The economy will be a major issue in the 2017 B.C. provincial election, with the incumbent B.C Liberal government running primarily on the strength of the province’s economic performance. However, the B.C. Liberal’s measures of success — GDP growth and job creation — paint an incomplete economic picture. It ignores that GDP growth has been driven by a red-hot, but limited housing market, that the benefits of this growth have primarily gone to the already-wealthy, and that the jobs that have been created are frequently part-time, insecure and unevenly distributed throughout the province.
The BC Green Party believes that the economy is not an end in itself. Instead, the economy should promote the health and wellbeing of the people of B.C. At present, the B.C. economy does not live up to that measure of success.
Meanwhile, the BC NDP, after 16 years in opposition and 4 lost elections, have failed to convince British Columbians that they can be trustworthy stewards of B.C.’s dynamic economy.
The world is changing. Between automation, exponential advances in technology, climate change, global political instability and resource depletion, B.C. needs a strong vision and an actionable strategy in order to succeed amidst these rapid, tectonic shifts. However, the piecemeal approach of both parties does not provide the agility required to succeed under these fast-changing conditions.
The B.C. Green Party is the only party that is presenting a platform that ensures opportunities created today are also available to the next generation. The key objectives of our platform that will run through this release and the ones to come are:
- Economic security;
- Sustainability and intergenerational equity; and,
- Responsible government.
A B.C. Green government will introduce policies that promote innovation and sustainable enterprise and ensure an equitable future for all British Columbians for decades to come — not just until the next election is held.
A business environment for the new economy
- An example of how this task force would work is on an issue like ridesharing. Uber first launched in B.C. in 2009 and yet the province is still grappling with how to address it, leaving consumers frustrated and without choice and both ridesharing and the taxi industry facing uncertainty. At the same time, these kinds of technological disruptions require made-in-B.C. solutions in order to mitigate their various social and economic impacts.
- The task force will include business and industry representatives, and will develop a plan for a supportive and progressive regulatory environment for businesses in the context of changes in political, social and economic conditions.
- Recommendations from the task force may include:
- How to maximise the number of people employed;
- How to adjust the regulatory environment to accommodate new business;
- How to support business development and innovation;
- How to attract and retain workers with critical skills;
- How to facilitate transitions between sunset and sunrise industries;
- How to support communities as employment in traditional industries declines.
Budget implications: Use existing resources to support task force.
- The current tax system promotes distortions in businesses’ decisions on investment, financing, innovation, location, and where they report profits.
- This measure will result in a more efficient taxation system that is simpler to navigate and saves both government and businesses money.
- This measure will result in a tax system that is structured to meet spending needs, give greater fairness and equity to the people of B.C., and complement other government goals.
Budget implications: Revenue neutral.
- The current programming in this area is delivered by at least six ministries and several agencies. It is overly cumbersome and places an undue burden on small businesses to navigate complex government systems in order to access these programs. Time to market is critical for new businesses and inefficiency in government systems is an impediment to their success.
- Governments have a role to play in nurturing innovative sectors. Finland’s recent reboot of its technology industry through a “hands on” government approach has succeeded in making the country a leader in mobile games.
- The B.C. Greens’ plan will replace the existing system with one that delivers smaller amounts of money more quickly, more predictably and with less paperwork.
- This measure will result in improved coordination, streamlined delivery, and increased accessibility.
- This will lead to enhanced flexibility of the program to respond to the changing needs of the emerging economy, an increased ability to partner with the private sector and angel investors, and a greater ability to serve regional needs.
Budget implications: Funding comes from within existing budgets.
- Today’s economy is subject to regular disruptions driven by technology, demographics and climate change. These forces cannot be averted through wishful thinking, but we can modernise labour laws to provide protection for the average British Columbian while still addressing this reality.
- Many jobs now fall outside of the standard, full-time, permanent employment with a single employer. More people work part-time, on contract, or are classified as “independent contractors” — designations that may allow employers to deprive them of basic gains such as overtime pay, benefits, regular work schedules, a modicum of job security and a minimum wage.
- This measure will reform the labour code to reflect the realities of the current and emerging work world; give greater flexibility and employment security to workers; and facilitate job creation by easing labour market transitions and fostering creativity.
Budget implications: Funding comes from within existing budgets.
Growing sustainable enterprises in BC
- The Innovation Commission will have a mandate to help sustain and grow innovative B.C. enterprises, serving as the home to all of the initiatives listed in this portion of the platform.
- The programs of the Innovation Commission will include attracting inward investment, administering funding programs, and marketing B.C. technology.
- This initiative will enhance access to capital, streamline delivery of program funding to innovative enterprises, facilitate access to clients, help bring in partners and other clients, and ensure B.C. companies get their fair share of federal funding.
Budget implications: Funding from new programs described above and existing programs.
- Current survival rates for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Canada decline over time. About 85% of businesses survive one full year, diminishing to 70% for two years and 51% for five years.1
- Students from all disciplines must be empowered to work collaboratively to define their futures. But ideation without experience rarely works. An essential component of this program will be to integrate students into existing companies for a short time so they can get the experience they need to turn their ideas into reality.
- This investment will increase the number of young people starting businesses with a strong understanding of business planning, management and marketing. They will have the ability to identify opportunities and connect with target markets, to understand risk and manage it, and will acquire an understanding of capital markets and resources of capital.
- It will link management skills to product innovation skills.
- It will improve the ability of new businesses to withstand the changes in a volatile 21st century economy.
Budget implications: $20 million per year.
1Source: Industry Canada
- The B.C. Liberals’ focus on venture capital ignores a large swathe of the innovation ecosystem: the raw startups trying to move from the dorm room to the kind of scale that would then draw interest from venture capitalists. The procurement approach of the NDP does not address this gap either, as government contracts generally require enterprise-level solutions.
- The B.C. Greens’ investment will increase support for startups, especially in digital media and technology but also in other areas, to leverage funding. This will allow them to actualize their ideas at an earlier stage, when it is most needed and most effective.
- Any risk associated with this investment would be mitigated by third-party validation and the risk for private sector investors.
Budget implications: $70 million over four years.
- Business incubators and accelerators provide advice, guidance and various forms of support for business in the startup phase.
- There are many incubators, co-working spaces and accelerators in the province, but the results they produce are mixed. As a first step, we would initiate an arms-length review of existing entities to determine where this investment would be best spent.
- This investment will increase survival rates for startups; leverage the benefits of co-location with other entrepreneurs and similar businesses; promote cluster development; allow new businesses to access affordable space in major centres; enable SMEs to get their products to market more quickly; and complement similar initiatives by the federal government and in other provinces.
Budget implications: $175 million over four years.
- Due to asymmetries in the investment ecosystem, the tech industry in B.C. is described as a “leaky bucket”, where the best companies and the brightest ideas are often compelled to relocate to richer capital markets.
- Hundreds of thousands of Canadians live and work in Silicon Valley1. Many are now concerned about their visa status and the growing political instability in the United States. Our platform will enable these innovative Canadians to dream their biggest dreams right here in B.C.
- In 2016, the B.C. government announced a $100 million venture fund dedicated to encouraging growth in the tech sector. However, immediate talent shortages are a major hurdle to capitalizing on the success of this strategy, as global competition to attract talent is fierce.
- This initiative will create an environment in B.C. that attracts urgently needed talent and encourages talent that has left B.C. to return through “soft diplomacy” initiatives.
- The success of this initiative will partly depend on affordable housing, which will be addressed in subsequent portions of our platform.
Budget implications: $35 million over four years.
1Source: Tech Vibes
Encouraging emerging opportunities
- Canada lags behind other countries in terms of public investment in research and development (R&D), with a recent Conference Board Report giving B.C. a “C” grade for its level of investment.
- This investment will increase the level of R&D activity in B.C., with a focus on clean technology. It will encourage an increase in the number of patents from B.C. academic institutions and research facilities.
- It will streamline the process of turning ideas into marketable products and jobs.
- It will encourage the development of products that will lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Budget implications: $120 million over four years.
- In response to the glut of energy that will be produced by the over-budget Site C project, the clean energy sector in B.C. has been decimated as organisations like the Canadian Wind Energy Association move to other jurisdictions. This is only one example of how B.C. can do far better in encouraging the made-in-B.C. clean tech sector.
- This measure will ensure growth in the proportion of energy needs satisfied by clean energy; promote innovation in the energy sector; create well-paying jobs distributed throughout the province; encourage innovation in clean transportation; and lead to greater adoption of zero and low emission vehicles.
Budget implications: Regulatory and legislative changes — no cost.
- Regulations and procurement are effective means of promoting efficiency in industry in a way that also benefits consumers and the environment.
- Eco-efficiency links the economy and the environment in a positive way and concurrently achieves economic and environmental benefits.
- These measures will enhance the market for green products and services, lower production costs, and allow made-in-B.C. products to become mainstream.
- These measures will result in lower cost solutions to waste management and encourage the harvesting of valuable materials from the waste stream.
Budget implications: $20 million per year.
- Estimated capital expenditure for 2017/18 is $8.1 billion, not including procurements by Crown corporations. B.C. Hydro alone spends $1.2 billion on goods and services.
- The revision of B.C. Hydro’s mandate is critical for the development of alternative electricity in B.C..
- This measure will ensure that government procurements are used in the most efficient way that enables made-in-B.C. sustainable enterprises to succeed in the long-term.
Budget implications: Not quantifiable.