The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade will be actively engaging in the 2017 Provincial Election, to ensure the priorities of our Members are part of the conversations on the campaign trail.
Earlier this year, we released our 2017 Provincial Election Platform, which identified five "priority focus areas" for the election and made specific recommendations to the parties.
As the parties roll out their own platforms in the weeks leading up to Election Day, we will be using this dashboard to assess their policies, provide our Members with key insights, and determine whether the priorities of our region's business community are adequately reflected in each party's vision for the province.
5 priority Focus Areas
While we are encouraged by the recent progress on public transit expansion and improvement, we remain concerned that the strength of our families, businesses, and overall economy will be negatively impacted should dedication to meaningful, timely transit and transportation investments waver.
In the coming years, an adequate public transit system that is well prepared for population growth will be critical in ensuring a high quality of life and business competitiveness within Greater Vancouver. Scorecard 2016 found that the region currently lags in this area, earning only a "C" grade for both its proportion of non-car commuters and its average commuting time. Significant bottlenecks in the movement of goods and people hamper our ability to ensure we maintain a highly efficient and environmentally responsible gateway.
To address transit and transportation issues, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade recommends that the next Provincial Government:
- Build on the momentum created by recent Phase 1 transit funding with continued investment in road and transit expansion and improvements, with projects such as:
- Rapid transit expansion in Surrey and to Langley
- Broadway Millennium Line extension
- 10-lane bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel
- Region-wide bus service expansion
- Pattullo Bridge 6-lane replacement
- More frequent Seabus service
- Take a leadership role in working with local governments and communities to pursue mobility pricing (e.g. road tolling, distance pricing, etc.) to fund further investments in public transit and roads; and
- Establish a new provincial regulatory framework which introduces ridesharing to the Province and provides residents with greater access to safe and reliable passenger transportation options:
- Review and update taxi regulations to enable the industry to effectively compete against new services and provide consumers with the benefits of a more competitive ride-for-hire market;
- Modernize provincial regulations and harmonize municipal regulations to remove unnecessary red tape and establish a regulatory regime which fosters innovation and competition.
Greater Vancouver has significant opportunity for improvement when it comes to the ability to successfully compete for human capital.
Scorecard 2016 highlighted the need for Greater Vancouver to more effectively attract, develop, and retain a well-educated and diverse workforce. As it stands, our region earns only a "C" grade for the proportion of the population age 25 or over with a bachelor's degree or higher, and a "D" for proportion of population 25-34 years.
Our overall lack of affordability reduces the region's ability to attract and retain talent, particularly when it comes to younger demographics. In turn, decreased access to skilled human capital has the potential to deter businesses from locating or growing in our region.
To ensure that businesses in our region are able to attract, develop, and retain talented workers, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade recommends that the next Provincial Government:
- Work with municipalities to remove barriers to development and find ways to incentivize growth, density, and diversity in the housing stock;
- Ensure that funds collected under the new foreign buyer tax are appropriately and transparently allocated to affordability initiatives;
- Explore the causes of low housing affordability in affected areas of our Province, with particular attention to its impact on human capital;
- Develop a robust plan to explore and address the challenges of attracting and retaining human capital within the Greater Vancouver region;
- Work with the Federal Government to explore the human capital benefits of increasing access to affordable child care; and
- Collaborate with the business community and mental health care NGOs to ensure that the public health-care system provides timely, quality, and accessible mental health care and addiction services.
A competitive environment is necessary to retain existing businesses and to attract new investment to the province. The GVBOT is concerned that recent legislative tax developments are placing B.C. at a competitive disadvantage.
As highlighted in Scorecard 2016, another significant regional challenge is the high marginal effective tax rate on capital investment. The region received a "C" grade, ranking behind both Toronto and Calgary, which received "A" grades. There must be a concerted effort to leverage our region's distinct advantages and to ensure that an environment is created in which market forces can drive growth, and build a better economy for all residents of British Columbia.
To ensure that our province is able to create a more competitive business environment, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade recommends that the next Provincial Government:
- Create an investment tax exemption, or similar mechanism, to encourage machinery and other equipment acquisitions;
- Investigate improvements to the PST that will lower the Marginal Effective Tax Rate; and
- Work with local governments and the business community to develop a coordinated and region-specific strategy for the Lower Mainland that leverages our unique clusters and advantages.
B.C. is an important transportation gateway for the entire country. In a province founded and grown on the extraction and movement of resources and goods, our geography is our most valuable resource.
This strategic advantage must be leveraged through policies which ensure the continued growth and efficiency of our gateway. It requires the promotion of both interprovincial and international trade, and the development of the physical infrastructure necessary to move our goods and resources to markets.
The future of our regional, provincial, and national economies will be dependent on how effectively our gateway is able to connect us with economies around the world.
To ensure we maintain a highly efficient and environmentally responsible gateway, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade recommends that the next Provincial Government:
- Strengthen inter-provincial trade relations, ensuring that any new Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) guarantees greater inter-provincial recognition of qualifications, and find ways to better enable small and medium-sized businesses to export to new markets;
- Support an industry-led program to permanently improve B.C.'s SME exporting performance in a coordinated, aligned and strategic way, collaborating with government, industry stakeholders, First Nations and entrepreneurs;
- Continue implementing a practical, realistic, and timely action plan aimed at bringing new projects online and signalling B.C.'s readiness to serve global markets for LNG, oil and gas, and other natural resources which drive our economy forward;
- Making strategic and appropriate investments in trade-enabling infrastructure, including:
- Port expansion at Roberts Bank Terminal 2; and
- Increased rail capacity in the Lower Mainland;
- Take immediate inventory of industrial land in the Province, and continue to develop a comprehensive provincial land use strategy which includes protection of industrial land within an overall economic strategy; and 6. Explore new ways to enable small and medium size businesses to tap into foreign markets.
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade expects all parties running to form the next Provincial Government to develop a fully costed and financially responsible election platform. Our organization recognizes that B.C.'s current financial outlook compares very well to those of the other Canadian provinces. This enviable position must be safeguarded.
In addition to all our recommendations above, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade urges all parties to pursue prudent fiscal management, discipline, and to commit to managing spending growth in the delivery of core services.Read our analysis