Opinion: Unfortunately, since 2000, B.C.'s proportion of international exports of goods and services has tumbled from 34 per cent of GDP to 23 per cent.
As British Columbians welcome the province’s 37th premier, we have a collective opportunity to reflect on the state of the province, our economy and the need to improve the well-being of those who live here.
Premier David Eby comes to office with an ambitious agenda focused on housing, health care, mental health, the environment and public safety. These are big challenges that must be tackled with resources, collaboration and partnership across communities, governments, institutions, and the public and private sectors.
The Business Council is committed to working with the incoming premier and his cabinet colleagues in advancing solutions that enable a high quality of life for all.
The reality is that to lift people up and provide and enhance the services we expect and rely on in a just and inclusive society, a solid economic foundation is required to provide a sustainable tax base for governments and growing personal incomes for individuals and families.
For British Columbians to share in and benefit from economic prosperity, that prosperity must first be generated.
B.C. is fortunate to be rich in economic advantages, talented people and potential. We are home to innovators and entrepreneurs advancing solutions for global challenges, including food security, climate and personal health.
We have proximity to international markets that need our low-carbon natural resources, minerals and energy to enable a net-zero emissions future. B.C.’s business community has a strong ethos toward creating sustainable and diverse companies, advancing meaningful reconciliation and supporting the communities in which they live and operate.
Despite these advantages, B.C. isn’t reaching its full potential.
Canada is projected to rank last among OECD countries in real GDP per capita growth, the main driver of wage growth. If productivity had grown at the same rate since 2000 as it did in the prior decades, the average income in Canada would be $13,550 higher. While B.C.’s productivity growth may prove to be slightly higher, it provides no basis for complacency.
We live in an increasingly competitive world where countries like the U.S., Australia and European Union members are aggressively taking action to attract investment and talented workers that grow sustainable economies.
B.C. and Canada have the potential to be leaders, but it’s time to focus on outcomes and act together with urgency and a common purpose.
We need to boost exports. It’s a simple and effective way to grow the economic pie and inject revenues into B.C. from customers who want what we sell. Exports help us purchase items in the global marketplace that we don’t produce here, like health-care equipment and medicines, electric vehicles and smartphones.
Furthermore, energy, commodities and other goods produced in B.C. are on average half the GHG intensity of those supplied by other jurisdictions. Using B.C. exports supports the global energy transition and will reduce high-emitting countries’ GHG emissions.
Unfortunately, B.C. (and Canada) have retreated from international trade. International exports of goods and services accounted for 34 per cent of GDP in 2000. Two decades later in B.C. this proportion has tumbled to 23 per cent. In virtually every other advanced OECD economy the opposite has occurred. The relative size and contribution of the export sector has increased over the past 20 years.
B.C. must be seen as a welcome place for the private sector to invest and earn a return within reasonable timelines. This must be done while including Indigenous Peoples as owners in projects and operations. It’s not a question of choosing between economic growth and environmental protection; together, we can do both.
We need to simplify the increasingly uncertain and costly regulatory system that has increased complexity over time. This is not about cutting corners but about prioritizing what matters. With clarity on decision-making processes major investors, local companies and communities can clearly see a path forward as they choose where in the world to place capital, including ESG-driven capital.
We support Eby’s vision of a B.C. where everyone can build a good life. If we get things right, the new premier can position B.C. as an attractive place for capital, talent and scaling innovative businesses that support growing wages, a net-zero economy, reconciliation, a strong social safety net and a high quality of life for all who call the province home.
Greg D’Avignon is president and CEO of the Business Council of B.C.