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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. 

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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.

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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.

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BC Economy and Job Market to Gain Momentum Over 2014-2015

Against a more balanced and somewhat stronger global growth setting, BC’s economy should make progress in 2014, on the heels of a rather disappointing 2013. We expect the province’s real GDP to advance by 2.3% this year – solid, but not spectacular. By 2015, further improvements in the global economy and a substantial jump in capital spending in BC should push GDP growth above the 3% mark.

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On the Road to Emissions Reductions:
Environment and Energy Bulletin on BC's Low Carbon Fuel Standard

This edition of our Environment and Energy Bulletin was written by guest author Selina Lee-Andersen, Counsel, Environmental and Aboriginal Law, McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

As a major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the transportation sector has been identified by policy makers as a sector in which significant emission reductions can be achieved. One of the policy instruments designed to reduce GHG emissions is the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which is intended to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels measured on a life-cycle basis.

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Congested and Nowhere to Go:
Congestion, Road Infrastructure, and Road Pricing in Metro Vancouver

Transportation continues to be a top-of-mind concern for policy makers, business leaders and communities in the lower mainland. How best to manage and use the region's scarce transportation capacity is a complex and often contentious question. In this paper, Jonathan Arnold, who recently completed a co-op term at the Business Council as part of his SFU graduate public policy degree program, explores a number of issues related to transportation demand management, including road pricing, in the Greater Vancouver context.

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New WorkSafeBC Policies on Bullying and Harassment - A Review of the Duties of Employers in BC

On July 1, 2012, Section 5.1(1)(a)(ii) of the Workers Compensation Act (the “Act”) was enacted. Part of this new provision provides that a worker’s mental disorder is compensable under the Act where that disorder is caused by a work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment. Taken together with Section 115 of the Act, Section 5.1 requires employers to address bullying and harassment as they would any other hazard in the workplace by taking all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of their workers, and those workers present at a workplace where their work is being carried out.

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Policy Perspectives:
The Economic Benefits of Encouraging Small Businesses to Grow

The role of small businesses necessarily features prominently in any discussion of the British Columbia economy. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that an orientation toward small businesses is a defining characteristic of the province’s private sector.

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BCBC study conducted by MNP finds corporate community contributes $370 million annually to the province's charities

Ono October 18th, the Business Council of British Columbia released a first-of-its-kind study conducted by MNP which found that British Columbia’s business community contributes approximately $370 million in cash donations, sponsorships and partnerships to community and charitable organizations across the province each year. This is the first comprehensive study on the current levels of overall charitable contributions and partnership made by BC businesses in the province.

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Building New Energy Advantages for BC:
Understanding and Benefiting from the Transformation of BC's Energy Marketplaces

A white paper on Energy Policy in BC

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Transportation - The Way We Move Part II

This is part two of a two part Environment and Energy Bulletin that explores the topic of transportation. Part one focused on the context, statistics and some key issues that set the stage for part two, a high level discussion of policy options for managing transportation and related infrastructure issues going forward.

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BC Agenda For Shared Prosperity Final Report

September 25, 2013 (Vancouver, BC) – The Business Council of British Columbia and the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce today released the final report of the BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity initiative. For a year, the two organizations have sought expert and community-based answers to the question: “How can BC become a more prosperous province for all British Columbians?”

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Productivity: BC's Position and Why We Should Care

Over the long term, productivity levels and growth rates are the most important factors determining the evolution of the standard of living in any economy. In more productive economies workers typically receive higher wages and governments have more resources available to pay for services.

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Transportation -- The Way We Move

This is part one of a two part Environment and Energy Bulletin that will explore the topic of transportation. In part one we focus on the context, statistics and some key issues that set the stage for part two, a discussion of policy options and possible directions for managing transportation and related infrastructure issues going forward.

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BCBC Publication:
Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Separating Fact from Fiction

Human Capital Policy and Law Volume 3, Issue 3

The increase in the number of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada has sparked controversy and prompted a fair amount of unfavourable commentary over the past year or so. Some union leaders have suggested that foreign workers here on a temporary basis are displacing Canadians from jobs and distorting local labour markets. A few academic commentators have probed and raises questions about the legal rights and status of TFWs. In contrast, many business leaders point to the challenges companies face in finding people to fill jobs, notably in some regions, and argue that TFWs are often essential to their operations. Temporary foreign workers are also frequently sought for specific skills which may not be sufficiently available in the Canadian market.

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Mid-Year Update: BC Economy Slows in 2013, Rebounds in 2014

Against a subdued global backdrop and fairly soft domestic economic conditions, the near-term growth outlook for BC has been trimmed. We now expect real GDP to increase by a sub-par 1.6% in 2013, which is still a bit better than the BC government’s 1.4% projection in its recently tabled budget. At the start of the year we thought that a mid-year pick up in exports and some additional investment spending would lift the province’s GDP growth rate above the 2% mark. While an improved external economic setting will eventually translate into stronger growth for BC, the timing for this positive turn has been pushed back.

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Surge in Cross Border Shopping Weighs on Retail Sales in BC

The additional consumer purchasing power stemming from the stronger Canadian dollar, recent increases in the duty-free exemptions, and the large gap between gas prices in Metro Vancouver and Washington state have all contributed to a recent jump in cross-border shopping.

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A Review of Trends in Union Density

An examination of the evolution of the position of trade unions in the overall labour market underscores the challenges facing the union movement in British Columbia and Canada as a whole. The term “union density” is used to track the proportion of paid workers who are covered by a collective agreement. It can be thought of as a proxy for the “market share” of unions within the employed workforce, excluding people who are classified as self-employed.

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Thinking About Conservation Policy

Some argue that the pace and scale of changes to the landscape to meet humanity's needs and wants is undermining the ability to sustain ourselves. On a global scale this may be true, but in Canada, with the second largest landmass in the world and only 3.85 people/km2, this is not necessarily the case (although one could argue the corollary, which is that this is exactly why we should set aside more land and protect more species, insects, microorganisms and ecosystems, generally).

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2013 Federal Budget: A Combination of Following Through, Fiscal Restraint and Some New Funding for Priority Areas

Against a backdrop of softer economic conditions, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a budget still centered around achieving the Conservative government’s 2015-16 balanced budget target. To meet that objective, the Budget imposes meaningful but not draconian spending restraint. In turn, this left little capacity for much in the way of new spending or tax relief. The Budget does, however, direct additional funding to a few priority areas such as skills training and infrastructure investment.

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