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CKNW: B.C. businesses feel pinch of struggling Alberta oil sector

[Excerpt] Alberta’s decline is also making waves in B.C.’s labour market.

Ken Peacock with the Business Council of B.C. sees it as good news, with the potential to help fill BC’s labour shortage.

He says the latest data shows BC is gaining a net inflow of more than 6,300 people per quarter from other provinces, while Alberta is seeing a sharp decrease to just 1,000 people moving there.

“A lot of that reason is due to Alberta. Fewer British Columbians moving to Alberta and more Albertans moving to British Columbia and that is further underscored by Alberta seeing a sizeable drop in the number of people coming into its province on a net basis.”

He says that means more skilled labour for big B.C. projects like Site C.

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The Georgia Straight: Business groups weigh rate hike that would raise B.C.'s minimum-wage from the bottom of the country

B.C. business groups heaped praise on Jobs Minister Shirley Bond when she announced in March 2015 that B.C. was tying the minimum wage to the consumer price index (CPI).

Annual increases on the basis of a predictable economic indicator are preferred to larger, unpredictable changes implemented without warning, they said.

But less than a year since that announcement, the B.C. NDP and labour groups are suggesting the province do exactly what the peg to the CPI was intended to prevent. Last week, the Straightreported on calls for an increase to the minimum wage beyond a 20-cent rise based on the CPI.

Now the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) has said it is “not outright opposed” to the idea.

“If the other provinces have moved in a way that wasn’t anticipated two or three years ago, then it would be understandable if B.C. wanted to take another look at it,” BCBC executive vice president Jock Finlayson told the Straight.

He explained that B.C.’s minimum wage of $10.45 an hour ranks near the bottom of the country’s 13 provinces and territories. (Last October, the Straight reported this situation is the result of a mistake that the government has since refused to acknowledge or redress.)

“B.C. has ended up at the low end of the spectrum on the statutory minimum, whereas the government had previously indicated they wanted to be in the middle,” Finlayson said. “So that’s an issue for them to sort out. But we have not historically been particularly anxious about small adjustments.”

To return B.C.’s minimum wage to the middle of the pack would take an additional increase of only 20 or 30 cents above a 20-cent increase scheduled for implementation this September, federal data shows.

Finlayson, a trained economist, cautioned against a large adjustment. But he described a 20- or 30-cent increase as “small” and an amount businesses could absorb without significantly disrupting the labour market.

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Business in Vancouver: Influential Women in Business: Marcia Smith

Marcia Smith may work for B.C.’s largest mining company, but her background is in public relations, not mine management.

So when her boss, Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B), assigned her to run one of the company’s B.C. coal mines for four months in 2013, it was more than a little daunting.

“It was terrifying and exhilarating and probably the best professional experience of my career,” said Smith, who is Teck’s senior vice-president of sustainability and external affairs. 

The mining sector remains under-represented by women; by putting a woman in charge of Teck’s Line Creek coal mines, Lindsay was trying to prove a point.

“He did it because he wanted to send a message that a woman can do any job in this company,” Smith said. “I think it was a really powerful message for all of us at Teck.”


She also sits on the executive committee of the Business Council of British Columbia and the executive committee for the Mining Association of Canada.

In addition to being recognized this year with an Influential Women in Business Award, Smith also made Women’s Executive Network’s 2015 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 list. 

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The Leader: Think globally, get used to a low loonie, Surrey businesses told

[Excerpt} Ken Peacock, chief economist and vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., agreed with many experts' assessment that oil prices have hurt the Canadian economy. The average price for a barrel of oil was almost $105 (US) in February 2014. It fell below $30 last month.

"We've seen the quickest decline of the Canadian dollar in the shortest period of time," said Peacock. "The Canadian economy is expected to grow by one per cent next year, which is very low. And it is mostly due to (declining) oil prices."

Peacock displayed a chart which showed the increase or decrease in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of each province in the past year, noting only two were in decline. Alberta fell by 2.5 per cent, while Newfoundland and Labrador was down by 3.8 per cent. The economies of both provinces depend heavily on the oil industry.

B.C. led the country with a 2.5-per-cent increase in GDP, followed by Ontario at 2.2.

And Canada isn't alone in its economic struggles, the panel said.

"The global economy is failing to pick up speed," said Levy. "In B.C., where we do a lot of business with the United States and overseas, it presents a lot of challenges."

Peacock said a struggling American economy is showing small signs of recovery.

"U.S. housing starts are up, which is good for B.C. lumber," said Peacock, adding the economy in the United States remains the driving force globally. Several American cities, he added, have economies the size of countries.

"New York's economy is as big as Australia's, Chicago's is as big as Nigeria and Houston is as big as Taiwan's," he noted. "The U.S. economy is a large, dominant force in the global economy."

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BC Business: Corporate Vancouver still lags behind Toronto and Calgary

Metro Vancouver may be building a reputation for producing feisty start-ups, but it still ranks poorly against heavyweights like Toronto and Calgary, according to a recent report by the BC Business Council. Using data from a Statistics Canada survey on head offices across the country, the council reported that “Metro Vancouver has room for improvement if the region wants to ‘punch at its weight’ compared to other major cities across Canada.”

In 2013, the year of the survey, British Columbia was home to approximately 12 per cent of the 2,773 head offices in Canada, a number roughly in line with its share of the national population. Alberta hosted 15 per cent while Ontario boasted 40 per cent. However, Metro Vancouver lagged behind in head office employment, with only seven per cent of national head office jobs.
“These findings affirm that British Columbia is predominantly a province of small businesses,” the report stated. “The entrepreneurship, innovation and local economic impact that small businesses bring are beneficial to regions and local communities. However, the corporate offices of more substantial companies form the foundation of the ‘corporate ecosystem’ that underpins most successful large cities and have a positive impact on the employment and income base of their host city-regions.”
The report noted several factors that work against Metro Vancouver’s ability to attract head offices, including: a fragmented regional governance structure; a complex tax structure, a cumbersome immigration system; a reputation as a high-cost jurisdiction; and a high cost of living. The report also pointed to two local initiatives, HQ Vancouver and the Vancouver International Maritime Centre, that have scored “early wins” in securing new corporate offices.

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Vancouver Sun, Barbara Yaffe: Lack of head offices means B.C. missing out on opportunities

Calgary’s uncanny ability to attract corporate head offices with all their employment benefits has long been a source of frustration, even embarrassment, for Vancouver’s business community. But perhaps not for much longer.

As a new study from the Business Council of B.C. notes that two initiatives are showing early signs of paying off, attracting new business and investment to Metro Vancouver.

The Vancouver International Maritime Centre, formed last September, has been tasked with promoting the region’s advantages as a global shipping hub, while HQ Vancouver, established a year ago, is working to convince medium- to large-sized Asian corporations to establish North American head offices in B.C.

Both agencies were launched with nearly $12 million in funding from the province and Ottawa.


The business council study, by chief policy officer Jock Finlayson and consultant Karen Graham, observes that, in its quest for head offices, Metro Vancouver needs to counter a problematic “reputation as a high cost jurisdiction for companies and ... a perception in some quarters that Vancouver is not a city for global businesses.”


The business council says head offices are worth fighting for. They generate top employee salaries and hefty taxes for government.

They also give a boost to small- and medium-sized businesses in their midst. And they “contribute to the vibrancy of an urban region through philanthropy and sponsorship”.

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The Globe and Mail: Great Bear Rainforest pact is a ‘jewel in the crown’ of Canada’s protected areas

[Excerpt} Only a handful of treaties have been settled in British Columbia, leaving the 94 per cent of the land base that remains as Crown land subject to unresolved land claims.The Business Council of B.C. has warned in past reports that the resulting uncertainty over the land base is bad for the economy.

However, the business council’s chief economist, Jock Finlayson, said the scale of this deal is troubling because it effectively “sterilizes” a large amount of land.

“While we support what the players are seeking to accomplish here and also recognize the ecological sensitivity of some of the areas captured by the GBR agreement, classifying massive portions of land as off-limits for future development represents a big step, one that is not cost-free,” Mr. Finlayson said.

B.C. already leads North America with the amount of land that has been set aside for protection, he said. “There are limits to how far this kind of thing can and should be carried forward.”

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CBC: B.C. business council report targets province's 'lacklustre' reputation

Vancouver is suffering from a "lacklustre reputation as a business centre" and needs to attract more head offices, according to a newreport from the Business Council of B.C. 

"I think we're seen as a lifestyle jurisdiction by those who even think of us — and most don't," said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president with the business council.

The council's latest report examines recent data from Statistics Canada and says "B.C. punches well below its weight" when it comes to the number of head offices compared to the size of its population and has fewer high-paying jobs as a result.

  • Alberta: 10 head offices per 100,000 people.
  • Ontario: eight head offices per 100,000 people.
  • B.C.: seven head offices per 100,000 people.

​Finlayson said the province hasn't done enough to make itself attractive to big businesses, which forms a foundation in the "corporate ecosystem" by then engaging smaller, related businesses and supply firms.

"If I was in government, I'd be spending less time worrying if we have an environment where somebody will start up a business in their garage — because we excel at that," he said.

"I'd be asking the question, how come we don't have more significant-sized companies?"


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Business in Vancouver: B.C. budget 2016: challenges ahead threaten upbeat projections

[Excerpt] B.C. led the country in economic growth in 2015 and is forecast to have the highest growth again in 2016. But as the BC Liberals prepare to introduce the provincial budget later this month, economists warn there are more clouds on the horizon than those projections might suggest.

Challenge No. 1: Confidence

B.C. might have relatively upbeat gross domestic product growth projections approaching 3% for 2016, but Canada’s economic prospects are dismal. 

“It’s an [economic] environment that has a lot of risks, more than the usual,” said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of British Columbia. 

“Canada is struggling. All the data I’m looking at tells me that Canada is going to be challenged to really get any growth at all in the economy this year, and that’s largely due to the collapse in commodity prices and weakness in emerging markets.”

Finlayson expects a relatively upbeat economic forecast from Minister of Finance Mike de Jong, but he thinks a key challenge for the government will be to reinforce confidence in B.C.’s economy. 

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Business in Vancouver: Low head-office count makes B.C. ‘a province of small businesses’: report

Metro Vancouver’s high cost of living and fractured regional governance is doing it no favours when it comes to attracting corporate offices, according to a report from the Business Council of B.C. (BCBC).

The study found Vancouver’s reputation for not being a city for global business, coupled with a “cumbersome” immigration system, is keeping corporations from establishing offices on the West Coast.

The BCBC examined Statistics Canada data tracking the number of head offices throughout the country.

In 2013, Metro Vancouver was home to 242 head offices, Calgary had 216, Montreal had 392 and Toronto had 702.

Employment at head offices in B.C. amounted to 17,000 direct jobs in 2013, or 7% of the national figure compared with 12% of the province’s share of the national population.

The report found B.C. “punches well below its weight” with just seven head offices per 100,000 people compared with Ontario’s 8.4 head offices per 100,000 people and Alberta’s 10.3.

“These findings affirm that British Columbia is predominantly a province of small businesses,” the report said.

But the BCBC pointed to two initiatives — Vancouver International Maritime Centre (VIMC) and HQ Vancouver — that are helping to reversing the tide.

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Vancouver Sun, Barbara Yaffe: Both west and east coasts have to face reality on future of pipelines

When Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre recently rejected an oil pipeline through his city, it sparked a firestorm in Parliament and across the West. Yet Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson regularly disses the notion of shipping bitumen through Burrard Inlet and no one bats an eyelash. What gives?

That double standard was discussed earlier this week at a gathering of some 50 economists and government representatives, sponsored by the Conference Board of Canada and Vancouver’s Board of Trade.

“Alberta is going to have a stranded asset if it cannot get access to tidewater,” Ken Peacock, Chief Economist and Vice President at the Business Council of B.C., told the group. “It’s something we really have to deal with, as a nation.”

Both Coderre, opposing the Energy East pipeline proposal to ship Alberta crude through Montreal and on to New Brunswick, and Robertson, opposing expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Burnaby, have been speaking parochially for their constituencies, reflecting canny politics.

But they are not championing the greater economic good, the capacity for Canada to get top price for a commodity that, until recently, was the main driver of this country’s prosperity.

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BC Business: B.C.'s economy will have 'wind in its sails' in 2016

The B.C. economy has "wind in its sails," thanks to the promise of one or more LNG export terminals and the Vancouver real estate market—according to a forecast panel hosted by the Conference Board of Canada on Tuesday.

While a number of the proponents—Petronas, Shell—have yet to make final investment decisions on their LNG plants, the construction of just one could boost the province's GDP by 1 per cent, said Pedro Atunes, the Conference Board's deputy chief economist.

As for the Vancouver housing market, while there's "a fair amount of risk," he is forecasting a stable 2016 bar a big interest rate hike. "We don't feel there's a bubble," added Ken Peacock, an economist with the Business Council of B.C. who is forecasting a four per cent increase in consumer spending in the province in 2016 thanks in large part to the fiery housing market. And one group is benefiting in particular, he said, quoting a colleague: "real estate agents are making money like B.C. makes water."

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Globe and Mail: Canada's carbon challenge: Turning promises into reality

[Excerpt] Some experts worry that the premiers are creating a balkanized climate regime, particularly in the electricity system where provincial governments have long isolated their markets to favour government-owned or local utilities. Ontario and Quebec and Manitoba are co-operating under the cap-and-trade plan, and all premiers agreed last summer on a Canadian energy strategy that pledges co-operation. But provinces are still prone to protectionism and acting in isolation, Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president at the British Columbia Business Council, said in an interview. Premiers agreed on a Canadian energy strategy but he said there are still far too many barriers.

“I call it climate mercantilism at the subnational level,” Mr. Finlayson said. “We need to link these markets. Everybody who can count to 10 recognizes that you can lower abatement costs by co-operative effort involving multiple jurisdictions rather than having little markets [on their own] trying to find the most cost-effective ways to get emissions down.”

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Vancouver Sun, Peter O'Neil: B.C. proposal aims to have First Nations own chunks of major projects

A B.C. First Nations-led proposal to unlock billions of dollars in natural resource wealth across the country has received seed funding from the federal government, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

And if the First Nations Major Projects Coalition can persuade Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to go a step further and accept their biggest request — loan guarantees to allow aboriginal communities to buy equity stakes in major projects — that could lead to a historic breakthrough, say its backers.

The loan guarantee idea has been endorsed by the B.C. Business Council and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based think-tank.

Both said the proposal could resolve one of Canada’s and especially B.C.’s most daunting challenge — how to get approval for pipelines, mines and other projects after a landmark 2014 Supreme Court of Canada expanded aboriginal land title rights.


B.C. Business Council’s Jock Finlayson said his organization supports the proposal in principle, even if a loan support program could pose risks for taxpayers if a project falls apart and the band is unable to repay its debt.

“It’s important to recognize that taxpayers in Canada are already devoting many billions of dollars to the First Nations file each year, very little of which encourages, let alone helps to kick starts economic development,” Finlayson said.

“If done right, allocating a modest sum to an initiative that makes more capital available to First Nations that are keen to advance projects and accelerate economic development in their communities could pay significant dividends for everyone — aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.”

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Business in Vancouver: Apparel companies that start up in Vancouver grow, prosper — and opt to stay

It’s no surprise that Vancouver, with its healthy outdoors lifestyle, inspires designers to start up innovative companies focusing on premium and performance apparel. What’s new and noteworthy — and perhaps contrary to expectation — is the decision by these companies, having achieved major success, to maintain their headquarters here rather than relocate to bigger cluster cities.

The option of a stodgy, by-the-books move to a Cleveland or a Chicago just wouldn’t make sense for British Columbia’s apparel sector. In designing, manufacturing and retailing clothing and footwear, these high-quality technical performance and premium brands — Arc’teryx, Aritzia, lululemon athletica, MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op), Herschel Supply and Kit and Ace — reach markets worldwide.

The sector also includes the boutique and mid-tier brands Obakki, Native Shoes, John Fluevog, Minimoc and Tatum & Olivia; specialized brands Dayton Boots, Mustang Survival and Watson Gloves; and manufacturers Garmatex, GE Garments, Tamoda and Winner Sportswear.

Contributing $14.6 billion to B.C’s GDP, these companies draw on Vancouver’s vibrant setting and culture to create, in the words of lululemon’s mission statement, “our products create transformational experiences for people to live happy, healthy, fun lives.”


B.C. now has North America’s fourth-largest apparel sector, with 600 businesses generating 7,000 jobs in the province and 14,000 jobs globally. The sector ships $3 billion in goods to over 50 countries.

Business Council of B.C. President/ CEO Greg D’Avignon says, “With our gateway to Asia and proximity to U.S. retail markets, B.C. is a destination for these innovative companies to locate and grow this cluster in technical apparel and design. Our province’s economy is diverse in part because of companies such as lululemon and Arc’teryx, who are choosing to start and grow their business as an integrated part of B.C.’s brand, which exemplifies a healthy, environmentally conscious and globally connected lifestyle. These companies are innovative, technology-driven and offer well-paying, highly specialized employment opportunities.”

Another reason for staying: thermal-gloved hands down, this is the most practical site for production.

Clothes and gear that can handle B.C. weather can handle weather anywhere.

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CKNW: BC Business Council says slumping energy prices hurting province’s LNG dream

The BC Business Council says the provincial government’s LNG dreams is getting hammered thanks to the slumping energy prices.

BC Business Council Vice-President and Chief Economist Ken Peacock says the Premier’s LNG promises now have some question marks.

“There is a big question mark on that because LNG prices have come down. They are linked to oil prices and so obviously with the precipitous decline in oil prices it is a little bit of a question mark as to when we will see, and perhaps if we will see, a major LNG project proceed in the province. I think we probably will at some point but timeline at a minimum will be pushed back.”

Natural Gas minister Rich Coleman has said recently he has one final investment decision on an LNG facility with three more possibly coming this year.

The Asian spot price for LNG tumbled to its lowest levels since 2010 and have fallen by more than half over the last year.

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CBC: B.C. could lead Canadian economic growth in low-loonie era, economists say

Many of B.C.'s industries will benefit from the low Canadian dollar, making it likely the province will lead the country in economic growth this year, say economists.

The Canadian dollar dropped again Friday to 68 cents US, fuelling concern that the growing downward momentum means tough times ahead for the country.

But some experts say B.C.'s diverse economy means enough sectors will benefit from the low loonie to boost the province's outlook overall.

"One thing that really is emerging from the current environment is the fact that B.C. is doing relatively well precisely because we are more diversified," said Ken Peacock, vice-president and chief economist at theBusiness Council of British Columbia.

"B.C. is doing very, very well, probably will lead the country this year in terms of economic growth." 


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Vancouver Sun, Barbara Yaffe: B.C. becoming Canada’s economic darling

[Excerpt] The Conference Board’s generally rosy outlook for B.C. is shared by the Business Council of B.C., which notes that west coast tourism will see gains from a lower Canadian dollar.

In a list of things to watch for in 2016, the Business Council cites agricultural exports, which it characterizes as an underappreciated sector, one that has become “one of the province’s major export engines,” growing by more than 20 per cent last year.

The council is predicting less-robust economic growth for B.C. than the Conference Board, at 2.8 per cent after inflation in 2016, but again, ahead of all other provinces.

It points to persistently weak commodity markets, with lower earnings from coal, copper, gold and natural gas, all of which translates into lower government revenues and poses challenges for communities beyond the Vancouver area.

For example, natural gas exports fell 40 per cent last year, generating $1.5 billion compared to $4 billion a decade ago.

The council says population growth is helping B.C.’s economy, fuelling both consumer spending and house buying.

In the third quarter of 2015, B.C. experienced a net inflow of 6,300 people from other provinces — the strongest third-quarter tally in two decades.

The Lower Mainland is to remain B.C.’s “key economic growth engine” this year. The Business Council says cities such as Victoria and Nanaimo will also do well as urbanization continues, partly in response to lower resource revenues.

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Vancouver Sun, Pete McMartin: The eggs-in-one-basket economy

[Excerpt] B.C. led the country in job growth (2.3 per cent in 2015 compared to Alberta’s minus-0.6 per cent). Interprovincial migration was up close to 18,000 by the third quarter.

“Most forecasters, including my own shop,” said Jock Finlayson, chief economist of the Business Council of B.C., “project that B.C. will lead Canada in GDP growth in 2016. Once the final numbers are tallied for 2015, they are likely to show B.C. topping the growth charts last year as well.”

No better time then, Finlayson said, for “a stepped up public policy” to promote industries outside of the natural resource sector — tech, tourism, advanced manufacturing, knowledge-based businesses. And time, too, to pour money into our schools, rather than war on them.

“On higher education,” he said, “it is worthwhile noting that virtually all successful jurisdictions are allocating additional resources to expand and strengthen university and college education, technical training, and related research.”

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CKNW: Plunging loonie creates winners and losers

For the first time since 2003, the Canadian dollar has dipped to under $0.70 U.S.

But beyond an abstract line on a graph, what does that mean for every day British Columbians?

 The effects aren’t being  felt evenly. Some are having the wind knocked out of them, while others are seeing windfall. 


Resource sector

It’s a classic maxim for economists: Anyone who exports is going to do well off the plunging loonie.

In B.C., among the biggest exporters are the resource sector.  Ken Peacock, Chief Economist of the BC Business Council says that’s good news for the mining industry, which has been hard-hit by low commodity prices.

But he says the big winner will be forestry.

“Our lumber products and some of the panel products that are produced here in B.C. will be sold in greater quantities into the U.S. because of the increased competitiveness.”


B.C. exports more than $1.7 billion in agrifoods every year, and about about three quarters of that goes to the U.S.

Peacock says the sector is already seeing results. He says greenhouse producers and other farm products are seeing sales up about 20% year over year in 2015, something bound to accelerate as the dollar drops.

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