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From the desk of the President & CEO

Earlier today Premier Christy Clark announced changes in cabinet responsibilities. This communication summarizes those changes, and offers some commentary to you as business leaders in Greater Vancouver.

 

  • Peter Fassbender (former Education Minister) is now Minister of Community, Sport, Cultural Development … and Minister Responsible for Translink.
  • Coralee Oakes (former Minister of Community, Sport, Cultural Development) is now Minister of Small Business, Red-Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch.
  • Naomi Yamamoto (former Minister of State for Small Business) is now Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness (reporting to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure).
  • Mike Bernier is promoted into cabinet as the new Minister of Education.

Summary of Commentary

  • There’s a net addition of one minister (Mike Bernier).
  • Returning the small business file to a “full” ministry vs. a Ministry of State is welcome news. It reflects the government’s understanding that small businesses comprise 98%+ of all businesses in B.C., and that B.C.’s small business community is typically #1 or #2 in Canada in terms of its (your!) contribution to provincial GDP, and employment. Moreover, before entering provincial politics Minister Oakes served on B.C.’s Small Business Roundtable for many years, and is thus very aware of our issues and priorities.
  • Seeing “Red-Tape Reduction” reappear in the title of a ministry is NEVER a bad thing. Regulatory creep is consistently one of the biggest challenges you identify as a deterrent to investment or, simply, as being utterly wasteful of your time and money without a related benefit to you, or the public.
  • Translink is a complex beast… see below.
  • Minister Bernier’s promotion fills a small void at the cabinet table insofar as (far) Northern B.C. representation is concerned. Minister Bernier is a former mayor (elected in 2008 and 2011) and city councillor (elected in 2005) of Dawson Creek, and has extensive experience in the natural gas industry.

Re: Translink

  • Very interesting move re: Minister Fassbender being assigned the Translink file. At a personal level, this will leverage his deep municipal experience, knowledge and skill, as he is a former Langley mayor and was part of the “unique dynamics” of the Mayors Council.
  • That said, moving Translink OUT of the immediate purview of the Transportation Ministry can be interpreted a variety of ways. Specifically naming Translink within a ministry title indicates that the government knows it needs attention. However, it is still unclear as to the extent of the government’s appetite to decisively deal with all the prickly elements of Translink in the remaining two years of its mandate.
  • As a business community in Metro Vancouver, we will certainly benefit from having Transportation Minister Todd Stone focus on other economically crucial transportation matters without being constantly hounded by Translink-related questions when he’s in the Lower Mainland. As Port Metro Vancouver handles 20% of Canada’s exports with an employment impact of over 100,000, his increased focus on matters non-Translink is welcome news.
  • As an aside, those who believe that the province should simply “take back Translink” as a crown corporation (or similar) should understand that in practical accounting terms this would also involve taking on Translink’s multibillion dollar debt (supported as it is by ridership fees, gas taxes, etc.), and that this would almost certainly immediately denigrate the province’s AAA credit rating. This, in turn, means our interest rates would immediately go up on our provincial debt and thus meaningfully lower available funds for other government spending. In my view, this move will not happen while a fiscally-driven government is in power.

It was also announced that Peter Milburn (Deputy Minister of Finance), and Steve Carr (Deputy Minister of Natural Gas Development), will be retiring from the B.C. Public Service shortly. This is truly a loss, as both these non-partisan individuals were exceptional leaders within the Public Service.

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