2019 Advocacy will Include: Emergency Management, Rental Housing, Tax Reform, and the Economic Impacts of ‘Species Protection’ Measures
VANCOUVER May 29, 2019– Chambers from across B.C. descended on Burnaby from May 23-25 to discuss and debate key policy issues impacting the province at the BC Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting & Conference.
This marked a banner year for the BC Chamber with 73 policies submitted and supported by 55 individual chambers.
This year the BC Chamber championed three policies on enhancing emergency management efforts in BC, demonstrating a commitment to preparing and protecting the BC business community from floods, wildfires and other natural disasters.
“British Columbia’s framework for disaster management has been severely tested in recent years. The effects of climate change and extreme weather events have had profound impact, and we must adjust to a new normal, through prevention and preparedness to mitigate impacts to our people and communities,” says Todd Corrigall of the Prince George Chamber in the policy submission entitled ‘Emergency Management: Enhancing Preparedness and Prevention.”
Two other policies “Wildfire interface and Prevention” (submitted by the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce) and “Floods as an emerging economic threat requiring action” (submitted by the Surrey Board of Trade) also passed with mass support.
Rental housing was also a front and center issue, with three policy submissions. Two advocated for more rental housing (Kelowna Chamber of Commerce & Surrey Board of Trade), and one made recommendations on how to create a feasible market environment for rental housing providers (Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce). These three policies will be amalgamated by BC Chamber staff to create a single ‘Rental Housing Policy.’
Fifteen Vancouver Island Chambers called on government to protect BC’s recreational fishing industry on the Westcoast of BC in their policy submission—citing that the sector generates $1 billion in annual revenue and has recently been severely impacted by federal closures that aim to protect Southern Resident Killer Whales.
“There are more effective ways to protect the SRKWs than the closures we are currently seeing,” says Karl Ablack, from the ‘Thriving Orcas, Thriving Communities Coalition’ that includes 15 chambers, and several local businesses. “We’re asking the government to implement proven protection measures for the species and their prey, and also protect the economic vitality of Vancouver Island.”
Other notable policies that passed include:
- Aquaculture Opportunities for Canadian Seafood Producers (Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce)
“The seafood sector is important to our national food security, and employs approximately 80,000 people in Canada,” says Kim Smythe, CEO of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce. “We’re asking the provincial and federal governments to further fund programs that help producers get their seafood to global markets.”
• Streamline the regulatory transition of the BC cannabis industry (Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce)
“We need private cannabis retailers to move consumers to the regulated market. Certain provincial and federal regulations are impeding private retailers and cultivators—impacting both local economies, and the health and wellness of sick people— including senior citizens—who rely on Cannabis to manage their health,” says Tom Thomson, Executive Director of The Nelson & DistrictChamber of Commerce.
- Amend the property assessment process (Burnaby Board of Trade)
“Some BC businesses are being threatened by very high property tax bills—which are largely determined by the development potential of a site, and with little regard for the profitability of the current business,” says Paul Holden, President and CEO of the Burnaby Board of Trade. “This policy will fix that by calling for split property assessments, a ‘highest and best use’ exemption for long-standing businesses, and the possibility of a Business Property Tax Deferral Program.”
- Species-At-Risk Legislation: Consider the impact to business (Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce)
“We’re advocating for provincial species-at-risk legislation, using laws from Ontario and other jurisdictions as models. This legislation would maintain the natural values of our eco-system and also support businesses in affected communities,” says Kristin Parsons, Executive Director of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce.
- Introduce choice in auto insurance for British Columbians (submitted by the Richmond & Abbotsford Chambers of Commerce)
“Providing BC drivers with additional insurance options is the most effective way to improve insurance affordability and reduce the cost of ICBC to taxpayers,” says Matt Pitcairn, President and CEO of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
The network also overwhelmingly voted to renew a policy adopted in 2016, that pushes for a “Made-in-BC Value Added Tax.”
Policies submitted to the floor are rigorously debated and discussed by Chamber members from 55 regional chambers of commerce and boards of trade around BC and must receive support from at least two-thirds of the membership to be voted into force.
The 2018/2019 Policy Resolution Manual will be released in late June.
The BC Chamber is the largest and most broadly-based business organization driving insights to our partners, government and Chamber network. Representing more than 125 Chambers of Commerce and 36,000 businesses from across the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce “Knows What’s on BC’s Mind”.
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For further details, please contact:
Director of Communications, BC Chamber of Commerce