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Provincial Government

BC’s provincial government has a key role to play in shaping the province’s economy. Taxation, access to natural resources, transportation, education and skills development, environmental regulation, labour rules and many other social programs all fall under the provincial government’s jurisdiction. The Council conducts research and analysis on all these topics and regularly contributes to public-policy development at the provincial level.

 

RELEASE: BCBC Welcomes Provincial Government Approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

The Business Council of British Columbia welcomes today’s decision by the province to grant an environmental assessment certificate, with conditions, to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project and to confirm that this project has met the government’s five conditions. This is an important step in advancing a nationally significant project that will deliver benefits to British Columbia communities and workers while meeting growing global demand for oil.

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NEWS RELEASE: Business Council of BC Welcomes Report by Commission on Tax Competitiveness

The Business Council of British Columbia welcomes the report issued today by the Commission on Tax Competitiveness that was appointed several months ago to examine the structure and impact of business taxes and to provide policy options that will support growth and job creation in BC.

At a time of sluggish global economic growth, heightened competitive pressure for small regional economies, and accelerating technological change, it makes sense to review the role of tax policy in shaping the environment for business activity.  Particularly for trade-dependent jurisdictions like British Columbia, a broadly competitive tax system is essential if we are to attract the investment and stimulate the entrepreneurial wealth creation needed to sustain jobs and grow incomes. 

“The Commission on Tax Competitiveness’s report outlines a number of valuable recommendations for the provincial government to consider, including some that we hope will be taken up in the February 2017 budget, and others that can be acted on over the medium-term,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO, Business Council of British Columbia.  “The Business Council commends the provincial government for establishing the Commission.  We look forward to the province acting on the Commissions’ recommendations to strengthen the foundations for BC’s economic prosperity.”

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Peacock Op-Ed: Looking to B.C. Budget 2017 — Strengthening B.C.’s Competitive Position (Surrey Business News)

B.C.’s economy is in reasonably good shape and the province looks to be on track to lead the country in economic and job growth this year and likely next year as well. This relatively buoyant economic backdrop is boosting B.C. government revenues and providing the province with some fiscal room. The recently released First Quarterly Report shows the B.C .government with a $2 billion surplus in 2016-17, thanks mostly to upside revenue surprises from personal income taxes and the property transfer tax.

While all this is good news, the fact is that British Columbia’s competitiveness within North America has eroded over the past several years. The extent of the problem varies across sectors and industries. But companies operating on the land base, manufacturers, and industries that rely significantly on energy to run their operations face mounting difficulties stemming from complex First Nations claims, onerous permitting and environmental rules, and high and still rising tax-inclusive energy costs. Across the province, the forestry, mining, and oil and gas industries are at the forefront of these challenges. Closer to home, in Surrey the agriculture industry and local manufacturers (lumber mills, parts of food processing, industrial equipment, high-tech) are all also challenged by B.C.’s deteriorating competitive position.

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Finlayson & Peacock Op-Ed: B.C. tax regime hurts new investment in equipment, technology (Business in Vancouver)

While B.C. has recently posted some impressive economic numbers compared with the rest of the country, in a few areas we continue to underperform. The most glaring example is non-residential business investment.

Investment in “tangible” capital, such as machinery, equipment, structures, advanced technology products and engineering infrastructure, is essential to a thriving business sector. Increasingly, investment in “intangible” forms of capital, such as research and development, patents, trademarks, business processes and employee training, is also becoming a key ingredient in business success. Both kinds of capital contribute directly to economic growth and job creation in the short term. And with time, the benefits of such investments are magnified. Expanding and improving the stock of capital means that employees have up-to-date machinery and equipment, modern facilities, more efficient infrastructure and better intellectual property products to work with, allowing them to become more productive (and, hopefully, to earn more). 

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SUBMISSION in advance of the 2017 Provincial Budget

The Business Council's submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in advance of the 2017 Provincial Budget

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Finlayson & Peacock Op-Ed: B.C.’s economic buffer in the energy downturn: real estate (Business in Vancouver)

BC’s economy looks to be in decent shape. The province led the country in economic growth last year and will likely do so again in 2016. In the U.S., just six of the 50 states exceeded B.C.’s 3% GDP growth rate in 2015.

So why is our province faring so well? One reason is that we don’t produce much oil and so have avoided the worst fallout from the worldwide oil price collapse. The weaker Canadian dollar has also helped. Non-resource manufacturing, high technology goods and services, agricultural products, tourism, and film and television production have all enjoyed hefty gains, in part because a feebler Canadian dollar makes them more competitive in the North American market. But other provinces also benefit from a cheaper currency.

In fact, much of B.C.’s recent success reflects the unusual strength of the domestic economy. And supported by record low mortgage rates and steady inflows of migrants and wealth from outside our borders, the residential housing complex has had a starring role in B.C.’s robust domestic economy, via new home construction, high levels of renovation spending and escalating home prices.

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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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Innovation for Jobs and Productivity:
Fostering High-Growth BC Businesses, Creating More High-Paying Jobs

How can British Columbia draw on its strengths to build a vibrant, diverse economy, one that produces rewarding employment opportunities and rising incomes for the people who work and do business here? Scholars and leading international organizations agree that the best route to sustained prosperity is by developing a highly productive economy.

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Finlayson& Peacock Op-Ed: 15% property transfer tax should not apply to non-Canadians who move to Metro Vancouver for bona fide employment reasons (Business in Vancouver)

The way the government designed its property transfer tax scheme means that it will impose a stiff financial penalty on foreigners who locate here to take jobs.

The Lower Mainland’s frothy housing market continues to attract a great deal of media and political attention. In late July, the B.C. government responded to mounting public anxiety over soaring housing prices by instituting a 15% property transfer tax (PTT) on “foreign” purchases of residential real estate in Metro Vancouver. This measure predictably has raised the ire of the real estate industry, in part because it has captured, unfairly in our view, many in-process transactions that pre-date the effective date of the tax.

It is unclear whether the higher PTT will dampen housing demand. Initial evidence does point to some slowdown in the pace of real estate activity. The fact that foreigners have been responsible for at least 10% of all residential property purchases in the Vancouver region suggests that the new tax should have some effect.

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An Updated Look at British Columbia's Parks, Protected Areas and Conservation Efforts

Conservation of land and marine areas is an important part of recognizing natural, ecological, and/or cultural values of biodiversity. British Columbia is a world leader in this regard.

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Commissioned Paper: Fiscal Options for Building a Prosperous British Columbia - By Kevin Milligan

BCBC commissioned an independent review of the efficiency, effectiveness and fairness of British Columbia’s current tax system, and potential policy approaches to modernize the system in the context of today's economic realities. The Milligan paper notes that BC faces two key fiscal challenges: generating the government revenues needed to fund public programs and services going forward, and ensuring a healthy level of investment and business growth to sustain a strong economy.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: B.C. needs to step up its game on innovation (Vancouver Sun & Troy Media)

The economic and business environment in which British Columbia operates is shifting. A number of trends are transforming the global economy in ways that can either help or hinder the quest for prosperity by countries and sub-national regions. The principal forces identified by the McKinsey Global Institute are: i) urbanization, particularly the rapid growth of cities in emerging markets; ii) accelerating technological change and the rise of the digital economy; iii) population aging and slower labour force growth; and iv) the onward march of globalization, via expanding cross-border flows of goods, services, finance, people and data – a trend that is heightening competition among jurisdictions for capital, talent and high-value business activity.

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The 2016 BC Budget: High Marks for Fiscal Management...
But BC Must Do More to Improve Competitiveness

Unveiled by Finance Minister Mike de Jong on the afternoon of February 16, Budget 2016 tells a generally upbeat story of British Columbia’s economic performance and fiscal health. Economic and job growth are running above the national average, and BC is one of only two provinces expected to post a balanced operating budget (or surplus) both this year and in 2016-17.

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Finlayson & Peacock Op-Ed: British Columbia is out-performing most other provinces (Vancouver Sun)

Against the backdrop of slumping commodity markets and tepid global growth, British Columbia near-term economic prospects are surprisingly positive, creating a largely favourable backdrop for this week’s provincial budget. A recent Business Council report highlights some of the reasons why B.C. is doing better than Canada on several widely-cited performance metrics — including economic growth, job creation, retail sales, and housing-related investment.

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RELEASE: Business Council Welcomes Budget Surplus and Commitment to Tax System Review

The Business Council welcomes today’s provincial budget and supports the government’s plan to generate modest operating surpluses over the next three years. The Council also applauds the government’s announcement that it will launch a Commission on Tax Competitiveness with a view to strengthening the tax base and improving competiveness for business operating and investing in British Columbia.

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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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British Columbia Since 1995: A Brief Retrospective

As we ponder what British Columbia will look like in 2035 as part of our 50th anniversary programme, it is useful to review how the province’s economy and society have been reshaped over the past two decades, a period of time that has seen the rise of Asia, an expansion of BC’s gateway economy, the development of new and emerging industries, various commodity cycles, changes in the currency, steady inflows of migrants, population aging, and continued urbanization. 

What follows is a brief snapshot of a number of significant, high-level economic and demographic trends that have influenced the province since the mid-1990s.  But first, to provide a bit of context, we highlight a few features of the political setting and the wider external environment from two decades ago. 

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Overqualified Workers and the BC Government’s “Skills for Jobs Blueprint”

Late last month the provincial government provided some details on its planned re-engineering of the public post-secondary education (PSE) and training system, which will see additional funding directed to expand capacity to educate/train young people in high-demand occupations – and, presumably, result in fewer dollars being available to fund programs in other parts of the PSE system. One of the key factors behind the revamp is a belief among policy-makers that the “supply” of and “demand” for skills are out of alignment in the current labour market.

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A Snapshot of Government Debt Across the Land

The start of the 2014 government budget season is an opportune moment to update the figures on accumulated public sector debt for Canada’s ten provinces as well as the national government.

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