The BC Chamber of Commerce (the BC Chamber) today released its Focusing Forward, 2022-2023 Policy and Positions Manual (Focusing Forward), which contains 55 policy statements and positions adopted by members at the provincial association’s 70th Annual General Meeting and Conference on June 7-9, 2022, in Prince George and online.
The policies contained in the manual are directed towards the provincial and federal governments. Along with the two previous years’ policy manuals, Focusing Forward serves as a guide for the BC Chamber’s advocacy efforts.
“Focusing Forward reflects what our members see as the important issues facing businesses in British Columbia and sets out detailed policy recommendations on how to address them,” said Fiona Famulak, President and CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce. “Collectively, the policies call on governments to foster an environment where businesses can thrive and communities are healthy, and an economy that rewards innovation, and ensures that resilient infrastructure is in place across the province.”
The policy manual covers a broad spectrum of issues critical to the success of B.C.’s business community, such as taxation, infrastructure, Indigenous reconciliation, forestry, mining, agriculture, healthcare, the opioid crisis, public safety, and labour.
“Indigenous reconciliation is a critical area where we see there is an important role for the business community to play in our collective path towards reconciliation,” Famulak said. “Furthermore, we believe we must continue to make strides internally as an organization.”
The BC Chamber’s 2022 policy on Indigenous reconciliation calls on the provincial government to make funding available to help Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses work together towards reconciliation and identify potential partnerships for delivery in their communities. The policy also calls on the BC Chamber’s Board of Directors to make the association’s annual policy development process more inclusive to facilitate better collaboration with First Nations.
Another key policy of Focusing Forward seeks to address the April 2022 increase in the provincial sales tax rate from 7% to 12% on the purchase or leasing of fossil fuel combustion systems, while exempting heat pumps from the tax. The increase will have a drastic impact on people and businesses in the central and northern regions of the province. The tax changes did not consider customers who use zero and low-carbon renewable gases, which are part of CleanBC’s emissions reduction strategy, or the fact that heat pumps are not always recommended as a principal source of heat in central and northern communities in light of their climate.
Focusing Forward also calls on the federal government to expand the Provincial Nominee Program and increase the total number of available nominations to help employers attract and retain employees with the skills, experience and qualifications required to fill current and future job openings in their provinces.
“There are myriad issues we can address by working together with our federal and provincial governments to ease costs for businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, as they face inflationary cost increases, rising interest rates, supply chain challenges, a shortage of skilled workers, and affordable housing and daycare for staff,” Famulak says. “We need the political will to get things done, so that we can build a better economy for the benefit of all British Columbians.”