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Trade, Productivity & Competitiveness

BC’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world economy will depend on how well we can find new ways of doing business, adopt new ideas and practices, and connect with new trading partners. The Council encourages public policies that support research and innovation, business practices that increase productivity, connections that open new trading opportunities, and processes to commercialize BC’s best research.

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 & Peacock Op-Ed: Business input vital to immigration system’s economic success (Business in Vancouver)

There are currently 4.7 million people living in B.C. Over the past 20 years, our population has risen by 908,000. Back in 1995, the population was growing at an annual rate of 2.8%, based on strong net interprovincial migration, international migration, and a relatively high rate of natural increase (births minus deaths). Now, the population is increasing by 1% annually, which is higher than the Canadian average but slower than in decades past.

In the next 20 years, our population is projected to expand by 1.14 million. Natural population growth dwindles after 2015 and approaches zero by 2030. At that point, B.C.’s population will be rising solely due to net in-migration from other provinces and countries. Of the two sources of in-migrants, international immigration will have a bigger role in determining B.C.’s demographic and economic future. Thus, it is more important than ever that immigration policy is aligned with our economic needs. Unfortunately, based on some initial actions by the Justin Trudeau government, it appears that economic considerations will carry less weight in immigration decisions.

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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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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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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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The Importance of Raising Narwhals

Canada’s lacklustre ability to produce high-growth firms is concerning. This should be a foremost concern for policymakers, especially in light of recent gains in access to capital.

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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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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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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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Three Quick Lessons for Driving Innovation in Canada

Many scholars and business analysts would agree that the U.S. does it right when it comes to supporting technology and innovation. Here are three key lessons from the 2016 Economic Report of the President to help improve Canada’s lacklustre performance on innovation.

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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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Growing Forward: Cultivating Productivity in BC’s Agrifood Supply Chain

The combination of $12B in annual revenue (in 2015) from the mix of agrifood-related activities collectively represents a sizeable contribution to the provincial economy. As for employment, the entire agrifood supply chain supports more than 300,000 jobs, although the bulk of these are in the retail/wholesale and food and beverage segments of the sector.

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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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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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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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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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Peacock Op-Ed: Canada’s Participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is Good for BC (Business in Surrey)

Canada was at the table when negotiations recently concluded for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the largest, most ambitious free trade initiative in history. This is good news for ourprovince. The TPP is a comprehensive trade deal that will help expand and secure access to much of the markets of key Asia-Pacific nations. Although growth in emerging markets has slowed of late, Asia is still projected to comprise two-thirds of the world’s middle class by 2030-35, and will grow to account for upwards of one-half of world GDP within three decades. There will be early benefits from participating in the TPP, but most of the upside will emerge over the medium term.

The TPP currently has 12 participating countries:  Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Over time the expectation is that other countries, perhaps including China and South Korea, will also join. Last year, BC exported nearly $23 billion to the other 11 TPP member countries, which accounted for more than 60% of our total merchandise exports.

One reason the TPP is good for BC is it will enhance and deepen these existing trading relationships. Once in force, the agreement will eliminate tariffs on almost all of BC’s key exports and provide secure access to growing economies in the Asia-Pacific. BC will have an advantage over non-TPP countries (notably Europe and Russia) by having duty free access for most of our major merchandise exports, including: wood and other forest products; aluminum, iron and steel products; seafood; agricultural products, and chemicals and plastics. Although global trade has been liberalized and barriers have been steadily lowered over the past few decades, BC’s exports still face sizable tariffs in some TPP markets, ranging from 5% to as much as 40% in a few countries. Japan, BC’s third largest export market, levies tariffs of 6% on some lumber products, 5% on many seafood items and 15% on ice wine. Malaysia has stiff tariffs of 40% on some plywood and panel products. Vietnam also has many punitive tariffs in place.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Memo to Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Troy Media)

Congratulations on your election to the House of Commons as the MP for Toronto Centre and your appointment as Minister of Finance.  Business leaders across Canada wish you well as you come to grips with the economic challenges that lie ahead.

One challenge is that Canada appears to have entered a period of sub-par growth.  Our economy lost ground over the first half of 2015, largely due to the impact of sharply lower oil prices together with weakness in the markets for many other commodities that form a large part of Canada’s export basket.  More recent data signal a pick-up in activity over the summer and into the fall.  However, for 2015 as a whole, inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (real GDP) is likely to increase by perhaps 1 per cent, down from an average of 2.2 per cent over 2013-14.

The economy should gain a bit of momentum through 2016, in response to the ongoing expansion in the United States, the low Canadian dollar, and continued accommodative monetary policy.  Real GDP is expected to climb by 1.5-2.0 per cent next year.  But looking further ahead, Canada also faces stiff economic headwinds from lower-for-longer commodity prices, record high levels of household indebtedness, and weak overall business investment. A slow growth macro-economic environment lends support to your government’s plan to expand infrastructure spending over the next few years.   But while spending more on infrastructure is a sound idea, the most convincing reason for doing so is not to boost short-term aggregate demand, but instead to make Canada’s economy more productive and competitive.  This includes ensuring that critical infrastructure is in place to enable our resource, manufacturing and tourism industries to connect with and efficiently sell into global markets.

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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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