2012 Federal Budget: Fiscal Restraint with New Policy Directions
Reflecting the precarious nature of the economic recovery, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a budget with few new tax measures, a moderate amount of spending restraint, and a plan to return to fiscal balance over the medium term. From our perspective it is a prudent budget that trims spending sufficiently to balance the books by mid-decade, while not tapping on the fiscal brakes too hard. While the federal workforce will be reduced, overall the level of restraint is such that critics will be hard pressed to claim that it will undermine the economic recovery.
Resource Industries Drive Investment Spending Higher in BC
The release of Statistics Canada’s annual Public and Private Investment survey provides information on recent business capital spending and affords a useful glimpse into where and how much BC businesses are planning to invest in the coming year. The latest survey predicts a healthy increase in capital spending in 2012, and confirms that business investment will be a significant economic driver in the province. It also underscores the important role that resource industries and related infrastructure development are playing in the growth of BC’s economy.
2012 BC Budget: Fiscal Caution Amid Economic Turbulence
Against an unsettled external economic backdrop, this week’s provincial budget saw Finance Minister Kevin Falcon reaffirm the government’s commitment to balance the operating budget by fiscal 2013-2014. Meeting this objective – which is mandated by current law – will require downshifting spending growth to about half the pace set during the years preceding the 2008-09 recession. While it featured a few new measures, the dominant theme of Budget 2012 is spending discipline while seeking to maintain core government services. To help address funding pressures across the provincial public sector, resources continue to be reallocated to higher priority areas such as health and education, and efforts to find efficiencies within existing budgets are accelerated.
Slow But Gradually Improving Growth In Store For BC
BC Economic Review and Outlook Feb 2012
BC’s economic growth in 2011 was modest and uneven. The first half of the year was particularly weak, as global equity markets underwent a steep sell-off, the American economy stumbled, the earthquake and tsunami sent Japan into a temporary recession, and financial stresses in the Eurozone escalated. Towards the end of the year, economic conditions in the US improved and, judging by job growth and a handful of other indicators, BC’s economy also appeared to pick up. This helped the province’s real gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by an estimated 2.0% in 2011. BC’s performance was reasonable compared to many other advanced economies, and was in the middle of the provincial growth rankings within Canada.
So You Think You're Not The Employer...
Human Capital Law and Policy v2 n1
Many organizations arrange their corporate affairs and relationships to minimize the extent to which they will be viewed as an “employer” of the individuals with whom they have a working relationship. The success of such attempts, however, will depend not only on the details of the arrangement, but also on the forum in which the relationship is being examined. A relationship that might be viewed as employer-employee in one setting might not be seen the same way in another.
How Big (and What Is) the 'Green Economy'?
The Challenge of Counting 'Green Jobs' in BC
Environment and Energy Bulletin v4 n1
“Having announced the imminent arrival of the green economy, we’re scrambling to define exactly what that means…”
The above quote neatly sums up the current conundrum about what many people now refer to as the “green” or “clean” economy: although the idea is much celebrated, it is hard to pin down in a satisfactory way. Politicians, media commentators, and non-governmental organizations routinely laud the potential to create thousands of new “green jobs.” Shortly after taking office, US President Barak Obama proclaimed, “As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs - but only if we accelerate that transition.” Closer to home, former Premier Gordon Campbell championed the idea of BC as a North American leader in developing and selling clean (carbon-free) energy. British Columbia’s pioneering economy-wide carbon tax, the first of its kind in North America, was linked to an expectation of robust growth in “green” industries and related gains in employment. At the municipal level, political leaders in the City of Vancouver are convinced that the green sector is destined to drive the region’s economy and foster the development of tens of thousands of new, high-paying jobs.
A Snapshot of Incomes in British Columbia
Policy Perspectives v18 n5
While economists often seem preoccupied with somewhat abstract indicators like gross domestic product, productivity and current account balances, arguably the economic variable of most interest to people is income. As defined by Statistics Canada (and similar agencies in other countries), income has two key components: 1) the “market incomes” received by individuals and households from employment, savings, investments, occupational pensions, rents, and entrepreneurial activity; and 2) “government transfers” such as social assistance, pensions, unemployment insurance, and the GST tax credit, which are remitted directly to households by the state.
EI Rate Consultation - Are Employers Paying True Insurance Premiums?
Human Capital Law and Policy v1 n3
On August 18, 2011 the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) put out a call for consultation as to how the EI rate-setting mechanism could be improved, with submissions due by November 30, 2011. The technical aspects of EI rate-setting may not be top-of-mind for most BC businesses. However, there are aspects of the Employment Insurance program, including rate-setting, that raise significant cost issues for business that should not be ignored.
2011-2012 Holiday Business Hours Survey
The Business Council of British Columbia conducts an annual survey to deterine when members will be open during the holiday season. Thank you to all that participated in the survey.
Immigration Consultation - Employers Need to Respond
Human Capital Law and Policy v1 n2
On August 29, 2011, the Federal Government, under Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, launched an online public consultation process seeking stakeholder input related to Canada’s immigration program. The consultation process provides an interesting starting point for a discussion of the policy considerations that underlie immigration to Canada and the nature of our current system. It also provides an impetus for employers and business leaders to take an active role in shaping not only immigration policy, but the successful implementation of the policy.
Small Decline in the BC Economic Index in Q3
BC Economic Index v10 n3
In the third quarter of 2011 the BC Economic Index registered a slight 0.1% contraction. Adding to the weak reading, the result from the second quarter was revised down from a respectable 0.8% increase to a more modest 0.5% advance. As an indicator of current economic conditions, the downward revision coupled with the small contraction in Q3 indicates that the provincial economy essentially stalled over the past few months.
British Columbia in the Asian Century
Policy Perspectives v18 n4
It is no longer a question of if but rather a matter of when. Almost a decade ago – back in 2003, to be precise – the global economics group at Goldman Sachs drew attention to the rise of Asia and sent minor shockwaves through the US establishment with its proclamation that China would overtake America to become the world’s biggest national economy in 2041. At the time this was viewed as a credible projection, but the fact that the eclipse date was nearly forty years away meant it was still fairly abstract and was enveloped with the uncertainty that invariably attends multi‐decade forecasts. Sustained double-digit growth in China prompted Goldman Sachs to revise its projection for the crossover date to 2027 a few years later. And now, following the Great Recession and what is expected to be a subdued economic expansion for the United States, 2019 is the most widely cited year for China to surpass America in overall economic size.
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Changes - Will They Be Enough?
Human Capital Law and Policy v1 n1
On August 26, 2011, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal reached out to its stakeholders for feedback and recommendations with respect to any issues or concerns. A broad invitation indeed. However, the invitations is in the context of a request – it is not clear from whom – that the Tribunal "undertake a broad review of its policies, procedures and practices with a view to assessing and improving its process from a variety of perspectives". While any review designed to improve the Tribunal’s processes is welcomed, the employer community might well be concerned, given what has occurred over the last year, that hoped-for amendments to the Human Rights Code may end here, with a review of Tribunal processes.
Temporary Foreign Workers in British Columbia
Policy Perspectives v18 n3
Canada has a long tradition of attracting immigrants to become permanent residents. Immigration built the country and is the foundation for much of the growth in the post WWII era. The context for international migration, however, is changing and being reshaped. The globalization of labour markets, instant access to information from around the world, greater connectivity and reduced transportation costs, and the expansion of trade have all made international migration a possibility for a larger share of the world’s population than in the past. The result is a significant increase in the volume and types of movement between many jurisdictions. While permanent population movements still dominate migration patterns to advanced countries, there are now greater numbers of temporary movements for work and education-related reasons. While Canadian international migration policy remains focused on permanent settlement, the shifting global landscape, an aging domestic workforce, a large number of major projects in the pipeline, the growing need for highly specialized skills, and regional labour disparities all point to a greater role for temporary workers in B.C. in many sectors.
Another Quarter of Modest Growth For BC
BC Economic Index v10 n2
In the second quarter of 2011 the BC Economic Index posted a 0.8% quarterly increase. As an indicator of current economic conditions, this reading suggests the provincial economy is growing at a modest pace following similar performances in both the first quarter and the fourth quarter of 2010. Given the economic recovery is just two years old, this rate of expansion is not particularly strong. But against the backdrop of rising global uncertainty and ongoing malaise in the US, another interpretation is that BC’s economy is holding up relatively well.
The Natural Gas Story
Environment and Energy Bulletin v3 n2
Both globally and in North America, natural gas is poised to play a bigger role in meeting the energy needs of consumers, businesses and communities. Recent discoveries of large unconventional (shale) gas deposits in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe have heightened awareness that natural gas is an abundant, widely distributed and cost-effective energy source. Many analysts also see natural gas as a “foundation” fuel that can help to pave the way to a lower-carbon energy future. And with a number of countries – Japan, Germany, etc. – now looking at reducing their reliance on nuclear power, the global appetite for natural gas seems poised to increase markedly in the coming years.
Transportation Infrastructure for a Globally Conneted BC Economy
Policy Perspectives v18 n2
Infrastructure is the sometimes invisible and seldom discussed backbone of a modern economy. A region’s infrastructure affects the quality of life enjoyed by citizens, the competitive position of businesses, and the potential for long-term gains in productivity and incomes. As a small economy, BC depends heavily on trade with other countries and provinces to generate income, employment and tax revenues. Both the profit margins on exports and the costs of imported goods are linked to the efficiency of the freight transportation system. As a gateway to the Asia Pacific, BC’s transportation sector is more than a facilitator of trade. In connecting Asian countries with other North American jurisdictions, the industry generates its own export earnings, apart from the enabling economic activity more broadly. Transportation as an industry looms larger in BC than in other provinces.
Moderate Expansion Continues in 2011
BC Economic Index v10 n1
The BC Economic Index posted a 0.6% quarterly increase in the first quarter of the year, essentially matching the Q4 2010 rise. The good news is that consecutive quarterly gains in the Index of this magnitude indicate the economy is on a solid footing. But a cautionary note is that growth remains on the soft side considering the depth of the 2008/09 recession. With growth having slowed quite sharply from the early stages of the recovery, BC’s unemployment rate remains in excess of 8%. For it to move lower will require more job creation which ultimately depends on a return to more robust economic conditions.
A New World Order Takes Shape
Policy Perspectives v18 n1
How long before a surging China eclipses a struggling United States as the largest national economy? The question takes on new significance as the world continues to recover from the 2008-09 financial crisis and economic downturn.
Lessons Learned from the Prosperity Mine Decision:
Enhancing Project Certainty Through a Social Licence Strategy
Environment and Energy Bulletin v3 n1
Since the Federal Cabinet’s decision in November, 2010 to prohibit the proposed Prosperity Mine project from proceeding, questions have arisen about how this outcome came to pass, especially in circumstances where the project was previously approved through the British Columbia environmental assessment process and received strong words of support from the BC Government. One only has to consider the voluminous media coverage of this dilemma to understand the answer and to gain an appreciation of what now appears to be the most critical ingredient for success in any major resource project proposal. The critical ingredient? - “social licence” to develop and operate the project.