for BC (Business in Surrey)

Canada was at the table when negotiations recently concluded for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the largest, most ambitious free trade initiative in history. This is good news for ourprovince. The TPP is a comprehensive trade deal that will help expand and secure access to much of the markets of key Asia-Pacific nations. Although growth in emerging markets has slowed of late, Asia is still projected to comprise two-thirds of the world’s middle class by 2030-35, and will grow to account for upwards of one-half of world GDP within three decades. There will be early benefits from participating in the TPP, but most of the upside will emerge over the medium term.

The TPP currently has 12 participating countries:  Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Over time the expectation is that other countries, perhaps including China and South Korea, will also join. Last year, BC exported nearly $23 billion to the other 11 TPP member countries, which accounted for more than 60% of our total merchandise exports.

One reason the TPP is good for BC is it will enhance and deepen these existing trading relationships. Once in force, the agreement will eliminate tariffs on almost all of BC’s key exports and provide secure access to growing economies in the Asia-Pacific. BC will have an advantage over non-TPP countries (notably Europe and Russia) by having duty free access for most of our major merchandise exports, including: wood and other forest products; aluminum, iron and steel products; seafood; agricultural products, and chemicals and plastics. Although global trade has been liberalized and barriers have been steadily lowered over the past few decades, BC’s exports still face sizable tariffs in some TPP markets, ranging from 5% to as much as 40% in a few countries. Japan, BC’s third largest export market, levies tariffs of 6% on some lumber products, 5% on many seafood items and 15% on ice wine. Malaysia has stiff tariffs of 40% on some plywood and panel products. Vietnam also has many punitive tariffs in place.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Memo to Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Troy Media)

Congratulations on your election to the House of Commons as the MP for Toronto Centre and your appointment as Minister of Finance.  Business leaders across Canada wish you well as you come to grips with the economic challenges that lie ahead.

One challenge is that Canada appears to have entered a period of sub-par growth.  Our economy lost ground over the first half of 2015, largely due to the impact of sharply lower oil prices together with weakness in the markets for many other commodities that form a large part of Canada’s export basket.  More recent data signal a pick-up in activity over the summer and into the fall.  However, for 2015 as a whole, inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (real GDP) is likely to increase by perhaps 1 per cent, down from an average of 2.2 per cent over 2013-14.

The economy should gain a bit of momentum through 2016, in response to the ongoing expansion in the United States, the low Canadian dollar, and continued accommodative monetary policy.  Real GDP is expected to climb by 1.5-2.0 per cent next year.  But looking further ahead, Canada also faces stiff economic headwinds from lower-for-longer commodity prices, record high levels of household indebtedness, and weak overall business investment. A slow growth macro-economic environment lends support to your government’s plan to expand infrastructure spending over the next few years.   But while spending more on infrastructure is a sound idea, the most convincing reason for doing so is not to boost short-term aggregate demand, but instead to make Canada’s economy more productive and competitive.  This includes ensuring that critical infrastructure is in place to enable our resource, manufacturing and tourism industries to connect with and efficiently sell into global markets.

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Finlayson, Ragan Op-Ed: We need a serious discussion about congestion pricing (Vancouver Sun)

In the past year, public debate in Metro Vancouver has focused heavily on how to pay for new transportation capacity. But there is a critical missing piece in this mobility puzzle. Improved transit services and more investment in roads are needed but they aren’t enough. Experience shows that we can’t just build our way out of gridlock. We won’t solve the problem of traffic congestion without also changing the underlying incentives. That’s why we need a serious discussion about congestion pricing.

This summer’s transit referendum was about how to pay for new transit investments. Its failure doesn’t signal that people are happy being stuck in traffic; nor does it signal that we are using our current infrastructure efficiently. There are several things that pretty much everyone agrees with regarding transportation in Metro Vancouver. First, traffic congestion is extremely costly: time lost in traffic costs people and businesses in the region at least $1.4 billion per year. Second, more and expanded public-transit options are necessary, as are maintenance, repairs and upgrading of existing roads and bridges. Third, those transportation investments somehow will have to be made, for neither businesses nor residents can afford to live without them indefinitely.

Another point of agreement is that traffic congestion is getting worse. Given that Metro Vancouver’s population is projected to grow by about million people over the next 25 years, one can easily imagine how bad things could get. As population and port activities increase, container truck traffic will also grow. Who pays for the time that trucks spend idling on backed-up highways and arterial roads? These time delays raise costs for businesses and increase prices for consumers. We all pay for traffic congestion.

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