On May 28-29, 2021, Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade from across the province gathered online at the 69th Annual General Meeting and Conference of the BC Chamber of Commerce. The event included the annual policy sessions where 70 policy resolutions, submitted by 24 Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade, were tabled, debated and voted upon.  Sixty resolutions were approved and will be included in the BC Chamber’s 2021 Policy & Positions Manual, four were not approved and six were referred to the BC Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for consideration. 

“Our highly engaged, grassroots policy development process is at the core of our annual advocacy efforts.” said Fiona Famulak, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “Despite the turbulent year, Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade from across the province worked together to develop policy resolutions on key issues, many of which arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and participated in a highly engaged debate on which policy resolutions should be added to our 2021 Policy & Positions Manual. We are confident that with the 60 policies passed, our advocacy efforts will remain sharply focused on helping to create a post-pandemic economy that is more competitive, innovative and inclusive than before the pandemic.”

Key Policy Areas for 2021

Let’s Compete
Small business recovery hinges on “a BC-built-to-compete” framework.

This year the Chamber network passed several policies, bold in nature, that will help boost the competitiveness of BC businesses. For example, the need to introduce a made-in-Canada tax policy process that is efficient, measurable, and inclusive for all; to increase the base payroll exemption threshold of the Employer Health Tax to allow more small businesses to be exempt from the tax; to acknowledge the critical role that the natural resource sector plays in BC’s economic recovery as it creates much-needed economic opportunities and growth for remote, northern, and Indigenous communities and well-paying jobs that support families and communities in BC and across Canada.

Policies focused on boosting business competitiveness include but are not limited to:

  1. Renew the COVID school tax cut and employer health tax deferrals
  2. Made in Canada – Inclusive tax policy process (ITPP)
  3. Encourage hiring by amending the Employer Health Tax
  4. Resource industries – A critical ingredient in the post-pandemic recipe
  5. Supporting a globally competitive LNG industry in BC

Let’s Innovate
The Chamber network understands that economic diversification, that includes the support of emerging economies, is essential to sustained economic recovery. Several policies were passed that will focus on this, such as the need to leverage BC’s international reputation as a leader in the delivery of sustainable, renewal energy solutions and a clean technology economy; support the tourism and hospitality sectors and their critical need for a springboard in their economic restart; encourage the continued expansion of the Mobile Business License program initiative across the province, with the goal of eventually establishing a single, province-wide licensing program for all businesses.

Policies focused on boosting innovation include but are not limited to:

  1. Clean technology and the renewable, sustainable energy sector in BC
  2. Focused support for the local tourism and hospitality sectors in the economic restart
  3. Enhanced push for intermunicipal mobile business licenses
  4. Promoting innovation in regional solid waste management

Let’s Be Inclusive
BC’s recovery must include systemic changes that advance economic reconciliation and create equitable opportunities for all British Columbians. Many of the social and economic inequities that persist in our communities today will be addressed through policies that shine a light on those inequities. Of note is a ground-breaking policy that calls for actionable steps to move forward BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act legislation and another that proposes legislation to recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day as a statutory holiday.

Other policies include supporting regional and remote air access for all British Columbians by treating air service to remote and rural communities as an integrated public and private service and supporting regional airlines through grants or subsidies; highlighting the need for more inclusive veteran workforce planning and communication around the value of hiring veterans; creating province-wide equitable access to medical services – no matter the location.

Policies focused on boosting inclusiveness include but are not limited to:

  1. Creating a comprehensive action plan to build a sustainable business relationship with Indigenous Peoples
  2. Support for a recognized National Indigenous Peoples Day holiday
  3. Regional and remote air access for British Columbians
  4. Veterans: An asset to any workforce
  5. Emergency medical services for British Columbians

The final 2021 Policy & Positions Manual of the BC Chamber of Commerce will be available in early July.