Fiscal & Tax Policy
As a small, open trading region, BC depends on investment and trade to support ongoing economic development and public services. A competitive tax regime and balanced government finances are key advantages in attracting investments to BC. The Council plays an important role in analyzing BC’s fiscal policies relative to other jurisdictions and advocating for reforms that boost our competitiveness.
Why Tax Competitiveness Matters
British Columbia is a small, open trading jurisdiction that relies heavily on natural resource exports to fuel the economy. While our economy continues to diversify (and that is a good thing) into more service oriented sectors, the core driver of the economy remains our exports, and natural-resource based products represent 70-75% of the province’s international merchandise export shipments. These exports, together with our strategic location and high quality of human capital, have combined to create a high standard of living.
In order to realize the theoretical benefits of these resources, there is also a need for sound public policies that enable development through effective planning, infrastructure development and tax/regulatory structures that attracts private sector investment. On this latter point, British Columbia’s historical track record is mixed, with significant improvements occurring in recent years that have helped to stimulate a lot of activity on the land base.
A 'Balanced' but "Challenging' Provincial Budget
In his inaugural budget, BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong delivered on the government’s long-standing promise to balance the operating budget by fiscal 2013-14. While some additional funding is provided for health care and a smattering of small-scale initiatives in support of the government’s Families First agenda, meeting the balanced budget target overshadowed all other aspects of the budget. Eliminating the fiscal shortfall of more than $1 billion on schedule required a combination of tax increases, provincial asset sales, and a hefty dose of spending restraint.
Five Things You Should Know about BC Budget 2013
1. The BC government’s operating deficit for this year is estimated at $1.2 billion, less than 3% of the pan-Canadian deficits from the national and all provincial jurisdictions
2. BC’s net debt equals 17% of GDP, the third lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the country
3. According to Budget 2013, the BC government intends to limit the growth of program spending to just 1.5% per year over the next three years.
4. Capital spending is expected to fall from $6.8 billion this year to $6.2 billion in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.
5. Despite a one percent increase in the general corporate income tax rate (CIT), BC will continue to have a competitive CIT compared to other North American jurisdictions – however, the timing of this increase poses a risk for our overall competitiveness
Understanding the Limitations of Tax Increases – A Critique of CCPA’s Plea for Big Tax Increases on BC Businesses and Households
Recently, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), a prominent union-backed Canadian think tank, released a study entitled “Progressive Tax Options for BC”. The basic premise of the study is that there is both a serious need and a significant desire among BC citizens for sizable tax increases to fund more services and re-distribute wealth to address inequality. In their words, BC has “plenty of room” to raise taxes. While this has been a common refrain from the CCPA for some time, this position is now backed with further research and the results of an on-line survey.
Thinking Through the Economic Consequences of Higher Taxes
As policy-makers in various jurisdictions consider options to generate more revenue by raising tax rates, instituting new taxes, or modifying existing tax rules, it may be useful to re-consider the economic consequences of following this path.
Submission: 2013 Provincial Pre-Budget Submission
The Business Council of British Columbia submits preliminary advice on the 2013 provincial budget to the legislature's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.
Jock Finlayson: Time for a reality check on financial market returns
For investors and savers, today’s financial environment must rank among the least rewarding in half a century, if not longer. In the major advanced economies – the US, Canada, Japan, the UK, and most of continental Europe – the “policy” interest rates set by central banks are at or near all-time lows. This translates into almost non-existent returns for savers who squirrel away money in bank accounts, GICs, and money market funds.
The same is true for the buyers of government bonds – ten-year government bond yields in Canada and the US now hover under 2 percent. With inflation projected to be at or above 2 percent, this means investors in government bonds who hold to maturity are on track for negative real (that is, after-inflation) returns. Despite this counterintuitive picture, there is no lack of demand for the sovereign debt of credit-worthy issuers.
BC More Than Holding Its Own Amid Global Economic Turbulence
At a time of pronounced global uncertainty, BC's economy continues to grow at a decent pace and to outperform many other North American provinces and states. Although there are significant downside risks, BC's economy remains quite resilient with a rapidly shrinking deficit, an increasingly diversified export sector and steady population growth.
Over the 2010-2011 period, BC’s real economic growth averaged 3% - the fourth strongest in Canada and among the top jurisdictions in North America. Although growth will ease over the coming 18 months, this resilience will help to sustain provincial economic activity and keep BC in a relatively strong position even in the face of weaker international conditions.
The Business Council's mid year economic review and outlook anticipates that BC’s economy will grow by 2.0% for 2012 and 2.2% for 2013. Relative to our January outlook there is no change in the forecast for this year, but we have trimmed our growth projection for 2013 due to global turbulence and a slower local housing market.
Canada's Economy in for a Rough Ride
By Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia
This summer marks the third anniversary of the economic recovery that began following the 2008 global financial crisis and the recession that descended upon much of the world in its wake. By any measure it has been a subdued economic rebound, particularly for many of the “advanced” countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Submission: Provincial Government's Expert Panel on Business Taxation
In response to the provincial government's request for input, the Business Council of British Columbia is pleased to share our views with the Expert Panel on tax measures that could be implemented to strengthen BC’s economy and competitive position as the province shifts from the HST back to the dual PST/GST system. The Panel is familiar with the benefits of the HST, and the many reasons why economists and public finance scholars almost universally see value-added taxes like the HST as an important and useful element in the revenue mix for governments.
Public Sector pensions are sure to be reviewed
By Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia
With governments across the country addressing budget deficits pushed higher by the 2008-09 recession, attention is turning to the pay levels of employees in the public sec-tor and how these compare with private-sector practices.
2012 Federal Budget: Some Key Issues for Employers
Human Capital Law and Policy v2 n2
The 2012 federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on March 29 included a number of measures of interest to Canadian employers. In this issue of Human Capital Law and Policy, we note the key features of the budget from an employer perspective and comment briefly on the implications of the policy directions signaled by the government.
2012 Federal Budget: Fiscal Restraint with New Policy Directions
Reflecting the precarious nature of the economic recovery, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a budget with few new tax measures, a moderate amount of spending restraint, and a plan to return to fiscal balance over the medium term. From our perspective it is a prudent budget that trims spending sufficiently to balance the books by mid-decade, while not tapping on the fiscal brakes too hard. While the federal workforce will be reduced, overall the level of restraint is such that critics will be hard pressed to claim that it will undermine the economic recovery.
Presentation: KPMG 2012 Budget Breakfast
Presentation on the current economic landcape and key budget themes presented at the KPMG 2012 Federal Budget Breakfastby Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, Business Council of British Columbia
2012 BC Budget: Fiscal Caution Amid Economic Turbulence
Against an unsettled external economic backdrop, this week’s provincial budget saw Finance Minister Kevin Falcon reaffirm the government’s commitment to balance the operating budget by fiscal 2013-2014. Meeting this objective – which is mandated by current law – will require downshifting spending growth to about half the pace set during the years preceding the 2008-09 recession. While it featured a few new measures, the dominant theme of Budget 2012 is spending discipline while seeking to maintain core government services. To help address funding pressures across the provincial public sector, resources continue to be reallocated to higher priority areas such as health and education, and efforts to find efficiencies within existing budgets are accelerated.
Slow But Gradually Improving Growth In Store For BC
BC Economic Review and Outlook Feb 2012
BC’s economic growth in 2011 was modest and uneven. The first half of the year was particularly weak, as global equity markets underwent a steep sell-off, the American economy stumbled, the earthquake and tsunami sent Japan into a temporary recession, and financial stresses in the Eurozone escalated. Towards the end of the year, economic conditions in the US improved and, judging by job growth and a handful of other indicators, BC’s economy also appeared to pick up. This helped the province’s real gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by an estimated 2.0% in 2011. BC’s performance was reasonable compared to many other advanced economies, and was in the middle of the provincial growth rankings within Canada.
A Snapshot of Incomes in British Columbia
Policy Perspectives v18 n5
While economists often seem preoccupied with somewhat abstract indicators like gross domestic product, productivity and current account balances, arguably the economic variable of most interest to people is income. As defined by Statistics Canada (and similar agencies in other countries), income has two key components: 1) the “market incomes” received by individuals and households from employment, savings, investments, occupational pensions, rents, and entrepreneurial activity; and 2) “government transfers” such as social assistance, pensions, unemployment insurance, and the GST tax credit, which are remitted directly to households by the state.
Submission: Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
The Business Council of British Columbia submits preliminary advice on the 2012 provincial budget to the legislature's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.
The Harmonized Sales Tax -- Through an Economic Prism
This issue of Policy Perspectives is guest authored by Jon Kesselman of Simon Fraser University. Recognized as one of Canada's leading public finance and tax policy experts, Dr. Kesselman outlines the economic benefits of the Harmonized Sales Tax which the BC government plans to introduce later this year. The Business Council is grateful to Dr. Kesselman for contributing this timely article.
Corporate Income Tax: Getting the Economics Right
The past decade has seen a remarkable transformation in Canada’s business tax landscape. Starting in the late 1990s, both the federal and most provincial governments began to reduce corporate income taxes – the taxes levied on business income or profits. At the national level, the general federal corporate income tax (CIT) rate stood at 28% in 1999; today it is 18%, and the current government intends to bring it to 15% by 2012. Moreover, in recent years Ottawa has eliminated the income surtaxes and capital taxes that it previously imposed on large and medium-sized businesses.