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OP/ED: Chris Gardner in Praise of Bold Thinking (Cut the PST)

The following op/ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first ran in The Orca on Oct. 1, 2020.

Finally, a bold idea for jumpstarting the BC economy.

For months, the business community has been calling for the provincial government to think big, be bold, and act fast in the effort to restart BC’s economy after the pandemic shutdown. Under John Horgan and the NDP, recovery has been agonizingly slow, and has fallen short of what needs to be done. BC’s unemployment rate is 10.7% — two full points higher than Quebec, and higher than Ontario, Saskatchewan and all but two other provinces.

Just before John Horgan broke his word to British Columbians and called this election last week, his government laid out a $1.5 billion economic recovery plan that was underwhelming and generally panned by most observers.

On Monday, we saw the first big idea of the 2020 BC election campaign come from Andrew Wilkinson and the BC Liberals. Wilkinson pledged to eliminate the 7% Provincial Sales Tax (PST) for an entire year, and then keep it at 3% until the economy recovers from the fallout of the pandemic.

This tax cut would be dynamic and help every British Columbian. A family with a household annual income of $90,000 would save $1,388 next year. A single person making $30,000 would save $460. Regardless of income level, all British Columbians would save money under this plan. What’s more, both left and right leaning economists have long criticized the PST for being a regressive tax that disproportionally hits lower-income people, meaning this cut will help the poor the most.

For business owners trying to pull themselves up off the mat, this tax cut would be incredibly helpful. First, consumers would have more money in their pockets to spend on local goods and services. Second, communities in eastern BC would be able to compete with Alberta, which doesn’t have a provincial sales tax. Paperwork and bureaucracy would also be reduced.

For construction companies, a PST cut will mean more money is available for investments in capital and training and hiring workers. Right now, PST is embedded into the cost of goods, supplies, equipment, and service, and passed on to the final customer.

Eliminating it for a year would be a kickstart for projects that might have been marginal at that 7% tax level. And we need every project and housing start possible to get BC’s economy moving again. Back in 2016, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimated that PST added at least $9,000 to a $400,000 housing project in BC. That amount has only increased in the four years since, and is far higher on more expensive homes.  Earlier this year, the Business Council of BC called for the PST to be cut in half—Wilkinson’s plan is even bolder.

Wilkinson’s PST cut is one of those rare policies that helps everyone—and it’s a key reason why we all need to pay attention in this election. BC needs the best plan to revitalize our economy, attract investment, and create jobs and opportunity for communities and families in every part of our province.

OP/ED: Out of Business

The following by ICBA VP-Communications Jordan Bateman first appeared on The Orca on September 27, 2020.

I walked through Horseshoe Bay a few weeks ago and I was stunned at the number of empty storefronts. For an affluent community, they have lost a large number of small businesses in recent months.

I got the same feeling this summer when I walked through Vancouver and Metrotown and Penticton and Kelowna. I felt it when I saw the massive price drops for office space, and some small construction sites sitting idle. It was obvious when radio and TV stations struggled to air any ads, and newspapers quietly disappeared into oblivion.

Small business owners are reeling. Many of already closed their doors through no fault of their own. They may have had a perfect business plan, great location, outstanding service, and wonderful product, but COVID-19 and the NDP government’s lack of support swallowed them anyway.

Behind each of those closed storefronts is an entrepreneur whose dream and financial security have been shattered. Their families now live on the razor’s edge. Gone too are the thousands of jobs those businesses created – nearly a quarter million lost since COVID-19 hit BC.

In May, Business Council of BC economist Jock Finlayson – not a man given to panic or hyperbole – laid out this startling projection:

“Looking ahead, we suspect that a significant number of B.C. businesses that existed when [2020] began will be gone by the end of 2021. Some have disappeared already, unable to survive the economic closures in place from mid-March to May. Many more will soon discover that while they are now able to do business, they cannot operate profitably in the ‘new normal.’

“Add it all up, and it’s likely that at least 10% and perhaps as many as 15% of the 200,000 B.C. businesses with paid employees could be gone by late 2021.”

That’s 30,000 businesses snuffed out. Thirty thousand business owners left high and dry – again, through no, or very little, fault of their own. Restaurants, cafes, arts and culture businesses, tourism operations, resource companies and their supporting businesses, gone.

The supports from the federal and provincial governments have been spotty at best; huge funds remain unallocated as the bureaucracy involved in getting them is insurmountable. Some cities went above and beyond, such as Quesnel:

But even those successful communities are all about holding on to what they used to have – not about growth.

And now we are at the tax deferral cliff, the bad weather, and likely a second wave of COVID-19. The situation is grim.

Instead of focusing on this challenge, John Horgan rolled out a bland, scattered $1.5 billion aid plan and called an election. For small business owners, it should be a clarion call: he’s not up to the task of rebuilding an economy.

What about the BC Liberals and the Greens? We’ll see when they release their platforms in the coming days. But right now, Horgan has left them an incredibly low bar to get over.

OP/ED: Why Now?

This op/ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first appeared on The Orca on September 26, 2020.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The provincial political landscape was crystal clear: the law said the next BC election would be held on October 16, 2021- a year from now. A signed agreement between the NDP and Greens kept the government stable. And the BC Liberals were putting aside party politics to work with the Provincial Health Officer and the NDP Health Minister to get BC through the global pandemic.

Instead, Premier John Horgan called an election for Saturday, October 24, 2020.

Why now? We are, after all, in the middle of a provincial emergency and a global pandemic. We have not experienced a job loss and health crisis of the proportions we are living through, ever. British Columbians have been asked to sacrifice much and give up a lot since the unprecedented shutdown of large parts of our economy last March.

Millions in our province were asked to stay home and simply do nothing. Businesses were shuttered, jobs were lost, and livelihoods threatened. Everything from high school graduations, weddings, community events, local and professional sports were all shut down. Tragically, thousands of families have lost loved ones and worse, have been unable to come together to mourn their loss.

Today, families across BC are focused on how to safely settle their children back into school, and businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy and are facing tax deferral cliffs. A second wave of COVID-19 infections seems to be upon us, and countries around the world are reimposing harsh shutdown measures. Uncertainty is the one word that now defines every part of our lives.

An election now, why? It is a question that John Horgan has been unable to answer to anyone’s satisfaction over the past few days. Early next year, conceivably, a vaccine or vaccines may be available, an important milestone if we are to once again enjoy aspects of our pre-COVID-19 life that have been so quickly taken away.

So why the rush to the polls now at the risk of people’s health, in the middle of a global pandemic, when we had stability in Victoria and when British Columbians are rightly focused on keeping their families safe and protecting their businesses and their jobs.

Sadly, no one should ever underestimate how tempting it is for politicians to act, well, like politicians. Riding high in the polls as British Columbians rallied together to take on COVID-19, John Horgan saw a chance to get the majority government he so desperately wants.

On Monday, John Horgan ripped up the agreement he signed with the leader of the Green Party and with every Green Party and NDP MLA in 2017 to form government. The public is rightly cynical about the frequency with which politicians break their word, but throwing out a signed contract lowers this bar significantly.

The point of fixed election dates is to level the playing field and take the politics out of when elections are called – with this political maneuver, politics has been injected back into the timing of this election.

Given the sacrifices we and our families have all made in our personal, professional and business lives, it is hard not to feel a great deal of frustration and indeed anger at the cavalier manner in which the NDP have rolled the dice with everyone’s health and in the pursuit of power.

I cannot think of any time more than now when we need leadership and not politics in Victoria.

ICBA BC Election 2020 Resources

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbia will hold a provincial election Saturday, October 24, 2020.

While many BC voters would have preferred that Premier John Horgan keep his word and keep the government working on the important health and economic issues facing our province until the legislated fall 2021 election date, he has decided to send us to the polls.

Over the past three years, ICBA has done a lot of advocacy and policy work on the provincial scene. Below are some resources you may find helpful as you make your decision on who to support in the Oct. 24 vote – please feel free to share these with others.

We will update this web page throughout the election campaign with interesting analysis and resources for people working in construction and responsible resource development.

***WANT TO VOTE BY MAIL? REQUEST YOUR BALLOT HERE ASAP***

 

MEDIA

  • Read The Orca for coverage of this election from a free enterprise point of view. ICBA’s Chris Gardner and Jordan Bateman are among dozens of contributors.
  • Subscribe to The Fin, a free, daily email with all the BC election and business news you need. This is the single best roundup of what’s happening in BC.

 

OP/EDS

 

CONSTRUCTION MONITORS

Curious how the NDP Government has dealt with our industry over the past few years? There’s no better place to look than our Construction Monitors:

 

FACEBOOK GRAPHICS

Every day during the campaign, ICBA’s Facebook offers one of 30 Things to Think About This Election:

 

PODCASTS

Every week, ICBA’s Chris Gardner and Jordan Bateman discuss the election issues important to construction contractors on our ICBA CAST:

Twice a week, ICBA’s Jordan Bateman and The Orca’s Maclean Kay get into the nitty-gritty of BC politics on the #BCPOLI HOTSTOVE:

 

VIDEOS

Over the years, ICBA has released several videos highlighting provincial issues, which may be of help in understanding our issues and convincing undecided voters:

 

Everybody’s Stuck at Massey

A 1990s-style song parody looking at how the NDP Government killed a massively under-budget replacement for the Massey Tunnel, wasting $100 million, and leaving people in traffic for another decade.

 

Traffic’s Back

The ’90s too hip for you? Here’s a 1970s-style song parody looking at how the NDP Government killed a massively under-budget replacement for the Massey Tunnel, wasting $100 million, and leaving people in traffic for another decade.

 

Crushed by Taxes

Even before COVID-19, small businesses were barely hanging on, as the provincial government raised their taxes and fees and strangled them with red tape.

 

Big Gas Prices

ICBA’s most famous video looks at the cost of constantly increasing gasoline and carbon taxes, and fighting pipelines.

 

Horgan’s Zeroes

Despite several announcements, there is zero money in the NDP budget plan to build Surrey’s new hospital or SkyTrain extension.

 

Letting Young People Down

Life for people under age 35 in BC has gotten more expensive and more difficult over the past three years. Here are 10 ways how.

 

Horgan Government Gets an F

It’s a scandal many haven’t heard of – the provincial government messing up graduates’ provincial exams so badly that the independent Ombudsperson has ordered they pay out some 2019 grads and verify and sign truthfulness pledges before sending out news releases.

 

Rewarding Donors

The NDP Government gave 19 building trades unions the monopoly on building several massive infrastructure projects – meaning cost overruns of hundreds of millions of dollars.