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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.

Whitworth Op-Ed: Liquefied Natural Gas is a Generational Opportunity (Vancouver Sun)

The debate about the future of liquefied natural gas in British Columbia is generating plenty of heat, but often too little light. A casual observer can be forgiven if he or she is just a bit confused about whether LNG will come to B.C.

Strip away the rhetoric, however, and a truth remains: In a growing world economy hungry for cleaner forms of energy, the market for B.C.’s natural gas remains strong.

As CEO of Seaspan ULC and chair of the British Columbia Business Council, I think it is important we remember this when considering LNG’s potential to shape our province for the better.

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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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Release: Strengthening Asian Investment in British Columbia

Today, the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Industry and Minister Responsible for British Columbia, joined by the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, the Honourable Teresa Wat, B.C. Minister of International Trade, as well as the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) announced a new project to attract Asian head offices to Vancouver. This project, entitled HQ Vancouver, will build on Canada’s competitive advantages in key sectors and attract major Asian firms to set up their North American head offices in British Columbia.

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Finlayson: Exportable services an important source of job growth for BC
(Troy Media)

More than three-quarters of all employed people in British Columbia are engaged in producing “services” rather than “goods.” Services span a wide array of industry sectors, everything from retail and wholesale trade to professional services (engineering, law, accounting, architecture, etc.), scientific and technical services, transportation, financial services, accommodation and food services as well as services that are mainly delivered and/or largely funded by governments (public administration, education, and health and social services). Many of these service industries loom large in the labour market. Retail and wholesale trade, for example, together employ 350,000 British Columbians, another 200,000 or so toil in the broadly-defined education sector, 150,000 work in financial services, and 275,000 earn their livelihood by providing health-related services.

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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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Finlayson: US may be poised for economic housing boost (Troy Media)

Is it possible that America’s economy might surprise us with a sustained growth surge? The question came to mind as I recently slogged through a series of blog entries and reports on the web site of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The Center’s researchers keep close tabs on U.S. housing markets and have a particular interest in the factors believed to influence the demand for housing.

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Productivity and Wages

An important long-term challenge facing British Columbia is to improve upon the province’s rather lackluster productivity record. In recent years, BC has trailed the national benchmark on overall business sector productivity by around 10%. In 2012, BC ranked sixth in the country in business sector productivity. Moreover, the province has had very limited success in boosting economy-wide productivity since the 1980s.

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On the Size Rankings of National Economies – and Where Canada Stands

The World Bank has just released updated estimates of the size of all national economies for which reliable data could be collected. A much remarked finding of the Bank’s new report is that based on one set of projections, China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s biggest economy.

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The shifting meaning of 'market access'

Canada is an open and trade dependent nation – a significant portion of our jobs, wealth and government revenue derives from trade and other forms of commerce with markets around the world. In the simplest sense, market access in this context means the ability to have Canadian goods and services ‘freely’ enter foreign markets – and to ensure we have cost-effective access to imports from elsewhere.  By any measure, market access is therefore essential for our economic well-being.

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Finlayson: Rebound in global trade augurs well for B.C.'s economy (Troy Media)

Economic growth has been tepid in B.C. in the past two years, with inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) eking out an average annual gain of barely 1.5 per cent.  But the picture should brighten over 2014-15, as consumer spending strengthens, some momentum returns to the job market, and the province’s export shipments continue to expand.   

The latter factor – stronger export growth – will be particularly important in creating a more positive economic environment.  According to the latest forecast from the World Trade Organization (WTO), the volume of global trade is on track to increase by 4.7 per cent this year, followed by a 5.3 per cent jump in 2015. This represents a significant turnaround from the sluggish 2.2 per cent annual pace recorded during 2012-13.  It’s also good news for the thousands of B.C. companies involved in selling various goods and services to foreign customers.

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Exportable Services: An Important Source of Job Growth for BC

More than three-quarters of all employed people in British Columbia are engaged in producing “services” rather than “goods.”  Services span a wide array of industry sectors, everything from retail and wholesale trade to professional services (engineering, law, accounting, architecture, etc.), scientific and technical services, transportation, financial services, accommodation and food services as well as services that are mainly delivered or at least largely funded by governments (public administration, education, and health and social services).   Many of these service industries loom large in the labour market.  Retail and wholesale trade, for example, together employ 350,000 British Columbians, another 200,000 or so toil in the broadly-defined education sector, 150,000 work in financial services, and 275,000 earn their livelihood by providing health-related services.

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Business Growth, Job Creation and Innovation

Canada ranks as one of the best places in the world to start a new business, according to an annual survey done by the World Bank. But the country does less well when it comes to encouraging enterprises to grow – and in fostering private sector innovation.

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Canada-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (CSKFTA) is Good News for BC

The conclusion of the protracted negotiations to establish a free trade agreement with South Korea is a positive step for British Columbia. South Korea is the fourth largest destination for BC’s merchandise exports (after the US, China and Japan), so improved access to its market will be helpful for a number of the province’s export industries. The agreement also lays the foundation for an expansion of services trade, business travel, and investment between the two countries.

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D'Avignon: British Columbians support resource exports (Vancouver Sun)

British Columbians, as well as potential investors, are too frequently confronted by headlines declaring B.C., and Metro Vancouver more specifically, are paralyzed by conflict over natural resource exports with supposedly profound opposition to development among a majority of citizens.

Is this really the case?

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News Release: Business Council of British Columbia points to benefits of Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement

March 10, 2014 (Vancouver, BC) - The Business Council of British Columbia today welcomed the Government of Canada’s announcement that negotiations to establish a bilateral free trade agreement with South Korea have been successfully concluded.

“The federal government has worked long and hard to secure a free trade agreement with South Korea,” said Greg D'Avignon, President and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia.  “We applaud the Prime Minister, International Trade Minister Fast and his senior officials for their efforts to get this significant agreement over the finish line.”

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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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Mustel Group Poll: City of Vancouver Resident's Views of Port and Exports

Mustel Group polled 500 City of Vancouver residents to determine their views with respect to Vancouver's port and specifically with respect to energy and natural resource exports. The research was conducted by a member of the Business Council of British Columbia (who wishes to be unidentified).

  • The majority of City of Vancouver residents understand the importance of Vancouver’s port to the B.C. economy, including rural communities. A total of 92% rate Vancouver’s port as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat important’ to the economy.
  • Residents are most supportive of the shipment of grain, containers, and forest products. There is also relatively strong support for export of natural gas.
  • The majority also support shipment of coal; 53% are in support, 35% are opposed, and the remaining 12% are undecided.

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Speaking Notes on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

Speaking notes for Jock Finlayson's appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

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Finlayson: Thank exports for any improvement in Canada's economic performance in 2014 (Troy Media)

After a generally lacklustre 2013, what are the prospects for Canada's economy in the coming year? As 2014 gets under way, the signs are mixed.  

In the plus column are accelerating U.S. economic growth, continued low interest rates, and the positive impact of the weaker Loonie on Canada's trade position and competitiveness.  Among the factors likely to hold our economy back in the year ahead are sluggish global commodity markets, record high Canadian household debt, government fiscal austerity at both the federal and provincial levels, and a slowdown in residential spending. 

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BC Productivity Numbers Disappoint

Statistics Canada has just released productivity estimates for 2012, and for BC the news isn’t very heartening. Labour productivity in the province’s business sector fell by 1.4% last year, after posting a solid 2.8% gain in 2011.

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