Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On May 22 and 23, 67 chambers and boards of trade from across B.C. gathered online to discuss and debate key policy issues at the BC Chamber of Commerce 68th Annual General Meeting & Conference.

“Our grassroots policy development process drives our advocacy efforts each year,” says Dan Baxter, BC Chamber Director of Policy Development, Government & Stakeholder Relations. “Like previous years, our network will prioritize advocacy in the year ahead by addressing key issues affecting BC’s economy. This year however there is an extreme sense of urgency to elevate policies that support economic recovery and address the impacts on struggling of BC businesses due to COVID-19.”

This marked a banner year for the BC Chamber with 70 policies submitted by 30 local chambers.  A total of 62 policies passed and will be added to the BC Chamber’s 2020 Policy & Positions Manual.

Key Policy Areas for 2020

Invest in Transportation & infrastructure

The chamber network passed several polices to move transportation infrastructure projects forward, including those that are shovel ready, to address long-term transportation issues across BC and provide vital economic stimulus. The specific policy recommendations ultimately aim to create jobs along the supply chain, and create trade-enabling infrastructure—including roads, rail, marine, ports, airports— that will serve BC for decades to come.

Specific transportation policies include the following requests:

  • Expedite the George Massey Crossing Project
  • Accelerate research around hydrogen as an alternative fuel for the transportation sector
  • Provide infrastructure support for Roberts Bank 2, and protect industrial lands to keep ports connected
  • Increase federal funding for regional airports
  • Address Hwy 1 deficiencies in the Fraser Valley, as it’s an integral part of Canada’s Pacific Gateway

Increase Employment Opportunities

Several policies were adopted to address labour issues, increase employment opportunities, and prepare BC’s workforce for the changing economy.  Specifically, the chamber network passed policy that focuses on investing in post-secondary education and retraining the underemployed workforce for opportunities in the emerging technology sector.

The chamber network also passed policies to reduce red tape in the Cannabis and Ridesharing sectors respectively, which would expedite employment opportunities to unemployed or under-employed workers impacted by COVID-19. In the cannabis sector, the network is asking the province to align the Worker Qualification Regulation with screening and training parallel to alcohol sales and service. In the ride sharing sector, the chamber network requests the province eliminate the requirement for a Class 4 driver’s license.

Support future and traditional sectors

The chamber networked passed policy to help companies transition to emerging economies by urging investments in sectors like renewable energy and block chain technology. In addition, the network voted unanimously to pass a policy for a renewed softwood lumber agreement to aid BC’s struggling the forestry.

Create a competitive taxation framework

Over the past few years, the provincial government has increased existing taxes, or added new taxes, with little or no notification with the business community or general public, causing serious harm to business competitiveness. Addressing taxation is increasingly important given the global, national and provincial economic uncertainty due to COVID-19.

Policy was adopted asking government to work with experts, including the business community, to develop a tax framework that considers and balances: revenue generation, impacts to struggling business, and economic growth and recovery.

The chamber network also urged for a competitive tax environment for credit unions, by passing policy asking the federal government to restore the federal extended small business tax exemption.

The final Policy & Positions Manual will be available late June.