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Energy & Infrastructure

Natural resources are, and will continue to be, a crucial component of the economic well-being of British Columbians. To advance BC's prosperity, we must responsibly develop new forms of energy resources and build the necessary infrastructure to connect them with global markets. The Council’s work supports the efforts of businesses and governments to develop resource projects, energy systems and transportation networks in a way that minimizes the environmental impacts and maximizes economic benefits for communities and BC’s job creators.

New Regional Effort Aims to Establish Cascadia Innovation Corridor

British Columbia and Washington leaders come together to strengthen collaboration, create cross-border opportunity

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Finlayson Op-Ed: How Canada can put its economy back in gear (Troy Media & The Province Newspaper)

“Building an economy that works for the middle class” is the preferred mantra of the Trudeau government now ensconced in Ottawa.  Rarely these days does one encounter a federal government news release that fails to tout the benefits of a thriving middle class.  The term “middle class” itself, however, is never defined, making it difficult to know if progress is being made in delivering on what the government describes as its most important objective. 

On at least some measures, the middle class in Canada actually looks to be doing reasonably well.  Take incomes, for example.  From 2010 to 2014, the total pre-tax income of the typical family – defined, statistically, as the “median” family consisting of two or more related persons – rose from $80,900 to $87,000, in constant 2014 dollars.  This amounts to an increase (after inflation) of 7.5 per cent over four years – a decent gain. 

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SPEAKING NOTES: Trans Mountain Ministerial Panel Review Economic Roundtable

Greg D'Avignon's presentation to the Trans Mountain Ministerial Review Economic Roundtable on August 16, 2016

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Green energy future a long way off (Troy Media and The Province)

Some Canadian environmental groups claim the world is in the midst of a dramatic move toward carbon-free forms of energy.  The implication is that Canada – one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas – should quickly abandon the fossil fuel economy and quickly embrace renewable energy as the only pathway to a prosperous future.  

Important shifts in energy production and consumption patterns are undoubtedly underway.  However, the timing of any overall global energy revolution is likely to be considerably slower than many believe.  Rising global energy demand, and the tens of trillions of dollars of embedded capital that underpin current energy production and consumption systems, are among the factors that stand in the way of rapid change.

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The International Energy Agency on Canada

Every year the International Energy Agency reviews the energy sectors of five OECD countries. The second report for Canada, Energy Policies of IEA Countries Canada 2015 Review, was recently published, drawing on data up to 2013. Overall, the IEA’s analysis provides a valuable summary of the history, context, opportunities and challenges around energy production and use in Canada, including the impacts of changing global oil prices.

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Is BC Really a Laggard on Climate Change?

In recent months, a number of groups have been advancing the message that BC is falling behind other jurisdictions in adopting policies to address climate change.  

We find the claim deeply misleading.

On any reasonable assessment, BC remains a North American pacesetter on a number of important aspects of climate policy, with industry and government continuously improving policies and operational efficiencies through the availability of new innovations.

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D'Avignon Op-Ed: Trade deals, infrastructure, national climate framework key for B.C. business (The Hill Times)

Today, some 40 business, First Nations, and community leaders from British Columbia are in Ottawa. Here’s how we can work together with the federal government.

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D'Avignon Op-Ed: LNG deals good for jobs, economy, climate (The Vancouver Sun)

Recent news that two agreements have been reached for the production and sale of made-in-British Columbia Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) adds to the momentum of positive job and economic growth in the province. These export agreements also underscore the role that B.C. and our locally-based companies are playing in providing cleaner burning fuels to growing markets abroad as jurisdictions in Asia and elsewhere transition over time to lower-carbon energy sources.

British Columbia is home to some of the largest and most productive natural gas fields in the world. Since the late 1980s, we have benefited enormously from this resource in terms of jobs, investment and government revenue. For example, when natural gas prices were high in 2005-06, the provincial government collected enough gas royalties to fund the entire post-secondary education system.  

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RELEASE: BCBC supports NEB decision which provides pipeline safety, supports the BC and Canadian Economies
Thorough process provides next step in achieving needed market access

The Business Council welcomes the decision of the National Energy Board (NEB) today approving, with conditions, the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
“The approval of this project, after a long and thorough independent process – and despite opposition from some in and outside the province – is a positive development. The NEB carefully reviewed the technical, environmental and social evidence and concluded that the project is safe and provides important benefits for BC and Canada,” said Greg D’Avignon President and CEO of the Business Council of BC. “The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital importance to the Canadian energy sector – our country’s number one export industry. It is also important for BC, which depends on Alberta for transportation fuels and benefits from Kinder Morgan’s operations in this province through tax contributions, jobs and spin-off business for small and large companies.”

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Investment Survey Signals Continued Weakness in Capital Spending

Statistics Canada’s just released capital expenditure survey confirms that the negative fall-out from sluggish energy and materials markets continues to take a toll on business investment across the country.

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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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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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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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An Overview of Canada’s Environmental Assessment Regime

As the Liberal government takes up the reins in Ottawa, it has signalled a shift in its approach to energy, environment and natural resource development, particularly in the context of resetting relations with Aboriginal peoples.  As it sets out to review Canada’s EA processes, several key principles should be top of mind:

    • The integrity of the regulatory process and institutions are best maintained when they are at arms-length from the political realm.
    • A core purpose of a regulatory body is to evaluate technical matters in an impartial way, free from undue political or stakeholder influence.
    • Regulatory reviews that set (and adhere to) timelines promote certainty for proponents and contribute to a favourable setting for investors.

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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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Alberta Announces a New Approach to Managing Greenhouse Gases

Our high level summary of the Alberta government’s just announced framework for addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

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An Updated Look at the Future of Energy

Ahead of the climate change conference in Paris next month, the International Energy Agency has just released the World Energy Outlook 2015. The data, projections and analysis in this well regarded annual publication provide an excellent foundation to ponder the future of global energy supply and demand.

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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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Winners and Losers from the Slumping Loonie...Through a British Columbia Lens

In the final months of 2012 the Canadian dollar was trading slightly above parity with the US greenback. Nearly three years later, one Canadian dollar is worth ~76 US cents. This marks an unprecedented depreciation of the Canadian currency – more than 25% in a bit less than three years. A decline of this speed and magnitude has significant economic implications.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Renewables, fossil fuels will share energy landscape (Business in Vancouver)

Is the world in the midst of an accelerating migration away from fossil fuels toward much greater reliance on carbon-free energy? If one takes seriously the speeches of many politicians or the content found on the web sites of environmental advocacy organizations, the temptation is to answer “yes.” The reality, however, is more complex.

Important shifts in energy production and use are under way, but the magnitude and timing of any overall global “energy transition” are apt to be less dramatic than many believe.  Growing energy demand, the vast scale of the world’s existing energy system, and the tens of trillions of dollars of embedded capital that underpin it all stand in the way of rapid change.  

That said, there is evidence of an incremental move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, in favour of low/no-carbon forms of energy.  Over time, natural gas and renewables will comprise rising proportions of the world’s energy supply, while the shares of oil and coal will decline.  However, because energy demand will be increasing and natural gas use is expected to double by 2040, this does not necessarily equate to an absolute reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels in the global energy system in the short- to medium-term.   

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