So far, through the pandemic, British Columbians have successfully come together while staying apart, with common purpose and care to ensure everyone is safe. We have heeded the sound advice of health authorities to address the worst global health crisis in a century.
At the same time, COVID-19 has delivered a huge blow to our economy, hurting many workers and business owners. We are in the early stages of what will be the biggest economic downturn in many decades. What we expect from government will be challenged as shrinking revenues constrain public spending. All of this will take place in a more competitive world populated with increasingly self-interested nations.
Today, over 230,000 British Columbians are out of work and tens of thousands of the province’s half million businesses may close permanently. Women, youth, and those most vulnerable have been disproportionately affected. Businesses have shut down or reduced operations to protect staff and the public. Their owners, whose life savings often are tied up in their store or service, face a difficult, uncertain road. The pandemic has also exposed underlying and growing challenges that have existed in the B.C. economy for years.
We hold in our power the ability to chart a new normal that delivers a stronger, more inclusive, and more prosperous future for all British Columbians. To do so, B.C. must boldly tackle the threats to our quality of life head on, including affordability challenges for households and businesses. These include high housing costs, heavy regulatory burdens and feeble productivity that slows wage growth.
Stronger Tomorrow, Starting Today is a plan to work together today for a better tomorrow. It is a path toward new investment, partnerships, and bold actions that will get British Columbians rehired and employed in new jobs in every part of the province. It is a commitment to work with all levels of government to deliver on these solutions.
The first part of the plan is focused on immediate actions to spur private and public investment and spark job recovery and job creation. Recommendations include expanding access to child care; accelerating investments in trade, transportation, and digital infrastructure; implementing an 18-month pause on new regulations that would increase business costs and stifle rehiring; and reducing the PST to 3.5 per cent for two years to bolster consumer affordability and small business survival.
The second part of the plan maps out 19 recommendations to build a better future: improving the conditions for hiring and private sector investment; empowering people, talent and skills; accelerating homegrown innovation; and making the world cleaner with our low-carbon advantage.
The Stronger Tomorrow, Starting Today plan provides clear actions that can build confidence and help to establish the conditions necessary for a prosperous future. B.C. starts with some advantages, including a highly educated and innovative population, a global low-carbon advantage in natural resources and manufactured goods, world-class health care, strong social safety nets and educational institutions, and proximity to major global markets. This is a solid foundation for job growth and a better quality of life if we act with purpose.
Each of these has a part to play in the recovery and in seizing the opportunity to move to a more inclusive and healthier life personally, environmentally, and economically.
Jeff Zweig is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mosaic Forest Management and the Chair of the Business Council of B.C. Greg D’Avignon is President and CEO of the Business Council of B.C.
As published in the Vancouver Sun.