B.C. Business Matters:
A Note on Infrastructure Investment and Government Debt
The Business Council recently published a white paper on infrastructure policy and financing in British Columbia. One of the points made in the paper is that investing in certain categories of infrastructure assets – particularly transportation, communications and energy infrastructure -- can help to strengthen the foundations for prosperity by boosting productivity, expanding the economy’s ‘supply side’ capacity, and improving the competitive position of local industries engaged in global commerce.
The global and Canadian gender gap, 2014
The global and local conversation about the economic potential of women and the foregone opportunity from not yet achieving full gender equality is heating up again. The last really big and prolonged discussion happened in the late 1970s, the heyday of feminist activism.
A tale of 2 countries – Canada and US (reversal of) fortunes in the post financial crisis period
For the majority of the post financial crisis time period, Canada has outperformed the United States on key economic metrics such as GDP growth, unemployment rates and median income growth.
These results were (yes, past tense) impressive:
- In 5 of the past 6 years, Canadian enjoyed stronger growth in GDP than the United States;
- Canada’s employment performance was better than the US, post financial crisis through 2013, reversing a long standing trend of American unemployment rates being lower than Canadian;
- Over this same time period, Canadian incomes moved up faster than in the US.
However, our half decade of economic success relative to our American neighbours has come to an end.
Port Metro Vancouver an Economic Bright Spot for BC
The transportation and logistics industry centred in Greater Vancouver comprises a big part the region’s economic and employment base and also makes significant contributions to the larger BC economy. So it is encouraging to learn that business has been rebounding at Port Metro Vancouver – the most important piece of the Greater Vancouver Gateway cluster.
Review finds higher pay levels and outsized wage increases in BC's municipal sector
Concerned about rising taxes at the local level? Employee compensation in your municipality is probably a factor.
A couple of years ago the Business Council published a report documenting steady and significant increases in local government operating costs in Metro Vancouver’s 20-odd municipalities. Although the picture varied across communities in the region, collectively municipal expenditures in Metro Vancouver soared by 80% over a ten year period. Ongoing inflation and population growth mean that municipalities must spend more to meet the service requirements of local residents and businesses. But we found that even after adjusting for population and inflation, municipal operating costs in the Metro Vancouver area jumped by 32% between 2000 and 2010. This is three times higher than the comparable rate of growth in provincial government operating expenditures over the same period -- despite the fact that the province pays the lion’s share of costs for health care and education.
An Aging Population…Let the Games Begin
An update on Canada’s demographic future from Statistics Canada confirms what is readily discernable through casual population: the population is growing modestly but is becoming greyer at an accelerating pace.
Healthy Gains in Retail Spending in BC
After a number of years of sluggish growth, retail sales in BC have made some impressive gains recently. A year ago, retail spending in the province was basically flat. In the second half of 2013 and through the first quarter of this year the retail environment improved, with annual growth in retail sales advancing to around 4%. Over the past three months, spending has accelerated again, climbing to a 7% annualized growth rate.
Stock Markets at Record Levels, Improving GDP and Low Inflation…
How long will it last?
We head into the Labour Day weekend after digesting a recent barrage of mostly positive economic data for the second quarter of 2014 in North America. In the United States, after a tough first quarter, the economy posted an impressive performance in Q2 with 4.2% (annualized) real GDP growth, along with low inflation and solid metrics across several other key indicators. This pickup in GDP growth corresponds with accelerating job creation and modest income gains for American households.
Mixed BC Inflation Readings Signal Stable Overall Picture
BC has recently seen some volatility in the monthly inflation numbers. The July all-items Consumer Price Index (CPI) was up 1.4% from one year ago, which was well below the 1.9% year-over-year increase recorded in June. So far in 2014 inflation has been trending higher after a period of very little change over the second half of 2013.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - The Costs Vary By Industry
Policy-makers in a growing number of jurisdictions are committed to taking steps to reverse – or at least slow the growth of – greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming.
Job Market Improving…But Employment Growth in BC Remains Soft
July’s revised labour force report from Statistics Canada shows that employment growth remains sub-par in the province. The total number of people working did not change in July. But this sideways result follows an increase of 6,700 jobs the previous month. The past two months have seen a decent gain in the aggregate number of people working in the province and extends the modest positive trend that has been in place for seven or eight months.
Math, Science and Reading in British Columbia
What were you doing at 15? Thinking about what career you were going to pursue as an adult? Probably not, and for most kids school is a bit of daily torture. Adults on the other hand are busy and constantly evaluating our children and teenagers on their reading, math and science skills, and often wringing our hands about test scores. For good reason. There is a strong correlation between how well educated we are and how well our economy performs both now and in the future.
Trust: Why it is important in the public policy process and ways to reverse its erosion
There are lots of conversations these days about trust or the lack of it, particularly around the development of natural resources but also applying to business generally. But what exactly is trust? Why is it important to business and government?
Is the U.S. Economy Poised for Multi-Year Boost from the Housing Sector?
Is it possible that America’s economy might surprise us with a sustained growth surge? The question came to mind as I recently slogged through a series of blog entries and reports on the web site of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The Center’s researchers keep close tabs on U.S. housing markets and have a particular interest in the factors believed to influence the demand for housing.
Too Little Investment Puts Prosperity at Risk
Canadian economists and policymakers have long worried about the country’s sluggish productivity growth and a seemingly ever-widening gap with the United States on this important measure of economic performance. At the heart of Canada’s poor productivity record are relatively low levels of investment, particularly in certain categories of assets that are strongly associated with productivity improvements in modern economies – machinery, equipment, software, and business research and development. A decline in investment in physical infrastructure as a share of gross domestic product over the past several decades is another aspect of Canada’s broader capital spending shortfall.
Climate Progress in BC
If you read the recently released 2014 Progress Report on Climate Action in BC and some of the related commentary, one would think BC is doing really well on meeting its climate objectives. It’s not surprising to see the government pat itself on the back, but the self-congratulation is overdone in the context of the 2020 33% legislated reduction target that was put in place in 2007. We have only run 2.4 km of a 40 km marathon race. It was clear in 2007 that the government of the day was too ambitious in adopting the 33% goal, and the latest data confirm this.
The Tsilhqot’in Decision – 10 Suggestions for What's Next
There can be little debate that the Tsilhqot’in decision is a landmark case in aboriginal law - creating greater clarity around the nature of aboriginal title under Canada’s Constitution; largely confirming past jurisprudence, and thereby providing important clarity with respect to the Crown’s (limited) ability to ‘justifiably infringe’ on aboriginal title rights; and resolving in the affirmative the application of provincial laws on the land base relative to aboriginal rights and title interests, subject to certain conditions.
The Tsilhqot'in (William) Decision - a Diversity of Views on Implications
For the past three decades determining the extent and nature of aboriginal rights and title in Canada has been an increasingly important component of natural resource development. British Columbia, with its abundance of natural resources, diversity of First Nations and limited treaties, has been at the forefront of not only important legal decisions (Calder, Sparrow, Gladstone, van der Peet, Delgamuukw, Haida and now Tsilhqot’in) but also a rapidly growing number of collaborative economic initiatives between First Nations, government and industry that are designed to ‘reconcile’ economic activity with aboriginal rights and title interests.
The Changing World of Post-Secondary Education
Outgoing UBC President Stephen Toope was interviewed for a story appearing in the Globe and Mail on June 27. In the interview, Dr. Toope touched on a number of challenges facing Canadian universities, including rising student expectations, governments’ interest in ensuring that post-secondary graduates are “job-ready,” and heightened international competition for top-ranked faculty and graduate students.
Interprovincial migration is again adding to BC's population
In the first quarter of 2014, BC saw 1,300 more people move into the province from other parts of Canada than leave to settle in other provinces. This marks the first time in nearly three years that BC has experienced positive net in-migration from other provinces. The shift from a net loss to a net gain is a positive sign because changes in interprovincial migration are driven largely by working-aged people. A net inflow means there will be more workers available in the BC labour market and also suggests job opportunities are becoming more plentiful – relative to other provinces and in particular Alberta – than was the case over the past couple of years.