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Policy Perspectives

Each issue of this newsletter is devoted to providing a robust analysis of a single important policy topic affecting BC’s economy. These are published several times a year.

Assessing The New US Administration's Impact on BC's Natural Resource Industries

What the US Administration does on trade, energy and environmental policy matters to BC’s natural resource sectors, and to the overall health of our economy.

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Better, But Still Rising Steadily: An Update on Municipal Spending in Metro Vancouver

In real per capita terms, municipal government expenditures in Metro Vancouver grew by 6.9% over the past five years. This is a notable reduction from the 20% jump recorded between 2005 and 2010.

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Diverse and Growing: BC's Agriculture Industry on the Rise

BC's agri-food industry has enjoyed strong growth in recent years.

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British Columbia Needs Effective Intellectual Property Frameworks to Promote Collaborative Research and Commercialization

This issue of Policy Perspectives provides an overview of results from a recent Mitacs research project examining what attracts (and deters) foreign direct investment in R&D to Canada, with a specific focus on Canada’s outdated intellectual policy regime.

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A Snapshot of Health Care Spending -- In Canada and Around the World

Health care in Canada consumed more than 40% of aggregate provincial government revenues in 2015, with the public and private spending necessary to provide the full suite of health services amounting to 10.7% of national GDP.

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Canadian Head Office Survey: How Do Metro Vancouver and British Columbia Stack Up?

This issue of Policy Perspectives reviews the recently released Statistics Canada Annual Head Office Survey, comments on its implications for BC/Metro Vancouver, and offers a few thoughts on factors that contribute to a robust head office “ecosystem.”

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership – Positioning Canada and British Columbia for the Pacific Century

The October 5, 2015 announcement that 12 Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, have signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is good news for British Columbia. Once/if ratified by all of the signatory countries, it will take time for BC businesses to feel the full effects of the deal: elimination of some tariffs will take 10 years or more. Eventually, the global economic potential of the “TPP region” and the new areas covered by the agreement, particularly services and investor and intellectual property protections, could reshape trade flows and boost economic development in what is already the most dynamic region in the world.

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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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It’s Bigger Than You Think: Non-Resource Manufacturing in BC

In British Columbia the processing of resources is a highly visible part of the manufacturing sector, particularly the processing of logs harvested from the province’s forests. But non-resource manufacturing is also a significant part of the provincial economic landscape.

This issue of Policy Perspectives takes a closer look at non-resource manufacturing in British Columbia. The sector comprises a bigger piece of the industrial base than most people realize. Looking ahead, we see non-resource manufacturing as a promising source of economic and export gains for British Columbia.

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Economic Growth and Tighter Labour Markets in BC: Some Implications of the Demographic Shift Ahead

Most people are aware that the population in Canada and other western countries is aging, that longevity is increasing, and that the front‐end of the large baby boom generation has started to retire. Fertility rates have also fallen, which means the future supply of workers will be restricted.   But how quickly will the population grow, and age, in the coming decades? Will there be a dramatic shortfall of working‐age people?   

This issue of Policy Perspectives briefly reviews current population projections for BC, shining a spotlight on a few key demographic variables. The findings underscore the steady aging of the provincial as well as the national population.   It is also clear that immigration plays a significant role in the changing demographic landscape – within a decade, it will be the only source of population growth for both Canada and BC.  Immigration can also help temper the pace – but not reverse the reality of – population aging.

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Forest Sector Remains a Vital Economic Engine for BC

British Columbia’s forest industry is an integral part of our economy and remains one of the most important economic engines for the province. It generates tens of thousands of jobs directly and supports many more jobs in other sectors that sell goods and services into the different elements of the forest products cluster.

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An Updated Look at BC’s Inventory of Major Capital Projects

In this issue of Policy Perspectives, we provide a summary of capital spending on “major” projects in British Columbia.

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The Underground Economy

“Underground” economic activity takes different forms and includes the production/provision of both legal and illegal goods and services. The underground economy (UE) is a concern for governments because it reduces the tax base and can weaken regulatory regimes intended to protect consumers, workers and the environment.

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BC’s Tourism Industry: Positioned for Growth

In BC, tourism supports and sustains jobs in every region and serves as the economic backbone of many smaller communities. Compared to other provinces, the tourism industry is proportionally larger in BC, a reflection of the province’s natural beauty and the diversity of both winter and summer activities offered here. Greater Vancouver’s international status as a desirable travel destination contributes to the prominence of the broader BC tourism sector.

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A Note on Business Tax Competitiveness in British Columbia

It’s slightly more than one year since BC scrapped the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and returned to the former Provincial Sales Tax (PST) as the main tax on “consumption” in British Columbia. Now is therefore an opportune time to step back and assess the broader business tax structure and its impact on BC’s attractiveness as a place to invest and do business. This issue of Policy Perspectives considers several features of the tax system that impinge on business investment, expansion, and job creation. We do not examine the taxes paid by households – the focus here is on taxes that apply to enterprises and business activity.

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BC's High Technology Exports: A Solid Base to Grow From

British Columbia is home to an economically significant and notably diversified high technology sector. A detailed overview of the sector is presented in the most recent British Columbia’s Technology Report Card 2012. It shows that the production of advanced technology goods and services now generates 6% of the province’s GDP and accounts for approximately 80,000 jobs. While this is lower than the GDP share in some other provinces, BC’s technology sector continues to expand faster than the economy in general. And it has been resilient in the wake of the 2008-09 recession and the rather sluggish economic recovery that followed in its wake.

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Policy Perspectives:
The Economic Benefits of Encouraging Small Businesses to Grow

The role of small businesses necessarily features prominently in any discussion of the British Columbia economy. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that an orientation toward small businesses is a defining characteristic of the province’s private sector.

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Productivity: BC's Position and Why We Should Care

Over the long term, productivity levels and growth rates are the most important factors determining the evolution of the standard of living in any economy. In more productive economies workers typically receive higher wages and governments have more resources available to pay for services.

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Surge in Cross Border Shopping Weighs on Retail Sales in BC

The additional consumer purchasing power stemming from the stronger Canadian dollar, recent increases in the duty-free exemptions, and the large gap between gas prices in Metro Vancouver and Washington state have all contributed to a recent jump in cross-border shopping.

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Understanding Economic Development and Reconciliation with First Nations in BC: The Case for Accelerating Economic Engagement

Jurisdictions around the world have engaged in a wide variety of initiatives to reconcile the rights of indigenous peoples within post-colonial government and market economies.

As a province largely without ratified treaties, British Columbia has, by practical and legal necessity, developed a relatively unique set of public and private sector tools to facilitate natural resource development activity on the land base.

In this issue of Policy Perspectives, we highlight the diversity of initiatives underway in British Columbia to advance economic development on the land base. The paper makes the case that there is a promising, albeit challenging, opportunity to move progressively down a path of economic and social reconciliation that will provide tangible benefits to both First Nations and the province as a whole.

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