Vancouver, B.C. – October 10, 2019 - The Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC), in the lead up to the 2019 federal election, has released the results of a survey conducted among its members comprised of the largest and leading employers in every sector of the province’s economy. The results identify the top five issues in the election as seen by B.C. senior executives and also gauge their current levels of optimism about the economy.
The top-ranked issue, by a sizable margin, is the need for a broad review and overhaul of Canada’s outdated and increasingly complex tax system. There are several reasons why tax reform has become a priority: an aging population, shifts in technology, and growing pressure to address Canada’s waning global appeal as a location to deploy new investment now and into the digital future.
The second most cited issue in our survey is developing a more innovative and productive economy, followed by boosting investment in trade enabling-infrastructure to support Canada’s participation in international markets and supply chains. Business leaders would also like to see Ottawa pay greater attention to regulatory efficiency and outcome-based regulations. Rounding out the top five issues is ensuring that Canada has an effective and credible climate policy.
“None of the issues recognized by our members are new,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO of BCBC. “Yet they haven’t been discussed in much detail by any of the federal leaders, nor have the federal parties identified practical approaches to making progress on these issues in their platforms. This is concerning as each challenge has been highlighted by our organization on behalf of B.C. employers for years. Without action in these areas, the next government will be hard pressed to move the dial on improving Canada’s largely stagnant standard of living.”
The survey results also reveal the level of optimism or pessimism about the future of the Canadian economy among B.C.’s business leaders. The results show that 40% of respondents are pessimistic about Canada’s prospects in the medium-term. Only four percent are “very optimistic”, 28% are “somewhat optimistic” and one quarter are neutral, being neither optimistic nor pessimistic.
“There are many factors contributing to the less than bright future that many of our members foresee for the Canadian economy,” said Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice-President and Chief Policy Officer with BCBC. “Ongoing trade disputes, geo-political disruption, and the lack of clarity and certainty in the Canadians economic environment are pushing business sentiment in the wrong direction and dampening investment plans. To be competitive in the global context, Canadian companies need to scale up and increase productivity. And for that to happen, all levels of government must work to improve the environment for private sector investment, risk-taking and innovation.”
Of those who completed the survey, many offered suggestions for whichever party forms the next federal government. The advice provided included: putting more focus on the economy; promoting investment into Canada; and reviewing/reforming tax policy to make Canada competitive with other jurisdictions.
“The advice given by senior business leaders in the province should not be relegated to the sidelines,” said Mr. D’Avignon. “As identified in a recent BCBC publication, Canada has not kept up with peer jurisdictions in raising the standard of living. While many other countries are taking deliberate measures to improve productivity, Canadians saw a sizable deterioration in relative living standards vis-à-vis other advanced economies between 2007 and 2018. The concerns coming from boardroom tables also affect the kitchen table, as we are currently seeing.”
About the Business Council of British Columbia
Now in its 53rd year as the premier business organization in British Columbia, the Business Council of B.C. is a non-partisan organization made up of 200 of the leading and largest companies, post-secondary institutions and industry organizations from across B.C.'s diverse economy. The Council produces high quality public policy research and advocacy in support of creating a competitive economy for the benefit of all British Columbians.
Director, External and Strategic Communications