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News Releases and Op-Eds

Release: Business Council of BC White Paper and Nov.7 Summit focus attention on BC infrastructure needs and issues

VANCOUVER, BC (Nov. 5, 2014) - With the economic prosperity of British Columbia and Western Canada relying increasingly on global trade and our ability to deliver goods to foreign markets, the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) today released Building BC for the 21st Century: A White Paper on Infrastructure Policy and Financing in advance of its second annual BC Business Summit (Building BC for the 21st Century: Innovation in Infrastructure), to be held on Friday, Nov.7 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. 

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Peacock Op-ed: Infrastructure - We need more and now is a good time to build (Vancouver Sun)

On several levels, it may seem that we have adequate infrastructure in place today. After all, British Columbia is blessed with a solid road network, excellent port facilities, modern airports (including the award winning YVR), leading telecommunications and wireless capacity, good water, sewer and solid waste systems, and generally high quality education and health care facilities. But the reality is greater global economic integration, population growth, demographics and the need to enhance BC’s competitive position means we cannot be complacent about infrastructure.

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Finlayson: The fiscal impact of an aging population in Canada (Troy Media)

An update on Canada’s demographic future from Statistics Canada confirms what is readily discernable through casual observation: our population is growing modestly and becoming greyer at an accelerating pace.   

Under all of the scenarios modelled by Statistics Canada’s researchers, the country’s population is on track to exceed 40 million by 2063 (up from 35.2 million in 2013).  Three different scenarios are examined. 

A slow-growth scenario puts the population at 40 million in fifty years’ time.

Under the medium-growth scenario, the population reaches 51 million in 2063.

And a high-growth scenario sees the number of Canadians swelling to 63.5 million. 

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D'Avignon and Ross: 'Green shoots' of First Nations business development (Vancouver Sun)

A critical cornerstone of reconciliation is building economic opportunities for First Nations at the community level. There is a strong, positive correlation between economic empowerment — generating investment, business ownership and jobs — and improving social conditions.

As The Vancouver Sun series First Nations Inc. has shown, we are rapidly moving down this path from a business formation and economic development perspective.

To measure these advancements, the Aboriginal Business Investment Council, with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, have funded and developed a database which provides B.C.’s first comprehensive accounting of First Nations business development and economic benefit agreement activities.

The data, which will be publicly available later this fall, highlight the sea change occurring in many First Nations communities as rights and title interests combine with higher educational attainment and economic development agreements to spur increased First Nation business formation, jobs and growth.

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Finlayson: Exportable services an important source of job growth for BC
(Troy Media)

More than three-quarters of all employed people in British Columbia are engaged in producing “services” rather than “goods.” Services span a wide array of industry sectors, everything from retail and wholesale trade to professional services (engineering, law, accounting, architecture, etc.), scientific and technical services, transportation, financial services, accommodation and food services as well as services that are mainly delivered and/or largely funded by governments (public administration, education, and health and social services). Many of these service industries loom large in the labour market. Retail and wholesale trade, for example, together employ 350,000 British Columbians, another 200,000 or so toil in the broadly-defined education sector, 150,000 work in financial services, and 275,000 earn their livelihood by providing health-related services.

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Finlayson & Syer: Building on Success: Assessment of First Nations – Industry Relations in BC (Vancouver Sun)

Increasingly over the past decade industry and First Nations in B.C. have engaged with each other with an overarching objective in mind - to advance resource development by ensuring better outcomes for all parties from economic, environmental and social perspectives. The business case for this kind of industry-First Nations engagement is clear: First Nations have rights and title interests (to a degree unknown) that have to be addressed in order to pursue new development. And while governments (federal, provincial and aboriginal) have crucial responsibilities in the process of reconciliation and in creating certainty for all parties, businesses also have a critical role to play as partners that can provide some of the vital ingredients – investment, expertise and jobs.

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D'Avignon op-ed: Economic reconciliation with First Nations looks promising (Vancouver Sun)

British Columbia is a diverse and relatively wealthy province. This diversity comes in many forms, including environmental, economic and cultural. Reconciling and harnessing this diversity is what has enabled B.C. to build and sustain a high standard of living and of livability.

However, we are still performing below our collective potential in significant ways.

Within this broad canvas, the province has only recently begun a new relationship between government, First Nations and industry. This relationship has its legal foundations in constitutionally protected aboriginal rights and title and, more directly, in a new era of economic partnerships that both governments and industry have entered into with many of B.C.’s First Nations.

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Finlayson: The growing role of women in the workforce (Troy Media)

The growing role of women in the workforce arguably qualifies as the most consequential socio-economic development of the past fifty years. As more women have entered the formal labour market, the productive capacity of our economy has been augmented. Indeed, increased “labour input” – more people working – has been the principal factor pushing up gross domestic product (GDP) and household incomes in Canada. And women account for a large majority of this increase in “labour input.” A study done last year by the economics team at RBC estimated that the rise in female labour force participation since the early 1980s has boosted Canada’s GDP by more than $130 billion.

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Finlayson: Vancouver’s Incomes are Low, But Costs are High (Vancouver Sun)

Spending time in the downtown Vancouver business district or in the tonier residential neighbourhoods scattered across the lower mainland can easily foster a misleading impression of the financial health of the households that comprise the region. That point was hammered home for me recently after reviewing the latest Statistics Canada data on incomes.

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Finlayson: US may be poised for economic housing boost (Troy Media)

Is it possible that America’s economy might surprise us with a sustained growth surge? The question came to mind as I recently slogged through a series of blog entries and reports on the web site of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The Center’s researchers keep close tabs on U.S. housing markets and have a particular interest in the factors believed to influence the demand for housing.

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Finlayson: BC must up its productivity game (Troy Media)

A fundamental long-term challenge facing British Columbia is to improve upon the province’s lackluster productivity record.   B.C. trails the national benchmark on overall business sector productivity by around 10%.  In 2012, BC ranked sixth among the ten provinces in the level of productivity.  Moreover, the province has had very limited success in boosting productivity since the 1980s.  This is a worrisome trend, since higher productivity will be essential to raising real incomes and living standards as the growth of the workforce slows due to the effects of an aging population.  In the end there are really only two ways to expand the “economic pie”: i) higher productivity, and/or ii) greater “labour input” – i.e., more people working.  The size of the workforce is limited by underlying demographic patterns, whereas in theory there is no limit to future productivity growth.

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Business Council of British Columbia statement regarding the Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia Supreme Court decision (The Roger William's Case)

Greg D’Avignon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia issues the following statement in response to today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Tsilhqot’in Nation case against the Province of British Columbia

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Finlayson: The New Canadian Pecking Order (Troy Media)

Canada’s economic pecking order is changing, at a pace that raises questions about the country’s economic future as well as the sustainability of current federal-provincial fiscal arrangements.  The picture is summarized in the accompanying table.  It shows where the six most affluent provinces rank on three common economic metrics: output or real gross domestic product (GDP) per person; average weekly earnings for people holding payroll jobs; and labour productivity in the business sector.  Note that the data for the four bottom ranked provinces – Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI – are not reported in the table.   

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D'Avignon: Livelihoods, lifestyle depend on stable supply of industrial land (Vancouver Sun)

Economic forecasters predict an additional million people will live in the Metro Vancouver region by 2040. That’s a population 40 per cent larger than today, and the people will all need housing, goods, retail and other services as well as government-funded services such as education and health care.

Population growth means we need to plan now to have the investment, resulting jobs and infrastructure to support these additional families and enable the region’s economy to grow and generate the revenues required to pay for publicly funded services.

One key challenge is to institute better planning and co-ordinated action to support the efficient movement of goods important to our daily lives, as well as to the foreign customers to whom B.C. and other western Canadian provinces export resources and other products through the Greater Vancouver Gateway.

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Finlayson: Rebound in global trade augurs well for B.C.'s economy (Troy Media)

Economic growth has been tepid in B.C. in the past two years, with inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) eking out an average annual gain of barely 1.5 per cent.  But the picture should brighten over 2014-15, as consumer spending strengthens, some momentum returns to the job market, and the province’s export shipments continue to expand.   

The latter factor – stronger export growth – will be particularly important in creating a more positive economic environment.  According to the latest forecast from the World Trade Organization (WTO), the volume of global trade is on track to increase by 4.7 per cent this year, followed by a 5.3 per cent jump in 2015. This represents a significant turnaround from the sluggish 2.2 per cent annual pace recorded during 2012-13.  It’s also good news for the thousands of B.C. companies involved in selling various goods and services to foreign customers.

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News Release: Business Council appoints prominent business leader, Jonathan Whitworth, CEO of Seaspan ULC, as Chair for a two-year term

April 17 (Vancouver, BC) - The Business Council of British Columbia is pleased to announce the appointment of Jonathan Whitworth, Chief Executive Officer of Seaspan ULC, as the new Chair of the Business Council for a two-year term.  Mr. Whitworth replaces Hank Ketcham, Executive Chairman at West Fraser Timber who will become the immediate past chair of the Business Council.

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Statement from the Business Council of British Columbia on the passing of Former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

The Business Council of British Columbia is saddened to learn of the death of former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. 

“Mr. Flaherty was a dedicated public servant and man of character who gave of himself and his family to Canadians through public office, including over 8 years as the country’s Minister of Finance,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia.  “He was a leader not only in Canada, but internationally among his counterparts, and his contributions to our country have ensured a more prosperous future for our country today and years to come.”

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Finlayson: Higher minimum wages not the best answer to reducing poverty (Troy Media and The Province)

Proposals to boost the minimum wage have been drawing attention on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

In January, U.S. President Barack Obama called for lifting the U.S. federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Since 2011, several American states and cities have increased minimum wages in their jurisdictions.

In Canada, four provinces are raising their minimum wages in 2014 — Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Ontario is taking the biggest step, hiking the minimum wage to $11 an hour and indexing it to the Consumer Price Index going forward.

Are higher statutory minimum wages an effective way to improve the economic well-being of low- to moderate-income workers and families? Will some businesses respond to escalating minimum wages by shedding jobs? These questions have been extensively studied by academic economists in the past decade. Overall, the research yields mixed results.

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Finlayson: Return to PST has hurt BC's competitiveness (Vancouver Sun)

April 1 marks the one-year anniversary of the return of the Provincial Sales Tax following B.C. voters’ decision in 2012 to scrap the Harmonized Sales Tax. It is a good time to reflect on the province’s competitive position in a world where many jurisdictions are aggressively seeking to attract private sector investment and the jobs and economic activity that come with it.

There can be no doubt switching back to the PST altered the business landscape in a way that left the province at a competitive disadvantage. That’s why virtually all economists supported the HST. The situation varies by sector, and not all industries have been hurt by restoring the PST. But most have been.

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D'Avignon: British Columbians support resource exports (Vancouver Sun)

British Columbians, as well as potential investors, are too frequently confronted by headlines declaring B.C., and Metro Vancouver more specifically, are paralyzed by conflict over natural resource exports with supposedly profound opposition to development among a majority of citizens.

Is this really the case?

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