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Publications

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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Labour Mobility an Essential Feature of Canada's Regional Labour Markets

Canada’s labour market is dynamic. People move freely across provincial borders for a mix of reasons, including varying economic and labour market conditions. Given Canada’s vast geography and differing industrial structures across the provinces, the ability of people to migrate to other regions is an essential element of the Canadian “common market.”

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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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Federal Election Economic Policy Primer

British Columbians and the rest of the country go to the polls on October 19.  In voting, they will help to set the course for the nation’s economy in 2016 and over the rest of the decade. In this pre-election briefing document, we outline some of the BC business community’s priority issues, both for the election itself and for the agenda of the federal government that Canadians will choose on October 19. 

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Carbon Pricing, Fusion Style – Policy Issues to Consider When Carbon Taxes Meet Cap-and-Trade

While there appears to be a growing consensus on the need to price carbon, there is no consensus on the most effective means of doing so – either via taxes or trading schemes.

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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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Labour Demand and Supply in Canada: The Big Picture

Concerns over labour shortages continue to be voiced by some leading employer organizations. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Conference Board are among the groups that have identified shortfalls in the supply of workers as a priority public policy issue. Some individual industry sectors – from trucking to construction, the IT industry, mining, and the electricity sector, among many others – have produced reports that highlight current or projected national-level worker shortages in certain occupations. Such sentiments are also common among employers here in British Columbia.

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Some Reflections on the Global Energy Transition

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

In this edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin, Jock Finlayson analyzes the recent projections of three well-respected sources - the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) and British Petroleum (BP).  He concludes that for the world as a whole, there is certainly evidence of an incremental move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, in favour of low/no-carbon forms of energy.  However, looking out over the next two decades, the trend-lines point to a real, but far from revolutionary, energy transition, one that is unlikely to entail an absolute reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels produced and consumed globally by 2035 or 2040.

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Business Alert: No Change in WorkSafeBC Average Premiums for 2016

WorkSafeBC recently announced that the average “base premium rate” in 2016 will be unchanged from 2015, continuing the pattern from last year. The average rate charged to employers is being set at $1.70 per $100 of assessed payroll, exactly the same as in 2015. 

This should come as welcome news for the employer community, particularly in light of a seeming onslaught of government-mandated and/or policy-driven cost increases in so many other areas (Medical Services Plan premiums, fuel taxes, electricity rates, water rental charges, environmental assessment fees, etc.).

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BC Economic Review & Outlook - Mid-Year Report

Amid External Headwinds, BC's Economy Is Holding Up Well

Against the backdrop of a choppy and risk-prone global economy and decelerating growth here in Canada, British Columbia is holding its own. As a small trade-oriented jurisdiction, the province is certainly not impervious to the economic headwinds, whether they blow globally or from within Canada. Sluggish commodity prices and the oil-driven recession unfolding in Alberta and Newfoundland are affecting all regions of Canada and have prompted us to trim our growth BC outlook relative to expectations back in January. However, by Canadian standards British Columbia looks well-positioned for a decent economic performance over the next 18-24 months.

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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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Trends in Unionization...in Canada and the Wider World

In many industrial countries the union movement is struggling to adapt to the accelerating pace of economic and technological change and related shifts in business practices, the structure of employment, and demographics. As jobs have migrated from manufacturing, resources and other goods-producing industries toward services, “union density” – the share of the workforce that belongs to a union – has been under downward pressure

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Lower Canadian Dollar Dampens Cross-Border Shopping

In early 2013 the Canadian dollar was trading approximately at parity with the American greenback.  Then the Loonie started a gradual descent to its recent level of 81 cents US.  A 20% depreciation of the Canadian dollar vis-à-vis the US currency has significantly changed the relative prices of traded goods and services.  Many exports from BC shipped into the US are suddenly more competitively priced. The opposite is true for imports coming into the province from the US. 

Cross-border shopping effectively amounts to individual consumers doing their own “importing.” With the devalued Canadian dollar adding an additional cost of 20% (and more after paying fees to convert currency), a large portion of the savings on items purchased stateside that existed when the Canadian dollar was at parity has now been eliminated. So the number of British Columbians venturing into the US, unsurprisingly, has diminished.

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Rethinking Social Licence to Operate -- A Concept in Search of Definition and Boundaries

This edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin,  guest authored by David Bursey, a partner with Bennett Jones LLP, examines the evolution of  Social Licence to Operate (SLO) in the approval of resource development projects and its recent rise in popular use.  It then considers how the concept relates to political governance and law.  Finally, it assesses the implications of how SLO is being applied – for good and for bad, but most often without a proper context.

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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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Amid an Oil Price Collapse…The Harper Government Delivers on its Balanced Budget Promise

The steep drop in the price of oil and related impact on federal finances prompted the Conservative government to delay bringing down the Budget. But despite a $6 billion hit to Ottawa’s revenues, Finance Minister Joe Oliver was determined to meet the government’s commitment to balance the operating budget by fiscal 2015-16, after seven years of red ink. Doing so required adding some modest amounts from asset sales and shrinking the contingency reserve, but in the end the government managed to erase last year’s small deficit ($2 billion) and is forecasting a razor-thin $1.4 billion surplus for 2015-16.

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Resolving Strikes in Essential Services – The Supreme Court of Canada Weighs In

This edition of Human Capital Law and Policy was guest authored by Delayne Sartison, Q.C., Partner, Roper Greyell.

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Growth and Greater Diversity in BC's Export Base
A primer on BC exports

As a small, open economy British Columbia has always depended on and prospered from its international connections. These linkages have been steadily enhanced and supported by improved global transportation and communications; expanding cross-border flows of goods, services, capital and technology; expanding the growth of international travel; and rising numbers of international migrants.

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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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Risk: Perception, Reality and the Policy Process

Risk is a socially constructed, complex concept that humans have developed to deal with the fear of unknown events that may happen in their lives.

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