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Publications

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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Will Future Labour Shortages Imperil the BC Economy?

The critical role of human capital in today’s economy, the fact that many employers continue to report difficulties finding qualified personnel, and demographic forecasts pointing to a steadily aging population and slower labour force growth all raise questions about the future supply of skills.

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BC Budget 2015: Few New Measures...But an Era of Surpluses Lies Ahead

The benefits of BC’s diverse and resilient economy were evident as Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a Budget on February 17 that calls for a modest surplus for 2015‐16, followed by slightly larger surpluses in the two subsequent years. This places BC in the position of being possibly the only province to balance its books in the coming year. Fiscal circumstances, however, remain tight, and the Budget featured few new spending or taxation initiatives. Spending increases that did make it into the Budget were concentrated in health care and to a lesser extent education, along with a few targeted measures aimed at lower income households. The government opted to advance capital spending over what it had planned last year, in line with the Business Council’s advice.

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BC Poised for Decent Growth in A Turbulent World

The Business Council's first Economic Outlook and Review for 2015 projects a 2.6% increase in BC's real GDP and examines the impact on BC's economy of a number of factors including the global economic outlook, a rebounding US economy, declining oil prices and domestic factors such as housing starts and exports.

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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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Second annual survey shows strong partnerships and $373 million in charitable contributions by British Columbia’s business community

On December 4th, the Business Council of British Columbia released the second annual study quantifying the charitable contributions made by the province’s business community, conducted by MNP LLP. The report, Prosperous Companies, Prosperous Communities found that in 2013 British Columbia businesses donated $373 million in cash donations, sponsorships and partnerships to the province’s charities with the top types of charities supported being social services, health, education and environment.

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Critical Success Factors and Talent Risks for BC

The September issue of this newsletter reviewed the international, labour market and public policy contexts for talent mobility and development and briefly identified key success factors and risks for British Columbia in achieving its workforce development goals. In this month’s issue, we explore each of these areas and offer suggestions for ensuring an adequate labour supply and successful workforce development in BC.

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Getting a Handle on the Environmental Goods and Services Industry

Previous editions of the Environment and Energy Bulletin were concerned with the criteria and tools that can shed light on how green jobs and other environment-related activities contribute to the economy. This paper is another piece in the exploration of that topic. Here, we adopt a somewhat narrower focus by looking at “the environmental goods and services producing sector” of the economy.

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