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Economy

As trusted economists and policy advisors to business and government leaders, the Council relies on sound, evidence-based analysis to inform its policy recommendations. Through diligent tracking of BC’s economic performance, we help identify the opportunities and challenges the province must navigate in order to reach its full potential.

 

Quarterly Update: Impact of Slowdown in Asia Showing UP in BC Exports

In our summer 2012 economic update, we held our forecast for BC’s economy to grow by 2% for the year, citing the fact that a slight improvement in the domestic economy would likely offset the impact of a somewhat weaker global economy on the province’s export sector. While recent developments in the housing market prompt some concern about the resilience of the domestic side of the BC economy, elevated activity in non-residential construction is providing a boost to overall spending. Recent data also paint a mixed picture for BC’s exports. The slowdown in Asia is already showing up in BC’s exports, but shipments to the US are gradually recovering.

While it is a close call, as shifting domestic and external growth drivers are largely offsetting, the softer economic outlook for Asia has convinced us to trim our BC GDP growth forecast this year to 1.9% from 2%. Having already cut the outlook for 2013, and anticipating that China’s stimulus efforts will have some traction, we are leaving next year’s growth projection for BC unchanged at 2.2%.

Key factors in impacting BC’s economic outlook:

  • The value of BC’s exports to China is down 3.7% year to date
  • Excluding natural gas, exports to the US are growing at their fastest pace in seven years
  • Retail spending in BC is up 3.9% year to date
  • The number of homes in BC sold through the MLS system is down 25% from year-ago levels, average price of a home sold is off by 9%
  • Non-residential construction is back to peak, pre-recession levels seen in 2006/2007

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A Snapshot of British Columbia's International Exports: Commodities (Still) Rule

The latest issue of the Business Council’s economic newsletter, Policy Perspectives, provides a snapshot of British Columbia’s international exports over the last decade.  Resource based products as a share of total exports have increased from 76% in 2002 to 80% in 2011.

  • Metallic minerals and energy products more than doubled their share of the composition of BC’s exports with coal, equal to one fifth of the province’s merchandise exports, being a significant contributor to the overall increase
  • The value of BC”s wood product exports dropped from $9.3 billion in 2002 to $5.7 billion last year, however with a US housing recovery and the development of new offshore markets in Asia, wood products are set to rebound in dollar terms
  • With 80% of BC’s workforce in the service industry, the export of services to international markets is often overlooked. Canada ranks among the top ten global service exports and while there are significant limitations in the available data on services trade at the provincial level, estimates suggest that this could be as high as 20-25% of BC’s international exports

Maintaining a competitive environment for investment and economic development across our key resource sectors – and primary export industries - is critical to BC’s future economic well-being.

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Finlayson: Emerging markets the defining characteristic of our age

At a time of slowing global growth and considerable uncertainty about the economic outlook, it is easy to lose sight of the longer-term trends that are re-defining the international marketplace. The most far-reaching such trend is the rise of emerging markets in the world economy. Emerging economies include all of Africa and Latin America, and Asia apart from Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Most of the states that comprised the former Soviet Union are also classified as emerging economies, along with Turkey and the Middle East (except Israel). Emerging markets currently account for 45 per cent of world consumption – a proportion that continues to edge higher – and they have driven the lion’s share of global economic growth for the past decade. By 2030, upward of 60 per cent of total world-wide spending will be occurring in countries now labeled as emerging markets.

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Business Council of BC and BC Chamber of Commerce Launch New Policy Initiative: BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity

The BC Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of British Columbia have launched an innovative new policy initiative designed to take a fresh look at the economic and social development issues affecting the prosperity of British Columbians called the BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity.

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D'Avignon & Winter: BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity

Too often when British Columbians hear the term 'prosperity', the belief is that the rich are simply getting richer and the poor poorer. In fact, in a recent survey commissioned by the Business Council of British Columbia found 84% of British Columbians believed this to be true. While the reality may not be quite this stark, there is no question that many BC families have accumulated higher levels of debt and are under increasing financial pressure in their day-to-day lives. Why should BC businesses care about this widely held sentiment in BC?

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Jock Finlayson: Time for a reality check on financial market returns

For investors and savers, today’s financial environment must rank among the least rewarding in half a century, if not longer. In the major advanced economies – the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, and most of continental Europe – the “policy” interest rates set by central banks are at or near all-time lows. This translates into almost non-existent returns for savers who squirrel away money in bank accounts, GICs, and money market funds.

The same is true for the buyers of government bonds – ten-year government bond yields in Canada and the US now hover under 2 percent. With inflation projected to be at or above 2 percent, this means investors in government bonds who hold to maturity are on track for negative real (that is, after-inflation) returns. Despite this counterintuitive picture, there is no lack of demand for the sovereign debt of credit-worthy issuers.

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BC More Than Holding Its Own Amid Global Economic Turbulence

At a time of pronounced global uncertainty, BC's economy continues to grow at a decent pace and to outperform many other North American provinces and states. Although there are significant downside risks, BC's economy remains quite resilient with a rapidly shrinking deficit, an increasingly diversified export sector and steady population growth.

Over the 2010-2011 period, BC’s real economic growth averaged 3% - the fourth strongest in Canada and among the top jurisdictions in North America. Although growth will ease over the coming 18 months, this resilience will help to sustain provincial economic activity and keep BC in a relatively strong position even in the face of weaker international conditions.

The Business Council's mid year economic review and outlook anticipates that BC’s economy will grow by 2.0% for 2012 and 2.2% for 2013. Relative to our January outlook there is no change in the forecast for this year, but we have trimmed our growth projection for 2013 due to global turbulence and a slower local housing market.

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Canada's Economy in for a Rough Ride

By Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia
This summer marks the third anniversary of the economic recovery that began following the 2008 global financial crisis and the recession that descended upon much of the world in its wake. By any measure it has been a subdued economic rebound, particularly for many of the “advanced” countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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Modest Growth Trajectory Continues for BC

BC Economic Index       v11 n2

According to the latest reading of the Business Council's BC Economic Index, the provincial economy continued to grow in the second quarter of 2012. The pace of growth was moderate, with the Index advancing by a comparatively tame 0.2% from the previous quarter.

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Boomtown or Ghost Town? The Need to Secure BC's LNG Opportunity

By Greg D'Avignon, President and CEO, Business Council of British Columbia
Even in the best of times, it is extremely rare that a province is presented with an opportunity to develop a new industry with the potential for $50 billion in capital investment over the next five years. Over the longer-term there may be as much as 1.2 million person years of employment, a six-fold increase in annual government royalties and a cumulative total upwards of $1 trillion in additional GDP over the next 30 years. Such are the magnitudes of the economic and social benefits that BC could realize by developing a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry, serving the rapidly expanding Asian markets.

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Submission: Provincial Government's Expert Panel on Business Taxation

In response to the provincial government's request for input, the Business Council of British Columbia is pleased to share our views with the Expert Panel on tax measures that could be implemented to strengthen BC’s economy and competitive position as the province shifts from the HST back to the dual PST/GST system. The Panel is familiar with the benefits of the HST, and the many reasons why economists and public finance scholars almost universally see value-added taxes like the HST as an important and useful element in the revenue mix for governments.

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Public Sector pensions are sure to be reviewed

By Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia
With governments across the country addressing budget deficits pushed higher by the 2008-09 recession, attention is turning to the pay levels of employees in the public sec-tor and how these compare with private-sector practices.

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Up and Away: The Growth of Municipal Spending in Metro Vancouver

Policy Perspectives       v19 n2
As governments around the country struggle to address deficits and manage growing debt loads in the face of often difficult economic circumstances, local government spending is also coming under scrutiny. In British Columbia, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has played an important role by shining a periodic spotlight on fiscal developments at the municipal level across BC. This paper builds on work done by CFIB by taking a closer look at municipal spending in the Metro Vancouver context.

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Presentation: BC's Economic Outlook

Presented to Economic Development Association of British Columbia by Ken Peacock, Chief Economist, Business Council of British Columbia

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2012 Federal Budget: Some Key Issues for Employers

Human Capital Law and Policy      v2 n2
The 2012 federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on March 29 included a number of measures of interest to Canadian employers. In this issue of Human Capital Law and Policy, we note the key features of the budget from an employer perspective and comment briefly on the implications of the policy directions signaled by the government.

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British Columbia Perspectives on a National Energy Strategy (NES)

Environment and Energy Bulletin       v4 n2
There was a time when the words “National Energy Plan” would have caused blood pressure to spike across much of Western Canada, which would then have been followed by colorful descriptions of the federal government. This may no longer be the case - and certainly not if many of the West’s leading think tanks, energy companies and provincial leaders have their way.

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Manufacturing: An Overlooked but Important Industry in the Lower Mainland

Policy Perspectives       v19 n1
Manufacturing is a significant but underemphasized part of the Lower Mainland’s diverse economy. Because the region does not have a single high-profile manufacturing company (such as Boeing in the Seattle area) or a dominant industry cluster, manufacturing is often overlooked. However, the sector deserves attention because it occupies a sizable place in the region’s economy and is a key source of exports to other markets.

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2012 Federal Budget: Fiscal Restraint with New Policy Directions

Business Alert
Reflecting the precarious nature of the economic recovery, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a budget with few new tax measures, a moderate amount of spending restraint, and a plan to return to fiscal balance over the medium term. From our perspective it is a prudent budget that trims spending sufficiently to balance the books by mid-decade, while not tapping on the fiscal brakes too hard. While the federal workforce will be reduced, overall the level of restraint is such that critics will be hard pressed to claim that it will undermine the economic recovery.

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Presentation: KPMG 2012 Budget Breakfast

Presentation on the current economic landcape and key budget themes presented at the KPMG 2012 Federal Budget Breakfastby Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia

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Resource Industries Drive Investment Spending Higher in BC

Business Alert
The release of Statistics Canada’s annual Public and Private Investment survey provides information on recent business capital spending and affords a useful glimpse into where and how much BC businesses are planning to invest in the coming year. The latest survey predicts a healthy increase in capital spending in 2012, and confirms that business investment will be a significant economic driver in the province. It also underscores the important role that resource industries and related infrastructure development are playing in the growth of BC’s economy.

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