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News Releases and Op-Eds

D'Avignon: Why we should keep an eye on BC's core services review
(Vancouver Sun)

There is nothing easy about governing in tough economic times, but it can provide the impetus to assess priorities, focus resources and think more innovatively about the provision of public services.

While governments typically have internal checks and balances to ensure new budget expenditures are done in a systematic manner through the Treasury Board, cabinet and a variety of budget development processes, in Canada more comprehensive reviews of existing expenditures have tended to be done on a more ad hoc basis.

Frequently, these ad hoc reviews have been linked to changes in government and a desire for new approaches that meld political and policy directions to re-shape government. However, in recent times many of these reviews have been driven less by ideology and more by fiscal and technological imperatives.

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Finlayson: BC's Carbon Tax Hurting Businesses (Vancouver Sun)

Carbon taxes have been attracting renewed attention. In late July Ottawa-based think-tank Sustainable Prosperity issued a report claiming that B.C.’s carbon tax has triggered a substantial and rapid-fire decline in fossil fuel consumption, leading to a sizable drop in provincial emissions of greenhouse gases.

Then a few days ago The Sun published an opinion piece from a local consulting firm suggesting that the average household in B.C. benefits financially from the carbon tax because of offsetting personal income tax relief measures introduced by the government.

Within North America, B.C. is certainly a pioneer in carbon pricing. Initially set at $10 per ton of emissions in 2008, the carbon tax rose to reach $30/ton in July 2012. The government has now frozen the tax for five years.

To date, no other province or state has instituted the type of broad carbon pricing regime found in B.C.

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News Release: YVR and the Business Council congratulate Larry Berg on Order of BC Appointment

Richmond, British Columbia (August 1, 2013): Larry Berg, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancouver Airport Authority and former Chair of Business Council of British Columbia’s Board of Governors has been appointed to the Order of British Columbia. Larry was recognized for his outstanding leadership and vision that helped Vancouver International Airport (YVR) earn its reputation as one of the world’s top airports.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Temporary Foreign Workers: Facts and Fiction (Vancouver Sun)

Canada has a long tradition of attracting immigrants to become permanent residents.  Immigration in many ways built the country and did much to stimulate economic growth in the post-war era.  The context for international migration, however, is changing.  Greater international mobility, instant access to information from around the world, and growing cross-border flows of goods, services and knowledge have all made international migration a possibility for a rising share of the world’s population.  The result is an increase in the volume and types of movement of people between jurisdictions.  Today, this includes substantial numbers of “temporary” migrants who come to relatively affluent countries like Canada for work or education.

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Finlayson: Get Ready for an Underperforming Canadian Economy (Troy Media)

It’s hard to believe, but true: Canada and the United States are now entering the fifth year of economic recovery from the recession that hit both countries over 2008-09.

In the United States, the downturn first took hold in late 2007 and extended through the next 18 months. After enduring its worst slump in 50 years, the American economy officially stopped shrinking in June 2009. Since then, the U.S. has enjoyed 15 consecutive quarters of growth in inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP), although the expansion has been sluggish by historical standards. Indeed, America’s economy has been growing at barely half the pace typical of previous recession-recovery cycles. Moreover, per capita GDP has yet to return to its 2007 level, and employment remains well below its pre-recession peak.

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Finlayson: Natural resource industries critical to BC's economic success (Troy Media)

British Columbia is a province with an increasingly urban-based population whose economic success has historically been tied to the efficient extraction, processing and exporting of commodities. In 2011, approximately four-fifths of B.C.’s international merchandise exports consisted of goods produced by the forestry, energy, mining and agri-food industries taken as a group.

This proportion is little changed from 10 years ago, and it is substantially higher than the share of resource-based goods in overall Canadian merchandise exports.

Today’s heavily urban population is poorly equipped to understand the realities of B.C.’s industrial and economic base. Elected officials, media commentators, and the province’s cultural and intellectual elites disproportionately hail from the comfy precincts of the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria. Yet urban British Columbia is not where the export wealth that does so much to underpin our standard of living is mainly generated.

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D'Avignon: Collaboration will address BC's competitive challenges so that we realize BC's full potential

Congratulations to Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals – British Columbians have voted for a strong, stable economy and have given Premier Clark and her team a solid mandate to govern.  The Business Council also extends our appreciation to all of the candidates who put their names forward and to all of the outgoing MLAs for their years of service to British Columbia.

Voters have delivered a clear message that their collective economic future, and that of their children, remains top concerns.  Despite the opportunity to opt for change, voters chose to continue with a party that represents policy stability and that has pledged to pursue the goals of job creation and sound fiscal management.   

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Finlayson: The Education Wage Premium (Troy Media)

The past two years have witnessed considerable public and media interest in the issue of inequality, as evidenced by the emergence of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in the United States and its counterparts in several other countries.

Many studies confirm that income inequality has grown in many affluent nations. The trend is especially pronounced in the United States, where the richest 10 per cent of households have almost six times as much income as the bottom 10 per cent. The ratio is lower in Canada, but income disparities have widened here as well. And in many advanced economies a rising share of all income seems to be accruing to the top 1 per cent of earners.

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Finlayson: 5 reasons why a Canada/EU free trade agreement must be ratified (Troy Media)

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News Release: Business Council Calls for Renewed Focus on Competitiveness as BC Returns to PST

The province’s leading business organization today called for a renewed focus on competitiveness, as British Columbia re-establishes the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) following the decision to eliminate the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) regime.
“We accept the decision made to restore the PST,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia. “But policymakers and legislators need to understand that returning to the PST represents the single biggest tax increase on business in the province’s history – and will be a significant blow to BC’s competitiveness across a wide range of industry sectors in an increasingly competitive world.”

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News Release: Business Council Supports Plan to Balance Federal Budget and Focus on Skills Training

March 21, 2013 (Vancouver, BC) —The Business Council of British Columbia welcomes today’s Federal Budget with its focus on skills training, infrastructure investment, and measures to strengthen the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector in BC and across the country.

“Today’s budget strikes the appropriate balance between fiscal stability and meeting the Federal government’s commitment to eliminate the deficit by mid-decade. We also endorse the new initiatives intended to expand access to skill training and apprenticeships,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia. “Balancing the budget in a timely manner is important to Canada’s competitive position. We believe that the government’s approach of protecting transfers to individuals and provinces, while looking for additional savings in its own operating expenses, makes sense.”

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Finlayson: Canada's job machine is robust (Vancouver Sun)

Canada’s jobs machine is chugging along nicely even as the nation’s economy appears to be losing a step. Statistics Canada’s latest labour force survey reports that 51,000 jobs were created in February, far more than economic forecasters were anticipating.

On a six-month moving average basis, employment gains have been averaging 30,000 per month. The unemployment rate remained steady at seven per cent in February, as the number of labour force entrants offset the new positions created.

Drilling down into the data, private sector employment rose by 30,000 last month; since September 2012, Canadian businesses have been expanding their payrolls by 20,000 a month. By industry, job gains were concentrated in service-producing sectors, with professional, scientific and technical services and accommodation and foodservices emerging as notable hot spots. Manufacturing employment sagged and continues to trail the economy-wide job growth rate.

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Finlayson: How we cope with Metro Vancouver's Pricey housing (Vancouver Sun)

“How can people possibly afford to live in Vancouver?” That was the question posed to me by an economist friend from Ottawa, following the latest release of the Royal Bank of Canada’s housing affordability report which — once again — revealed that Metro Vancouver easily ranks as the most expensive place in the country to own a home.

The bank’s number-crunchers measure the proportion of “median” pre-tax household income required to service a mortgage and cover property tax and utility charges on a standard two-storey home, a standard detached bungalow, and a standard condominium, all at current market prices. Here, the term “standard” implies a typical residence of modest space and quality, rather than any type of luxury accommodation. It is further assumed that the homeowner contributes a 25-per-cent down payment and takes out a 25-year mortgage at a fixed five-year rate.

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Finlayson: Rethinking Canada's anti-big business tax policy (Troy Media)

Canada ranks as one of the best places in the world to start a new business, according to an annual survey by the World Bank. But the country does less well in encouraging businesses to grow – and in generating private sector innovation.

The two phenomena are linked: an economic environment that supports business growth should also produce a high level of innovation, since growth-oriented companies are more likely to adopt innovative business strategies.

In thinking about these issues, Canadian policymakers would be wise to focus on the outsized economic contributions made by the sub-group of rapidly-growing small- and medium-sized enterprises. A 2010 study by the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship estimates that, in a typical year, the top-performing five per cent of American businesses – measured by their rates of employment growth – create two-thirds of all new jobs. And the top one per cent of firms are responsible for a remarkable 40 per cent of net new jobs.

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News Release:

BCBC Acknowledges Government’s Commitment to Fiscal Prudence in 2013 Budget
-Province must renew focus on competitiveness to attract investment and create jobs as priority in post-HST context-

The Business Council acknowledges the province’s disciplined management of expenditures in the years leading up to the 2013 Budget and as projected in the new three year plan, and endorses the government’s efforts to maintain fiscal responsibility through challenging economic times.

“BC’s current fiscal situation is comparatively good – better than most other provinces like Alberta and Ontario, where governments have been less successful in controlling spending growth,” said Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia. “However, our support for this Budget is tempered by the government’s decision to hike taxes and fees in a number of areas. This is an inopportune time to be adding to the tax burden facing business and industry in British Columbia. We are concerned that this negative signal could become a trend. Further erosion of the province’s overall competiveness will have negative longer-term implications for jobs and the economy.”

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Finlayson: Greater Vancouver Regional Economic Policy Needed (Vancouver Sun)

In today’s global economy, the competition for talent, investment and high-value business activity increasingly is playing out at the metropolitan level.

According to the Brookings Institution’s Global Metro Monitor, the 300 biggest cities account for almost half of world production and consumption, despite being home to only one-fifth of the human population. Canada has six metro areas big enough to rank in Brookings’ top 300 list: Toronto, Montreal, Greater Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton.

The idea of the “global city” or “global city-region,” first coined by U.S. sociologist Saskia Sassen two decades ago, has been taken up by academic researchers, business analysts and policy-makers. In B.C., Greater Vancouver — consisting of more than 20 municipalities with a combined population that’s fast approaching 2.5 million — clearly fits the definition of a global city-region, even though few local residents or political leaders appear to think in these terms.

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Jock Finlayson: Canada can't count on getting much of an economic lift from "abroad" (Troy Media)

As Canadian consumers and businesses gear up for 2013, they should be anxiously watching developments in the United States, Europe and Asia. Canada’s prospects over the next 12 months depend heavily on how events unfold in these regions, which account for the lion’s share of international economic activity.

Europe: Collectively, the 17 nations that comprise the eurozone, with its common currency and single monetary policy, are in recession and remain vulnerable to further flare-ups of the banking and sovereign debt crises that have plagued the region for more than two years. The biggest risks lie in Greece, Spain and Italy, which are all dealing with contracting economies and persistent worries over government debt. The United Kingdom, which is not part of the common currency but has extensive commercial linkages with the eurozone, is struggling to avoid a triple-dip recession. Since Europe as a whole drives more than one-fifth of global consumption, economic conditions there matter to other nations, including Canada.

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News Release: Business Council Supports Government Announcement and Process to Sell Ridley Terminals Inc.

The Business Council of British Columbia, representing the province’s leading companies and institutions in every key sector of the provincial economy, today announced it’s support for the federal government’s decision to sell Ridley Terminals Inc.

“The Government of Canada’s announcement to sell Ridley Terminals Inc. represents the fulfillment of a commitment to divest Crown assets that can be more fully and effectively utilized in the private sector. The decision is good news for Canadian industry and should help to grow our economy going forward,” stated Greg D'Avignon, President and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia. “We applaud the federal government for taking another in a series of recent steps to make Canada more competitive and to lay the foundations for future economic prosperity through global trade and investment.”

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Jock Finlayson: We need to watch spending by local governments (Vancouver Sun)

A cross Canada, municipal elected officials and their advocacy orga-nizations have been sounding alarm bells over a perceived inadequacy of resources to finance local government services and physical assets. Last month, for example, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) called on the federal government to provide billions of dollars to help close the "infrastructure deficit" that is said to plague many cities and towns.

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BCBC Statement regarding Canada's decision on foreign investment

The Business Council of British Columbia today welcomes the decision by the federal government in the purchasing processes involving Nexen Inc. and Progress Energy. While we will need to review the conditions in greater detail, we believe this decision sends a positive investment signal and balances the important need for capital investment with a net-benefit framework that advances the interests of all Canadians.

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