The business community, especially small- and medium-sized businesses, seeks additional accessibility and increased transparency in government engagement opportunities to ensure more equitable and inclusive decision making, especially with respect to areas such as taxation, socio-economic impacts, economic development, land, and water management.


In British Columbia, compared to other provinces, there are more small businesses per capita, they employ a larger share of the workforce, and self-employment is more common than in any other province. The vast majority of businesses are small businesses – 98 per cent. In a province with 5.1 million people and 523,600 small businesses, one-in-ten British Columbians are small business entrepreneurs of some kind, from private tutors to professional firms to exporting manufacturers and more.[1] They are a critical voice in the economic and social fabric of their communities’ and the province as a whole.

Small business owners, industry, First Nations local governments and investors struggle with the current consultation process and feel that their concerns have not been heard or, when they are raised, are not addressed in a genuine manner of collaboration and problem solving.

Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening for mutual benefit. Public engagement is more of an umbrella term that encompasses numerous methods for bringing people together to address issues of public importance. Despite increasing global interest in and use of public engagement, our knowledge is incomplete, rendering it often difficult to pull together all the pieces needed to fill knowledge gaps and improve practices.[2]

There is also common misconception that there is a particular methodology that can be devised to facilitate all public engagement. Pragmatically ineffective in that effective participation is conducted on assumption that each situation will require different design, using existing and perhaps new combinations of tools, information-sharing, Indigenous and local knowledge as part of an evolving and adaptative decision-making framework.[3]

Moreover, there seems to be growing concerns that governments and decision-makers undertake engagement activities to canvas opinions, while in fact may have a predetermined direction or policy before the consultations began.

Inconsistencies in policy application and processes have created a disenfranchised citizenship who do not feel they have been engaged in meaningful consultation, and yet must involuntarily accept outcomes and new directions that are not supported within their community.

Chambers of Commerce, industry, not for profit organizations and community partners from all sectors, have committed to actively participate in good public engagement led by the government. However, regular staff turn over, Covid-19, and other in-house issues have impaired government in their ability to execute their own expectations and desired outcomes.

In 2022, each provincial government ministers’ mandate letter laid out the expectation that all elected representatives” build thoughtful and sustained relationships through public and stakeholder engagement plans that connect with people to incorporate their perspectives early in the policy development process. These plans must include measurable outcomes and ensure active dialogue and ongoing outreach in your ministry’s actions and priorities.[4]

Many British Columbians do not have confidence that the current formula that government uses for consultation is being implemented effectively. A more robust and transparent system of public and stakeholder engagement and consultations is required.

An essential element of any democracy is transparency and accountability. The provincial government has made many commitments to deliver on both and be accountable for the ways in which tax dollars are spent. Accountability and transparency with respect to the development of efficient and effective programs and policies are no less important. This requires clear communication, sufficient time to gather information, data or perspectives and relevant and timely information to those affected, or potentially affected, by a change in policy or direction.

Proper and robust consultation around legislation, policies, programs, and projects creates an eagerness to listen and contribute, support change, while allowing citizens businesses, industries, and local government to manage and mitigate as needed.


That the Provincial Government:

  1. Collaborate with stakeholder groups, including private sector businesses, not-for-profit organizations, First Nations, local government, and community partners to provide recommendations on ways to improve the current engagement process, so that all elements of consultation best practices are being implemented and to ensure the expectations of those being consulted are met.
  2. That government publicly report their consultation work against the expectations outlined in ministers’ mandate letters.
  3. Increase transparency and accountability of engagement and ensure any processes supports equality, diversity, and inclusion for all British Columbians.

[1] Small Business Profile 2021, BC Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation. In collaboration with BC Stats. Small Business Branch of the Ministry

[2] Measham, T.G. Brake, C.J. Robinson, S. Larson, S. Richards, T. Smith. 2011. NRM engagement between remote arid communities and government agencies: Success factors from Australia. Journal of Arid Environments. 75 (10): 968-973.

[3] Nabatchi, T., and L. Blomgren Amsler. 2014. Direct public engagement in local government. The American Review of Public Administration, published online 12 February 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0275074013519702.

[4] Province of British Columbia. 2012. Citizen engagement highlights package: citizen engagement in the government of British Columbia.