Following the disastrous fire of June 13, 1886, when all but one of Vancouver’s buildings were destroyed, Vancouver businessmen held a number of meetings to discuss the need for some kind of business organization that could help to rebuild the young city.
On September 22, 1887, such a meeting was held under the chairmanship of alderman R. Clark and the decision was made to form a Board of Trade. A pro tem secretary was chosen, in the person of John Devine.
On November 24, 1887, a Charter was issued, which made the new organization official and gave it its name: The Vancouver Board of Trade.
David Oppenheimer was the first president chosen at the small offices in the Gilmour & Clark Block. The Board’s first bank account was with the Bank of British North America. Some of The Board's first mandates were:
Abolition of dual direct taxation (city and provincial) on personal property in the City of Vancouver. Consultation with the Attorney General was requested.
Need for resident judge — population of Vancouver: 5,000.
Need for Land Registry Office in the city.
Need for court house in the city.
Request that the government set aside 50 acres of government land at Hastings townsite for a public park.
Need for a bridge across the north arm of Fraser River and a road to the city to transport produce to Vancouver.
Encouragement to those developing mines.
September 22, 1887: Thirty-one businessmen agreed to form a Board of Trade to rebuild Vancouver after the Great Fire. It was incorporated federally under the Board of Trade Act. The Board received its official charter on November 24, 1887 and its first headquarters was a tiny office in teh Gilmour and Clark building.
City Mayor David Oppenheimer became president and The Board sent a list of objectives to the provincial secretary demanding facilities and services for Vancouver. It also called for direct taxation to be abolished.
The Board pressed for the establishment of a submarine cable for communication between Australia and the West Coast of Canada.
The Board lobbied for steamship service to northern points to promote trade and open the country. Application was made to the Dominion government for the construction of a railway through Crows Nest Pass, to open up the Kootenay district. The eventual access provided by the railway to the great mineral wealth of the Boundary and Kootenay country was a tremendous stimulus to the whole province.
Gold was discovered in the Yukon and men by the hundreds trekked north through the province, establishing for all time Vancouver as the "Gateway to the North."
A five-day steamer service from Seattle to Skagway with a stop at Vancouver was inaugurated as a result of Board of Trade pressure.
Finally, to the immense satisfaction of The Board, the first cable was laid from Banfield on Vancouver Island to Fanning Island, south of the Hawaiian Islands; from there to Suva; on to Auckland, New Zealand; and then to Sydney, Australia.
Realizing the growing importance of Vancouver as a port and that its fame was spreading to many faraway places, The Board advocated a new city hall to the City of Vancouver.
Vancouver's port became the first in the Dominion in number of customs entries and clearance.
Opening of the Dominion Post Office, another Board success.
The Board introduced the idea of Daylight Saving Time for the summer months.
Membership rose to 1,000. A special Act of Parliament created the Vancouver Harbour Board, and The Board persuaded the federal government to dredge First Narrows for shipping.
Capilano Park came into being through The Vancouver Board of Trade; land is donated by the B.C. Electric Company. In 1946, The Board donated the land to the Vancouver Parks Board for the permanent use of the public.
The Board made a grant to the University of British Columbia for the purpose of establishing a Faculty of Commerce, and assisted in the formation of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
At the 60th Annual General Meeting, Wendy MacDonald became the first woman member.
The Board's 10 bureaus and 10 standing committees worked on campaigns, exhibitions, luncheons, educational products, endorsements and representations to all levels of government. The transportation bureau campaigned on freight rates for the Trans-Canada Highway and for a large city airport.
The Board predicted conventions and tourism would be a major industry in North America. It campaigned for a metro transit authority and an examination of regional transportation issues.
The Board took its Annual Report to the public for the first time.
The Board became a member of the World Trade Centers Association, providing communications links to more than 300 trade centres globally.
Symbolic of its growing focus on the Pacific, The Board moved into the oceanfront World Trade Centre Vancouver and hosted the General Assembly of the World Trade Centers Association. The Board also championed and hosted the signing of the Asia Pacific Initiative (authored for the federal and provincial cabinets by Board managing director, Darcy Rezac, and chief economist, John Hansen). This was a federal-provincial economic development agreement featuring devolution of Vancouver International Airport, the establishment of the International Banking Centre and a proposal for legislation for an International Maritime Centre. Chairman Graham Clarke hosted U.S. Vice-President George Bush as a speaker.
The 100th anniversary of The Board. A new corporate identity, the logo and crest, was designed. A separate identity was developed for World Trade Centre Vancouver to give it a higher profile. The Board's by-laws were also changed to make all past elected chairmen governors of The Vancouver Board of Trade. As such, they would be welcome to attend board meetings and speak to motions but not vote. To this day, some governors regularly attend monthly board meetings. An inaugural Governor's Banquet, now an annual fund-raising tradition for The Board, was held in May 1987 at The Pan Pacific Hotel, where B.C. Lt.-Gov. Bob Rogers invested 28 governors. The event featured a reception alongside Canada Place aboard four naval vessels, the HMCS Nadon band and a 100-person honour guard from the militia. The Business Hall of Fame was also inaugurated to recognize organizations that have made a contribution to B.C. for 100 years or more. This year, Chairman Bob Kadlec hosted HRH Prince Philip as a speaker. George Pratt was poointed The Board's sculptor-in-residence and presented Prince Philip with a whale carved from rare West Coast rainforest marble.
The Board championed the Free Trade Agreement with the United States; this included mailing 250,000 pamphlets to B.C. households. The campaign was repeated a few years later with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Board also began work in support of the parallel runway at YVR, resulting in Runway 26R/08L opening a few years later.
The Board attended its first World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Since then, The Board has been an active institutional member with this leading global institution. This is a unique privilege for a chamber of commerce. The Board was also invited to join the World Economic Forum (WEF) as an Institutional Member, of which there is only a handful in the world.
The Board launched the federal Debt Clock. See Debt Clock facts and article. The Board also led a mission to Ottawa and Washington, DC, accompanied by Mayor Gordon Campbell, to successfully lobby for fast lanes at the border for business. The result was the PACE lanes in B.C. and, subsequently, CANPASS. Larry Bell and David McLean founded The Vancouver Board of Trade Foundation.
Sounding Board, The Board's monthly newspaper, switched to a tabloid format and advertising was sold for the first time. Rogers Cable TV (now Shaw) also began to regularly televise Board speaker programs.
The Board and Volunteer Vancouver co-founded the Leadership Vancouver Society. The Board also took a lead role in advocating a local airport authority in Vancouver; YVRAA was established when the federal cabinet approved the transfer of Vancouver International Airport to the local authority under a 60-year lease, with governor Graham Clarke and managing director Darcy Rezac as founding directors. The Minister of Transport also apporved the new runway for YVR which The Board had supported.
The Board was a founding member of the Coalition of B.C. Businesses. The Board's annual Economic Outlook seminar was launched.
The Board successfully lobbied City Hall to reduce property taxes for business by 1.5 per cent and began Networking Roundtables and monthly Members' Receptions.
The Board initiated the first Kansai-Canada West Business Forum with over 300 delegates, 80 from Japan. It also launched The Property Crime Task Force which published its report amid much publicity; the new chief of police adopted the report's recommendations. The Board was active in promoting an expansion of the Convention Centre on the Marathon lands. Director Terry Hui and his software firm, MultiActive, launched The Board's first web site, boardoftrade.com in September.
The second Kansai-Canada West Business Forum was held in Kobe, Japan.
In March, then federal Finance Minister Paul Martin was invited to a meeting of over 800 members of The Board and guests at the Hyatt Regency to stop The Board's federal Debt Clock, just shy of $600 billion. The story was covered from coast to coast and was reported worldwide. See Debt Clock facts and article. Work started on the 2010 Olypmic bid. The first B.C. Business Summit was held with 800 delegates. Community Affairs began an examination of early childhood development, in co-operation with the YWCA. The Advanced Technology Task Force was set up.
The Board introduced the Leaders of Tomorrow Mentorship Program® student initiative, a program that matches post-secondary students with business mentors. In the first year, 200 students joined.
At the millennium, then chairman Rick Turner named The Board's Leaders of Tomorrow Mentorship Program® with 200 students joining in the first year. Through lobbying, The Board achieved a total cumulative reduction of 8.7 per cent of the civic portion of business property tax. The Early Childhood Development Task Force Report, The Convention Centre Expansion Task Force Report and The Leisure, Entertainment and Arts Task Force Report and a task force report on airport governance were published. The Board began giving regular networking seminars as part of the monthly members' receptions and The Board incorporated The Vancouver Board of Trade Foundation as a charity.
With the goal of recapturing the spirit of Vancouver, The Board launched Spirit of Vancouver® to rally business and community leaders to revitalize community spirit and inaugurated the Greater Vancouver Leadership Summit. Carole Taylor volunteered to take the lead with Spirit of Vancouver, resulting in saving the fireworks and renaming them the HSBC Power Smart Celebration of Light and the launch of a new event, Symphony in the Park. The Managers' ToolboxTM series was developed as an important product offering for small business members and the Community Leadership Summit was launched. The Board's web site, board of trade.com was re-launched with new features that include online registration for events.
The Board's web site, boardoftrade.com had grown to more than 2,200 pages and traffic had climbed to 15,000 visits per month. As a result of efforts spearheaded by The Board, civic property taxes from business to residential properties shifted by a half percent, bringing the cumulative shift to 9.2 per cent.
The Board released its Report on Property Crime in Vancouver. Managing director, Darcy Rezac published a book in February with partners Gayle Hallgren and Judy Thomson, titled The Frog and Prince, Secrets of Positive NetworkingTM. Vancouver's successful bid for the 2010 Olympics was celebrated under the Spirit of Vancouver brand.
The Board hosted the inaugural meeting of the Greater Vancouver Chambers RoundtableTM for all of the chambers of commerce in the Lower Mainland and surrounding region to introduce Spirit of Vancouver 2010TM, encouraging engagement in the planning of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Board was also successful in forming a coalition to demand a new vote by the 2005 TransLink board to save the controversial Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) rapid transit line. The Canadian Chamber adopted a Board resolution on the subject of property crime/sentencing of chronic offenders.
Construction started on the RAV line. The Board hosted the inaugural BC Economic ForumTM and the 2,100-delegate Hong Kong-Guangdong Business Forum in Canada, welcoming Governor Huang Huahua of the People's Government of Guangdong Province, Chief Executive Donald Tsang of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and hundreds of senior Chinese business delegates. An update crime report was issued and Vancouver City Council approved significant staffing increases for the Vancouver Police Department, one of the goals that The Board has been pursuing. The Board exceeded 5,000 members for the first time in its 118-year history. At the American Chamber of Commerce Executives conference, The Board won first place for "Net Gain in New Member Dollars," with dues income over $1,000,000. The Transit Commission, comprised of more than a dozen municipal mayors, voted to kill the long-awaited and much needed rapid transit line from Richmond and the airport to downtown Vancouver (the RAV line). When this happened, a coalition of 38 associations was formed by the Board. Open-line interviews, opinion polling, op-ed newspaper articles and a flurry of public meetings ensued. Another vote was called and the project was approved. The Board initiated the "Three Legged Stool" campaign to reduce business property taxes. The Board took a very active stance on crime, pressing again and again for the media to focus on the victim's surveys rather than crimes reported to police. Shortly afterward, the Prime Minister Harper's government announced a series of measures to deal with crime, many of which responded to The Board's concerns.
The Board's involvement with the Fair Tax Coalition resulting in a one-per-cent reduction in business property taxes brings the total tax reduction to 10.2 per cent. Lobbying for crime reduction led to the approval of 31 additional police officers and 46 civilian positions for the Vancouver Police Department. The Board also released its landmark report, Reforming the Canadian Health Care System, and launched the Knowledge for the BoardroomTM — Dedicated to Corporate and Public Stewardship seminar series. Following the success of the Leaders of Tomorrow Mentorship ProgramTM (LOT), The Board launched the The Company of Young ProfessionalsTM (CYP), a program catering to young professionals under the age of 35.
As membership reached a record high of 5,600 members, The Board won the Best New Membership Recruitment category in the World Chambers Competition 2007 awarded at the 5th World Chambers Congress in Istanbul. The Board continued its work with the Vancouver Fair Tax Coalition to achieve a freeze on business property taxes at 2006 levels. A Health Clock tracked the number of dollars spent per second on B.C. health care, and new programs included: The Company of Young ProfessionalsTM (CYP), Women in Business Toolkit, the Quality of Life DialoguesTM and the PACIFIC ECONOMIC FORUMTM Leadership Series.
Membership surpassed its previous record, reaching 5,810. Following Board recommendations resulting in a total 12 per cent shift over the years, Vancouver City Council approved a one-per-cent shift per year in property taxes for the next five years; frequent flyer miles were collected to launch the Con Air program to fund the return of out-of-province criminals; work on Canada-U.S. relations led to government discussions and a report on cross-border access; a more objective governance model for TransLink was adopted; the call for savings plans was recognized in the federal budget with a $5,000 tax-free investment provision and the provincial government eliminated capital tax on financial institutions. New events and programs launched included the P3 Forum and The Women’s Leadership Circle® (WLC).
The Board resurrected its federal Debt Clock online to monitor the government’s deficit after its economic stimulus package. The Board organized an anti-crime Mission to Ottawa to meet leading politicians and officials. StatsCan recognized that annual figures sourced from police-reported crime alone should not define "the national crime rate," and agreed with The Board’s call for annual Criminal Victimization Surveys. The Board founded the Metro Roundtable for municipalities to discuss regional issues. The Canada Line opened at a ceremony thanking The Board for initially saving it. The Board of Trade’s Rix Center for Corporate Citizenship & Engaged Leadership was founded by then-chairman Dr. Don Rix, CM, OBC – a forum of corporate citizenship, enabling business to link with the broader community to benefit both …connecting for good® The Center presented its inaugural Engaged Citizenship awards.
Another one-per-cent shift per year in Vancouver property tax reductions for businesses equated to an estimated $43 million savings per year for business. The Board released a follow-up Kids ‘N Crime Economic Report.
The Board of Trade released reform recommendations in its report, The Joint Pursuit of Value, joined the Smart Tax Alliance in support of retaining the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), and launched the first-ever Aboriginal Opportunities Forum. In August, The Board of Trade announced the appointment of new President and CEO Iain Black.
The Board of Trade released a landmark report entitled Psychologically Healthy Workplaces: Improving Bottom Line Results and Employee Psychological Well-Being. Chair Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia led an urban economic mission to London, England and Milan, Italy. Following a comprehensive multi-year review process, a refreshed set of bylaws were passed at The Board’s 125th AGM, reflecting best practices in association governance.
Under the leadership of Chair Ken Martin, The Board of Trade launched its new Policy Council , which will better coordinate the work of its committees and will re-establish a strong voice for The Vancouver Board of Trade in the policy arena. In 2012-2013, The Board of Trade advocated on behalf of the city’s business community on issues such as the proposed Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP) legislation in B.C., the City of Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 Plan, the proposed replacement of the George Massey Tunnel, the proposed removal of Vancouver’s downtown viaducts, the need for mobile business licenses in Metro Vancouver, and the importance of Open Skies legislation to support growth at our airport. In June 2013, The Board of Trade also hosted the largest gala event in its 126-year history — Joe Segal, An Extraordinary Life. The event drew more than 1,500 people and raised a whopping $2.3 million for Coast Mental Health.
The History of Metropolitan Vancouver
For more on the history of The Vancouver Board of Trade, visit Chuck Davis's web site featuring Biz Biz on The Board's history excerpts from his forthcoming book, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver (The Board is the lead sponsor).