Building BC for the 21st Century:
A White Paper on Infrastructure Policy and Financing
This paper is about infrastructure in BC. It reviews what infrastructure is, the importance and benefits of infrastructure and some of the external and internal factors that are shaping the demand for infrastructure services in the province. It also reviews infrastructure that has been built in the province over the past decade. Despite BC having made substantial investments in large public assets that have served the province and its citizens well, we conclude that additional infrastructure investments are necessary to support residents’ quality of life and improve BC’s competitive position.
The State of Industry-First Nations Relations in B.C. – Part II: RECOMMENDATIONS
Through our series on the state of industry-First Nation relations in B.C., the Business Council has sought to document and take stock of the economic reconciliation process in the province. The results of this work have highlighted a number of important and mainly positive trends: 1) increased aboriginal business formations; 2) a proliferation of economic agreements between industry, government and First Nations; 3) growing own-source revenues and capacity improvements at the community level; and 4) a generally positive outlook for the future of economic reconciliation. However, the research has also identified some areas of concern that have the potential to constrain the ability of all parties to move further down a reconciliation path that maximizes collective economic opportunities.
The Underground Economy
“Underground” economic activity takes different forms and includes the production/provision of both legal and illegal goods and services. The underground economy (UE) is a concern for governments because it reduces the tax base and can weaken regulatory regimes intended to protect consumers, workers and the environment.
'Talentism,' Mobility and Migration: Implications for BC's Labour Market
This edition of Human Capital Law and Policy was guest authored by Kerry Jothen, CEO of Human Capital Strategies.
The State of Industry-First Nations Relations in BC – Part I
Over the past thirty years, and accelerating over the last decade or so, industry in British Columbia has increasingly engaged directly with First Nations to build the conditions for investment certainty in resource project development. The business case for doing so is clear – Section 35 aboriginal rights and title have proven challenging to define, and the Crown, for a variety of reasons, has been unable to comprehensively meet all of its consultation and accommodation obligations to First Nations. Nor should government necessarily have to shoulder all of the work related to post-colonial economic engagement with First Nations.
Compliance and Enforcement
What exactly is compliance and enforcement (C&E)? One might think there is an easy answer. But despite the myriad of organizations with C&E policies and staff dedicated to this type of work in a broad range of areas such as taxation, crime, workplace health and safety, and the environment, it is challenging to identify an accessible literature on the theory, evolution and practice of C&E.
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.
Debate Over the Minimum Wage Heats Up
Proposals to increase the minimum wage have been gathering speed on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. In January, President Obama called on Congress to lift the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, an idea quickly rejected by Republican Party leaders. But America’s national government doesn’t hold a monopoly on labour standards in that country; state and local governments also play a role. Since 2011, more than a dozen U.S. states and several cities have increased the minimum wages in their jurisdictions. Earlier this year, Seattle adopted a $15.00 an hour minimum wage, the highest among all big American cities.
The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part II
In Part I of this two-part series, we reviewed the main economic critiques of LNG development in British Columbia, concluding that while there are risks and economic uncertainties with respect to LNG in the province, the critics are largely off base with their professed economic concerns. Here in Part II, we address the more analytically challenging environmental issues that have been identified by various commentators who doubt the benefits of LNG.
Waiting for Better Days
Some of the optimism about the global economy evident in early 2014 has diminished in recent months, causing forecasters (including the Business Council) to revise down their growth projections. The change is not dramatic, but the tone has shifted in a more cautious direction.
The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part I
At the same time as China and Russia signed a massive 30 year, $400 billion natural gas trade agreement, the BC government continued its push to establish an LNG industry with a (successful) global LNG conference in Vancouver. The May event came on the heels of Premier Clark’s fifth trip to Asia promoting, in part or full, LNG opportunities in the province.
The China-Russia agreement is emblematic of the changing energy supply landscape; it also speaks to the size of the potential opportunity for jurisdictions like BC considering the contract constitutes only 29% of China’s future import requirement.
Closer to home, critics continue to question whether BC can develop the LNG sector in a responsible and economically sensible manner that will deliver the benefit set expected by government.
In this two part Energy and Environment Bulletin, we assess the validity of arguments suggesting BC is making a mistake in seeking to advance LNG and that the province would be wiser to halt, slow down or significantly change its approach to LNG development.
A Note on Business Tax Competitiveness in British Columbia
It’s slightly more than one year since BC scrapped the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and returned to the former Provincial Sales Tax (PST) as the main tax on “consumption” in British Columbia. Now is therefore an opportune time to step back and assess the broader business tax structure and its impact on BC’s attractiveness as a place to invest and do business. This issue of Policy Perspectives considers several features of the tax system that impinge on business investment, expansion, and job creation. We do not examine the taxes paid by households – the focus here is on taxes that apply to enterprises and business activity.
Alberta’s Demand for Workers is Affecting the Labour Market in BC
Within Canada there are no restrictions on labour mobility. People move freely between provinces to find employment, to retire, to attend school, or for other reasons. The past few years have seen mounting anecdotal evidence that strong demand for workers in Alberta is impacting the BC labour market by luring younger, often skilled workers from this province. Some employers in BC report they have been losing employees to our eastern neighbour. Looking ahead, this trend is likely to contribute to a tightening of the BC labour market as economic growth gradually accelerates.
Should We "Green" Gross Domestic Product?
What exactly is GDP, or gross domestic product? Where did it come from? Why is it important? Does it measure what we want it to? How might it be improved to provide a more comprehensive measure of human well-being?
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.
A Look at Some Environmental Indicators
Environmental indicators can do several things, including informing us about the state and extent of changes in environmental conditions as a result of the effects of both human activity and natural events. Indicators can also show how effective the actions taken by society have been in avoiding/mitigating environmental impacts, and shed light on what’s been done to restore the capacity of the natural environment to provide the services and materials essential for life and well-being.
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.
BC Budget 2014 - Balanced and Uneventful
Operating within a very tight fiscal framework, Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a budget on Tuesday that projects a small surplus for fiscal 2014-15, followed by larger surpluses in the two subsequent planning years. Given the limited fiscal maneuvering room, the Budget contained only a handful of modest spending measures and a few small tax initiatives. Notably, there was nothing major in the area of skills training.
While some commentators will be critical of the limited spending increases, we recognize the accomplishment of keeping the budget in the black without imposing significant tax increases – something few other provinces are managing to do. Running surpluses puts BC in a strong fiscal position, especially at this juncture of the business cycle. The Business Council believes BC’s competitive position has eroded in recent years. Although fiscal circumstances prevented the government from cutting or restructuring taxes, this is an area the province will have to address in the future as some BC industries face challenges linked to the province’s move back to the antiquated Provincial Sales Tax (PST), while others are grappling with the steepest carbon tax in North America, skilled labour shortages, onerous municipal property taxes on industry, and steadily escalating electricity costs.
Federal Budget 2014 -
Following Through: No Surprises Federal Budget Moves to Surplus
Getting back to surplus remains the cornerstone of federal budgeting. With the deficit having swelled to more than $55 billion in the aftermath of the 2008-09 Great Recession and Financial Crisis, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a budget that has the government on the cusp of returning to the black. This is an admirable accomplishment, one achieved without any significant tax increases and involving a hefty dollop of restraint after spending had been ramped up during and after the recession.
Jobs, Income and Post-Secondary Education
By global standards, Canada is a well-educated nation. As of 2011, almost two-thirds of the population aged 25 to 64 had completed some form of post-secondary education (PSE) – 27% had a university degree (bachelor’s to doctorate), while 37% possessed a credential from a college, trades, vocational or other post-secondary education or training program. By this broad measure, Canada’s rate of post-secondary attainment is the highest in the world. This should be good news: a well-established trend across the advanced economies is that higher levels of education are generally linked to improved employment prospects as well as to a greater likelihood of being in the workforce.