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The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part I

At the same time as China and Russia signed a massive 30 year, $400 billion natural gas trade agreement, the BC government continued its push to establish an LNG industry with a (successful) global LNG conference in Vancouver. The May event came on the heels of Premier Clark’s fifth trip to Asia promoting, in part or full, LNG opportunities in the province.  

The China-Russia agreement is emblematic of the changing energy supply landscape; it also speaks to the size of the potential opportunity for jurisdictions like BC considering the contract constitutes only 29% of China’s future import requirement.

Closer to home, critics continue to question whether BC can develop the LNG sector in a responsible and economically sensible manner that will deliver the benefit set expected by government.  

In this two part Energy and Environment Bulletin, we assess the validity of arguments suggesting BC is making a mistake in seeking to advance LNG and that the province would be wiser to halt, slow down or significantly change its approach to LNG development. 

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A Note on Business Tax Competitiveness in British Columbia

It’s slightly more than one year since BC scrapped the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and returned to the former Provincial Sales Tax (PST) as the main tax on “consumption” in British Columbia. Now is therefore an opportune time to step back and assess the broader business tax structure and its impact on BC’s attractiveness as a place to invest and do business. This issue of Policy Perspectives considers several features of the tax system that impinge on business investment, expansion, and job creation. We do not examine the taxes paid by households – the focus here is on taxes that apply to enterprises and business activity.

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Alberta’s Demand for Workers is Affecting the Labour Market in BC

Within Canada there are no restrictions on labour mobility. People move freely between provinces to find employment, to retire, to attend school, or for other reasons. The past few years have seen mounting anecdotal evidence that strong demand for workers in Alberta is impacting the BC labour market by luring younger, often skilled workers from this province. Some employers in BC report they have been losing employees to our eastern neighbour. Looking ahead, this trend is likely to contribute to a tightening of the BC labour market as economic growth gradually accelerates.

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Should We "Green" Gross Domestic Product?

What exactly is GDP, or gross domestic product? Where did it come from? Why is it important? Does it measure what we want it to? How might it be improved to provide a more comprehensive measure of human well-being?

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BC's High Technology Exports: A Solid Base to Grow From

British Columbia is home to an economically significant and notably diversified high technology sector. A detailed overview of the sector is presented in the most recent British Columbia’s Technology Report Card 2012. It shows that the production of advanced technology goods and services now generates 6% of the province’s GDP and accounts for approximately 80,000 jobs. While this is lower than the GDP share in some other provinces, BC’s technology sector continues to expand faster than the economy in general. And it has been resilient in the wake of the 2008-09 recession and the rather sluggish economic recovery that followed in its wake.

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A Look at Some Environmental Indicators

Environmental indicators can do several things, including informing us about the state and extent of changes in environmental conditions as a result of the effects of both human activity and natural events. Indicators can also show how effective the actions taken by society have been in avoiding/mitigating environmental impacts, and shed light on what’s been done to restore the capacity of the natural environment to provide the services and materials essential for life and well-being.

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Mustel Group Poll: City of Vancouver Resident's Views of Port and Exports

Mustel Group polled 500 City of Vancouver residents to determine their views with respect to Vancouver's port and specifically with respect to energy and natural resource exports. The research was conducted by a member of the Business Council of British Columbia (who wishes to be unidentified).

  • The majority of City of Vancouver residents understand the importance of Vancouver’s port to the B.C. economy, including rural communities. A total of 92% rate Vancouver’s port as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat important’ to the economy.
  • Residents are most supportive of the shipment of grain, containers, and forest products. There is also relatively strong support for export of natural gas.
  • The majority also support shipment of coal; 53% are in support, 35% are opposed, and the remaining 12% are undecided.

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BC Budget 2014 - Balanced and Uneventful

Operating within a very tight fiscal framework, Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a budget on Tuesday that projects a small surplus for fiscal 2014-15, followed by larger surpluses in the two subsequent planning years. Given the limited fiscal maneuvering room, the Budget contained only a handful of modest spending measures and a few small tax initiatives. Notably, there was nothing major in the area of skills training.

While some commentators will be critical of the limited spending increases, we recognize the accomplishment of keeping the budget in the black without imposing significant tax increases – something few other provinces are managing to do. Running surpluses puts BC in a strong fiscal position, especially at this juncture of the business cycle.  The Business Council believes BC’s competitive position has eroded in recent years. Although fiscal circumstances prevented the government from cutting or restructuring taxes, this is an area the province will have to address in the future as some BC industries face challenges linked to the province’s move back to the antiquated Provincial Sales Tax (PST), while others are grappling with the steepest carbon tax in North America, skilled labour shortages, onerous municipal property taxes on industry, and steadily escalating electricity costs. 

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Federal Budget 2014 -
Following Through: No Surprises Federal Budget Moves to Surplus

Getting back to surplus remains the cornerstone of federal budgeting. With the deficit having swelled to more than $55 billion in the aftermath of the 2008-09 Great Recession and Financial Crisis, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a budget that has the government on the cusp of returning to the black. This is an admirable accomplishment, one achieved without any significant tax increases and involving a hefty dollop of restraint after spending had been ramped up during and after the recession.

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Jobs, Income and Post-Secondary Education

By global standards, Canada is a well-educated nation. As of 2011, almost two-thirds of the population aged 25 to 64 had completed some form of post-secondary education (PSE) – 27% had a university degree (bachelor’s to doctorate), while 37% possessed a credential from a college, trades, vocational or other post-secondary education or training program. By this broad measure, Canada’s rate of post-secondary attainment is the highest in the world. This should be good news: a well-established trend across the advanced economies is that higher levels of education are generally linked to improved employment prospects as well as to a greater likelihood of being in the workforce.

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BC Economy and Job Market to Gain Momentum Over 2014-2015

Against a more balanced and somewhat stronger global growth setting, BC’s economy should make progress in 2014, on the heels of a rather disappointing 2013. We expect the province’s real GDP to advance by 2.3% this year – solid, but not spectacular. By 2015, further improvements in the global economy and a substantial jump in capital spending in BC should push GDP growth above the 3% mark.

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On the Road to Emissions Reductions:
Environment and Energy Bulletin on BC's Low Carbon Fuel Standard

This edition of our Environment and Energy Bulletin was written by guest author Selina Lee-Andersen, Counsel, Environmental and Aboriginal Law, McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

As a major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the transportation sector has been identified by policy makers as a sector in which significant emission reductions can be achieved. One of the policy instruments designed to reduce GHG emissions is the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which is intended to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels measured on a life-cycle basis.

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Congested and Nowhere to Go:
Congestion, Road Infrastructure, and Road Pricing in Metro Vancouver

Transportation continues to be a top-of-mind concern for policy makers, business leaders and communities in the lower mainland. How best to manage and use the region's scarce transportation capacity is a complex and often contentious question. In this paper, Jonathan Arnold, who recently completed a co-op term at the Business Council as part of his SFU graduate public policy degree program, explores a number of issues related to transportation demand management, including road pricing, in the Greater Vancouver context.

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New WorkSafeBC Policies on Bullying and Harassment - A Review of the Duties of Employers in BC

On July 1, 2012, Section 5.1(1)(a)(ii) of the Workers Compensation Act (the “Act”) was enacted. Part of this new provision provides that a worker’s mental disorder is compensable under the Act where that disorder is caused by a work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment. Taken together with Section 115 of the Act, Section 5.1 requires employers to address bullying and harassment as they would any other hazard in the workplace by taking all reasonable steps in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of their workers, and those workers present at a workplace where their work is being carried out.

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Policy Perspectives:
The Economic Benefits of Encouraging Small Businesses to Grow

The role of small businesses necessarily features prominently in any discussion of the British Columbia economy. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that an orientation toward small businesses is a defining characteristic of the province’s private sector.

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BCBC study conducted by MNP finds corporate community contributes $370 million annually to the province's charities

Ono October 18th, the Business Council of British Columbia released a first-of-its-kind study conducted by MNP which found that British Columbia’s business community contributes approximately $370 million in cash donations, sponsorships and partnerships to community and charitable organizations across the province each year. This is the first comprehensive study on the current levels of overall charitable contributions and partnership made by BC businesses in the province.

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Building New Energy Advantages for BC:
Understanding and Benefiting from the Transformation of BC's Energy Marketplaces

A white paper on Energy Policy in BC

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Transportation - The Way We Move Part II

This is part two of a two part Environment and Energy Bulletin that explores the topic of transportation. Part one focused on the context, statistics and some key issues that set the stage for part two, a high level discussion of policy options for managing transportation and related infrastructure issues going forward.

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BC Agenda For Shared Prosperity Final Report

September 25, 2013 (Vancouver, BC) – The Business Council of British Columbia and the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce today released the final report of the BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity initiative. For a year, the two organizations have sought expert and community-based answers to the question: “How can BC become a more prosperous province for all British Columbians?”

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Productivity: BC's Position and Why We Should Care

Over the long term, productivity levels and growth rates are the most important factors determining the evolution of the standard of living in any economy. In more productive economies workers typically receive higher wages and governments have more resources available to pay for services.

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