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Vancouver Sun, Barbara Yaffe: Global forces dampen BC's economic outlook

Few could have predicted 2015 would see B.C. and Ontario competing to lead the pack on economic growth.

The Ontario-B.C. horserace reflects stalling economies — due to oil price declines — in formerly booming Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.

The Business Council of B.C. forecasts provincial GDP will grow 2.6 per cent this year, up from 2014 growth of roughly 2.3 per cent.

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Business in Vancouver: Blue skies ahead for BC economy, analysts predict

[EXCERPT] The price of oil is predicted to stay low throughout 2015. That could have an impact on the price of LNG, which is tied closely to the price of oil.

Because of that link, don’t be surprised to see more LNG investment decisions delayed in 2015, wrote Business Council of British Columbia economists Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock in a December 29 commentary.

“We would not be surprised to see more proposed LNG projects in B.C. postponed or deferred until global energy markets stabilize,” they wrote. 

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Vancouver Sun: Outlook for BC business in 2015 remains stable

[EXCERPT] Ken Peacock, chief economist at the Business Council of B.C., also said the U.S. recovering economy is a major factor in the province’s stable outlook.

He noted the U.S. economy is growing at a “much more meaningful rate,” topping three per cent.

Despite the increasing importance of exports to Asia, led by China, the United States accounted for nearly half of B.C.’s $33 billion in exports in 2013.

And Peacock noted that even though the forest sector is not as large as it once was, it is still the largest source of export revenue for the province.

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Reuters: Vancouver's high housing prices post headaches for job recruiters

[EXCERPT] "Housing prices are a concern for that exact reason," said Ken Peacock, the chief economist at the Business Council of British Columbia. "It makes it more challenging for younger people starting a family."

Vancouver's expensive housing also made it tough for companies to bring in new talent from other regions, in particular senior executives, he said

"There is a sticker shock phenomenon," Peacock said. "A lot of these people are coming from 5,000 square foot estates and here they get a three-bedroom bungalow."

Also posted online with the Financial Post and the South China Morning Post

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Vancouver Sun: Kathy Kinloch completes first year of reinventing BCIT

[EXCERPT] Greg D’Avignon, president of the Business Council of B.C., has followed Kinloch’s career for several years and sees her vision of bringing educators, businesses and students together as the next step in the elevation of B.C.’s economy.

“The battle is going to be for capital and for talent, and Kathy as much as anyone in the province really understands that,” said D’Avignon.

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Business in Vancouver: Carbon tax think-tank makes for strange bedfellows

With a board of directors that includes David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson and former NDP politicians Mike Harcourt and Bob Rae, few might register surprise over a new think-tank called Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission calling for a national carbon tax.

But when Preston Manning, the father of modern Canadian populist conservatism, recently threw his weight behind a national carbon-pricing scheme, it shocked some conservatives.

Canadian business leaders, particularly in the oil and gas industry, might be less surprised, however. Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) CEO Steve Williams is an Ecofiscal Commission member – as is Manning.

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Business in Vancouver: Site C approval raises BC skilled labour concerns

[EXCERPT] BCBC CEO Greg D’Avignon agrees labour could be a challenge but points out that new major projects will start as others, like the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter expansion, are winding down, and that a slowdown in the Alberta oilfields may free up workers, many of whom are British Columbians who might welcome the chance to come home to B.C.

He added the B.C. government and BC Hydro have done a good job of providing skills and trades training and thinking about the timing and co-ordination of major projects.

Even so, B.C. is going to need foreign workers, he said, not only on the construction projects themselves but also in areas like food services in work camps, and that means the federal government is going to need to revisit the restrictions it has placed on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

“The federal government is going to have to review the unintended consequences of the temporary worker model,” he said. “The labour base in the north is just not big enough.

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Video - Vancouver Sun: Conversations that Matter featuring Tom Syer

This week’s Conversation that Matters features Tom Syer of the Business Council of British Columbia on the impact of the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision and its impact on investment and resource development in the province.

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Vancouver Sun: Site C mega-project a welcome boost for construction industry

[EXCERPT] Greg D’Avignon, president of the Business Council of B.C., added that Site C could be an important component in developing the large workforce major LNG proponents would need, although they might wind up competing for workers.

“Any time you build capital projects like Site C you’re going to have workforce challenges,” said Ken Peacock, the business council’s chief economist. “The labour-market environment is going to change over a decade, you’re never going to be able to time (projects) perfectly.”

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Business in Vancouver: Site C dam gets green light

Site C dam, which could cost nearly $1 billion more than when it was reviewed by a joint review panel last year, has been given the green light.

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Vancouver Sun: Site C: Businesses cheer, environmentalists jeer

[EXCERPT] The B.C. Business Council said it supported the province’s decision, but would have preferred the analysis of future energy supply options be done by the BC Utilities Commission, something Premier Christy Clark’s government has rejected.

Greg D’Avignon, president of the council, said it will be critical for the project to be well-managed so that effects on taxpayers are minimized and to ensure B.C. does not lose its competitive electricity rates.

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News 1130: Business Community also welcomes Site C dam

Greg D’Avignon with the Business Council of BC says there are short term benefits for building the dam. “Certainly, in the work that’s already been done but the work that will be done as the project starts to unfold and get built creates direct construction jobs in the province which will lift the economy.”

He says it will bring stable pricing in energy resources in the long term as well as boost business. “It also creates opportunity around the electrical generation that it creates from a clean energy source that will fuel business in the north and will also create opportunities for British Columbians to fuel businesses going forward.”

He adds the energy produced from the project will help keep our province competitive in the long run.

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Business in Vancouver: BC businesses shifting to partner with charities rather than cash donations: report

Businesses in British Columbia are contributing to charities more through partnerships than cash donations compared with 2012, according to a report released by the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) on December 4.

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BIV 25th Anniversary: Independent producers add private juice to BC's public power grid

[EXCERPT] Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer for the Business Council of BC, is critical of some B.C. government policies on power, but he’s not convinced that IPP power is any more expensive than publicly funded electricity.

“I think that’s a point for debate, frankly,” he said. “The people who make that criticism often don’t demonstrate that it would have been cheaper for Hydro to construct and procure the power itself. That’s why you should have a utilities commission that’s empowered to inquire into these matters.”

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Vancouver Sun: Plummeting oil prices not expected to hit British Columbia economy

[EXCERPT] “It is breathtaking ... It is a collapse, actually, when things have dropped off almost in half in a commodity market,” B.C. Business Council chief policy adviser Jock Finlayson said Monday, referring to the oil-price slide. He said there’s little doubt that plummeting oil prices will negatively affect the Canadian economy, reducing gross domestic product (GDP) by up to two-tenths of a per cent per $10 drop in the price of oil per barrel. “But to bring it home for B.C. — not a big effect, I would say, in macro-economic terms on growth here. We are obviously not in the situation of Alberta or Saskatchewan, where economic activity is clearly going to be materially reduced because of (lower) oil prices,” Finlayson said.

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Vancouver Sun: Paying to replace aging facilities key Metro Vancouver worry

[EXCERPT] Ken Peacock, an economist and one of the leading speakers at the recent Business Council of BC conference on infrastructure, admits the subject isn’t a particularly sexy one. That is, until there is a problem. “It seems to be one of those things that people appreciate and use on a daily basis but never really stop and think about how much it costs to put in place or consider the difficulties and challenges that are behind it,” the Council’s chief economist said in an interview.

“In advanced countries like Canada it has always been around and we have always been fortunate enough to have good quality infrastructure. But if you end up in a place like Bangkok and it take you two and half hours to get 15 to 20 blocks, you might have a different appreciation for it.”

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Globe and Mail: Flurry of BC court battles threaten to drive away investment

A flurry of court cases has tied up more than $25-billion worth of resource projects this year as First Nations, environmental groups and others battle pipelines, mines, a dam and a coal port – a situation that some observers fear will drive away investment.

“Well, it’s not new, but arguably it’s intensified,” Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer for the Business Council of B.C., said of the legal roadblocks.

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The Globe and Mail, Gary Mason: Opposition to BC resource projects comes with economic repercussions

[EXCERPT] Former Quebec premier Jean Charest was in town recently to speak to a conference organized by the B.C. Business Council. He now travels the world offering advice to companies looking for opportunities in Canada. He said the country, and B.C. in particular, is gaining an international reputation as a difficult place to do business. And that rep is scaring away investors.

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Business in Vancouver: Unions need to strengthen their labour rights 'brand:' Sinclair

[EXCERPT] A 2013 Business Council of British Columbia white paper found that union “density” – the proportion of paid workers protected by a collective agreement – dropped by five percentage points in B.C. between 1997 and 2012, compared with the national average decline of three percentage points.

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The Vancouver Sun: Luster of BC bonds dulls under weight of provincial debt

[EXCERPT] However, Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., on Monday reiterated his group’s position that building more infrastructure now still make sense.

“I’m not suggesting going out and borrowing another $3 billion on top of where we already are,” Finlayson said, but it is also counterintuitive to cut back on capital spending at a time of weak growth in the economy, corresponding with “the lowest borrowing costs in recorded human history.”

And he added that the advantage of preserving B.C.’s credit rating now could be washed out by the overall rise in interest rates that are expected to double on high-quality government bonds, in nominal terms from 2.5 per cent to five per cent, over the next several years.

“If you need to build a Pattullo Bridge, or St. Paul’s Hospital needs to be rebuilt, there’s an argument for advancing some of those capital projects,” Finlayson said.

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