B.C. Economy Facing Increasing Uncertainty
Salmon farming decision lacking clarity and increasing complexity to the detriment of BC industry which employs thousands in Indigenous and remote communities
June 20, 2018 (Vancouver, BC) - The Business Council of British Columbia is growing increasingly concerned about the sustainability of BC’s economy and the cumulative impact of provincial government decisions over the medium term. Today’s announcement on salmon farm tenures adds complexity and uncertainty for companies looking to invest and support year-round, middle class jobs in the province.
Today’s decision potentially sows the seeds of uncertainty that will reap economic challenges for generations of British Columbians on Vancouver Island, the North Coast and across the province in remote, rural, Indigenous and resource dependent communities.
“Today’s announcement makes it very difficult for the aquaculture industry to continue to operate with the certainty that is required in business and to employ thousands of residents living in remote and Indigenous communities,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Business Council of British Columbia. “The province’s announcement sets out unattainable criteria and unclear expectations. Requiring DFO to prove absolutes is nearly impossible in a complex ocean environment."
The Business Council has for the last several years been actively leading discussions and relationship building necessary to accelerate reconciliation, including working with leaders on shared decision-making processes. However, this policy requiring Indigenous consent in the absence of shared decision-making processes, clear rules for accountability, and mechanisms to address overlapping territory or disagreements among First Nations will pit First Nations, communities and companies against each other.
Our concern is that in this ambiguity, the result will be greater uncertainty that undermines the trust required to advance reconciliation and relationships. The consequences will adversely affect communities, people’s year-round jobs and investment in related industries, including manufacturing, hospitality and transportation.
“What is being forgotten in all of this are the people on Northern Vancouver Island and in coastal communities who depend on year-round employment in BC’s largest agricultural industry, salmon farming” said D’Avignon. “Capital and time intensive industries – particularly those in agriculture – cannot operate or invest with any certainty on a month to month basis. This will impact small businesses that rely on the availability and movement of product, boat and net repair shops, fish processing plants, hospitality, transportation, veterinarians and Indigenous business operators and fish farm owners. It will affect training programs at North Island College and research activities at Vancouver Island University.”
This decision goes beyond the local or regional issues at hand.
“We need an honest conversation as a society about how we facilitate rather than restrain sustainable economic development for British Columbians living across the province,” said D’Avignon. “In order to foster greater economic certainty and reconciliation, public policy decisions must be thoughtful, well researched and based on science and shared facts.”
Sustainable development of our land base is a significant source of employment and prosperity for all British Columbians. Over $25 billion in annual economic activity and nearly 75% of our merchandise exports are derived from operations on BC crown land, which accounts for 95% of our province’s land mass, the most in Canada. The more than 60,000 leases and land tenures granted by the province on crown land are directly responsible for supporting pay cheques and community prosperity on everything from agricultural growing, rearing and grazing lands, to mines, forestry operations, transportation infrastructure, energy and energy transmission, construction, infrastructure, Indigenous economic activity, research to resorts, recreational property and tourism uses.
“Leases and access to crown land with certainty enable sustainable activity and investment that have allowed people, communities, entrepreneurs and government to create livelihoods in their home communities,” said D’Avignon. “The result has been the creation of jobs, world class companies, small businesses and revenues for government to provide the broad array of services and a quality of life we enjoy in BC and across the country. This is at risk as governments propose policies that erode the certainty and confidence over the medium term required by people and companies to invest and create jobs in British Columbia.
“The cumulation of government decisions, reviews and regulation is growing Canada and BC’s reputation as a place that is too complex, costly and uncertain to invest in, let alone expand a business or create and preserve jobs,” said D’Avignon. “This uncertainty is starting to have an impact today, but more concerning is the impact it will have across the economy tomorrow.”
About the Business Council of British Columbia
Now in its 52nd year as the premier business organization in British Columbia, the Business Council of B.C. is a non-partisan organization made up of 250 leading companies, post-secondary institutions and industry associations from across B.C.'s diverse economy. The Council produces exceptional public policy research and advocacy in support of creating a competitive economy for the benefit of all British Columbians. bcbc.com
Cheryl Maitland Muir