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B.C. business leaders’ post-election wish list

Decision-makers lay out what economic priorities they’d like the government to set
Deregulation is one of the most frequently cited requests among B.C. business leaders asked to name their priorities for the newly re-elected federal government | Marius Gomes/Moment/Getty Images

With the election over and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada handed another minority mandate, the federal government faces the task of getting back to steering through a stubbornly persistent pandemic and setting the country’s economic direction for recovery. BIV has reached out to a cross-section of the top business leaders in the province for their views on what priorities that government should set as it pursues its agenda in the immediate future and the long run.

Joe Alphonse

Tribal chairman, Tsilhqot’in Nation

The Tsilhqot’in Nation has been on a mission to improve the lives of our people and of Indigenous peoples around the world. The future leader of Canada, and its government, needs to be our ally and not our enemy. We want to see real progress on the calls-to-action in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, as well as significant movement on the implementation of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bridgitte Anderson

CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade

The new federal government needs to make the final push to ensure appropriate support measures remain in place so we can put this pandemic behind us. At the same time, it must address old and emerging challenges to our competitiveness, including reforming the tax and regulatory regime, taking meaningful action to address the housing crisis, and ensuring we are training, attracting and retaining the talent we need for the jobs of the future. The plan must be affordable and offer an inclusive vision that builds a more prosperous Canada.”

Kim Baird

Consultant; Chancellor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University; former chief, Tsawwassen First Nation

The next federal government has to find the courage to tackle the biggest public policy challenges of our time. These challenges include getting through the pandemic and building a re-invented Canada. This new re-invented Canada must address Indigenous rights, climate change and the economy. Canada can build on the recently passed United Nations Declaration legislation to not only deal with Indigenous legal rights, but to address Indigenous socio-economic gaps, including infrastructure, child removal, poverty reduction, education and so on. The government has to try to lead inclusively and to mend many bridges if we are to meet climate targets and if we are to rebuild the economy for everyone’s benefit.

Chris Catliff

President and CEO, BlueShore Financial

With many new programs, the current government financially supported Canadians during the pandemic. Our debt-to-GDP ratio skyrocketed. This flood of money caused inflation, which is currently running at 4.1%. The new government will need to balance spending and work with the Bank of Canada otherwise many Canadians’ savings will be ravaged by inflation.

Carlo Dade

Director, Trade & Investment Centre, Canada West Foundation

You look at the economy and what can come back the quickest, the export of commodities…. So how we recover is going to depend on how we make money to pay for everything that has been promised. We outperform other regions in terms of exports per capita. We are where the rubber meets the road when it comes to trade with China, and that reality will have to be dealt with.

And there’s issue with trade infrastructure. Customers don’t trust us to get our products to them on time; so the government will have to deal with the reality of investing in our trade transportation corridor.

Greg D’Avignon

CEO, Business Council of BC

Canada has extraordinary potential and an opportunity to become a country that impacts global issues like climate change, while also expediting important matters here at home, including reconciliation. The next government needs to recognize the reality of Canada’s place in the world and present a clear vision for Canada’s future and then act on it. Canada meaningfully needs to build on our strengths and advance our nation’s interests by creating the conditions to attract capital and increase productivity to improve the quality of life for the country’s communities, citizens and future generations. 

Queenie Choo


There are several priorities we are looking at, the first of which is the situation with anti-hate-crime and anti-racism measures. We’ve seen, especially during COVID-19, a lot of anti-Asian racism going on – with even some cases of physical attacks against people in the community. That’s so uncalled for, and it’s very concerning. We want the government to continue their efforts on this front. This is not a theme-of-the-week or a theme-of-the-year; it has to be concrete actions that are sustainable over a long period of time.

Andrew d’Eca

Partner, Recruiting in Motion – Vancouver

I want the government to stop calling elections every 18 months and to remain focused on eliminating the COVID-19 threat so that businesses can resume and employees will return to work and feel safe to return to work. Right now the biggest challenge is not creating jobs, it is getting employees to work.

Meeru Dhalwala

Co-owner, Vij’s Restaurant

Agricultural and fisheries policies that co-ordinate sustainable food/animal farming, soil regeneration (rather than depletion), and rely less on fossil fuels and pesticides.

Also, policies to make it faster for foreign workers to get visas to work in Canada, and a change to make it so businesses are forgiven interest payments on any loans for the time period they were regulated closed by government during the pandemic.

Robin Dhir

President, Twin Brook Developments Ltd.

It is critical for any incoming government to look at long-term competitiveness, and not only look at short- term fixes to clean up the huge debt that has been accumulated, more recently, in the name of COVID-19 relief.

There will be temptation to tinker with principal-residence and capital-gains exemptions, and that would be extremely detrimental to not only keeping investment in Canada, but also attracting investment from outside our borders.

Karimah es Sabar

CEO, Quark Venture LP

The future of Canada depends on a solid and sustainable innovation economy across all industry sectors to remain competitive and to provide a high quality of life for all Canadians. Without an innovation-driven, digital and green-economy-focused agenda, Canadians’ aspirations cannot be achieved in a sustainable way. In particular, I urge the new government not to miss this opportunity of leveraging Canada’s strengths to build world-leading bio and clean economies in Canada.

Thomas Fung

CEO, Fairchild Group

I would like to see the government impose higher capital gains and other taxes on passive incomes. Share the lazy gains with people who work hard. I also would like to see higher taxes on non-essential travels and luxury foods, because privilege has a price.

Michael Goehring

President, Mining Association of BC

B.C.’s mining industry would like to see the federal government improve our country’s flagging competitive position globally with respect to taxation and regulation. One key area of focus would include the next federal government continuing to push for a fair and equitable treatment of the carbon tax across provinces for energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries. There is a tremendous opportunity for B.C. to become a preferred, responsible supplier of choice for the metals and minerals the future low-carbon world needs – while simultaneously reducing emissions in our local industry and helping B.C. meet its climate change targets.

Celeste Haldane

Chief commissioner, BC Treaty Commission

The priorities of this federal government will shape the future of all Canadians. Indigenous rights recognition and reconciliation are integral, and the relationship with Indigenous peoples must remain of utmost importance to all parties. In particular, the implementation of the Act Respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be a priority for this federal government. This law requires that an action plan to implement the declaration be created in collaboration with Indigenous peoples within two years. All parliamentarians and Canadians have a responsibility to uphold this commitment.

Anita Huberman

CEO, Surrey Board of Trade

Businesses play a foundational role in delivering economic growth, although it is up to governments to create the conditions that enable growth to occur. Focus on comprehensive tax reform; address labour shortages; revenue generation to reduce debt; enhanced social infrastructure across the country; reliable and sustainable international trade opportunities for all businesses; a clear strategy to get infrastructure dollars to projects quickly to create jobs; an immigration and international student strategy that enables productive career and entrepreneurial outcomes; affordable child care; and a national pharmacare plan to alleviate the burden on business.

Wendy Hurlburt

CEO, LifeSciences BC

Life sciences will continue to be a significant driver of future growth, prosperity and health in our country. The new government should capitalize without delay on our recent collective experience to seize this significant opportunity. Canadian life sciences need development of a comprehensive national life sciences strategy in alignment across governments, industry and academia; investment in the development, attraction, and retention of critical talent; and a globally aligned, modernized and streamlined regulatory processes.

David Hutniak                 

CEO, LandlordBC

Our 3,300 members want the federal government to ensure that our sector has an environment that will instil confidence in landlords, rental developers and lenders to continue to invest in both the existing and new purpose-built rental housing. As such we would encourage financial incentives for the rehabilitation and redevelopment of existing rental buildings, including direct or indirect support for renters for any disruption or displacement they may experience as a result. Robust energy efficiency initiatives are critical to the rental building rehabilitation process.

Ingrid Jarrett

CEO, BC Hotel Association

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) allowed our businesses to survive the first 19 months of the pandemic.

With compounding fixed costs and ongoing revenue loss, the extension of these programs into the spring will be critical for our industry’s survival.

Our industry is committed to working together to identify solutions.

In doing so, businesses will require operational certainty to allow for the labour market to recover – clarity and consistency surrounding our nation’s reopening will be essential.

Kendra Johnston

President, Association for Mineral Exploration

Canada’s five-year extension of flow-through share tax credits was a much-appreciated signal from government recognizing their importance. Any enhancement to these credits would increase investor attractiveness. We would also like to see the federal government develop further clarity on what is considered an eligible expense for mineral exploration tax credits.

We look forward to the new government building off the passing of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act to support reconciliation.

Walt Judas


From the tourism industry’s perspective, we expect the new government to follow through on commitments to help our sector recover by continuing support programs such as CEWS, CERS and other measures well into 2022. We also look to work with the new government on a path forward to rebuild the tourism and hospitality workforce, address issues such as border pre-clearance and to ensure that government policy allows Canada to remain competitive as an international tourism destination.

Peter Leitch

Chairman, Motion Picture Industry Association of BC

I see the two most critical issues as climate change and workforce development. Our Reel Green initiative to address climate change is an industry leader. Workforce development issues have included training initiatives and equity and inclusion initiatives reaching out to those that historically have not had access to the industry, including under-represented groups. With demand exceeding supply, we also support immigration policy to attract the talent that we need in the province.

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston

Board member, Canadian International Council (Ottawa branch)

Since the late 1980s, there has been a call for Canada to buy nuclear-power submarines. These calls have resumed recently, and I would strongly support it. The reason is that we have three coasts, and we don’t have adequate vessels to defend them. China has telegraphed its plans for building military infrastructure in the Arctic because they are becoming more active in resource development and shipping in the region, and they are building naval vessels to support that. If we are serious about our defence – which I think we should be – then we should be looking at this very serious. And a new government should treat this as a priority.

Evi Mustel

Owner, Mustel Group

Our polling shows that affordability – of not just housing but also of child care and everyday cost of goods – is a key issue to residents and businesses of Metro Vancouver. The pandemic has exacerbated the issue. This is not just a personal issue, as businesses report their No. 1 challenge today is recruitment and retention of staff due to affordability and other issues related to the pandemic. The government needs to implement recommendations from the Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability, create affordable child care and ensure supply chains and related infrastructure are in place.

Cybele Negris

CEO, Webnames

A focus on the economy and recovery. There are of course extremely important social issues that cannot be forgotten about alongside a strong economy. As a business owner and entrepreneur, I urge the government to ensure we have a strong economic foundation to build upon that incentivizes the entrepreneurial spirit and the workforce to produce and innovate.

A balanced regulatory and tax regime that gets people back to work and encourages productivity, growth and profitability fosters an environment for social change and prosperity for all.

Mark O’Dea

Chairman and founder, Oxygen Capital

We need to change the paradigm from regulatory red tape to championing Canada’s mining industry. We should be leveraging our incredible natural resource base and environmentally sustainable approach to project development and actively promoting Canada as the ‘brand of choice’ in supplying the world’s needs for the new lower-carbon economy. I need to see more political will and leadership to leverage the opportunity Canada has in front of it to grow local economies, particularly in remote areas.

Jaclynn Pehota

Executive director, Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers

ACCRES would like to see our next government revisit the cannabis file with the benefit of hindsight and address the over-regulation of our industry, with the ultimate goal of maximizing job creation and economic benefits.

For starters, they should move cannabis out of the jurisdiction of Health Canada and into the hands of a department with a mandate to create jobs. We place emphasis on the federal marketing regulations, which are seriously limiting growth of the legal industry.

Susannah Pierce

President, Shell Canada

The future of Canada rests on our ability to unify the country with a shared commitment to economic prosperity that respects the environment, addresses critical social issues and represents the diversity of our nation. To truly achieve our climate goals at home and abroad, we must remove the barriers to collaboration and increase co-ordination across federal and provincial jurisdictions, political parties, private and non-profit organizations and Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Miles Prodan

CEO, Wine Growers British Columbia

What we would most want to see is the government implement a 10-year Wine Grower Quality Enhancement Program to replace the excise-duty exemption to support every litre of wine produced in Canada using 100% Canadian-grown grapes. We also would like the government to eliminate legislated annual inflation indexation of the excise duty on wine.

Linda Seymour

CEO, HSBC Bank Canada

We’d like to see them continue to support Canadian businesses by creating conditions that allow them to sell their products and services to the world.

Merran Smith

Executive director, Clean Energy Canada

This election followed record-breaking wildfires and deadly heat waves. When Canadians went to the polls, they sent a clear message that action on climate needs to speed up. The Liberals made climate promises in the lead-up to last Monday, such as a 2035 clean electricity standard, increasing electric vehicle sales, capping oil and gas emissions and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. Now the priority must be implementation. The threat of climate change is real, and our solutions must be too.

Aaron Sutherland

Vice-president, western and Pacific, Insurance Bureau of Canada

As our climate changes, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like floods, wildfires and storms. As these have increased so too has their costs, to insurers and to Canadians generally. That’s why Canada’s insurance industry has called on the federal government to emphasize the importance of adapting to our new weather reality and building our resilience to the risks we face. This will require new and improved hazard mapping for things like floods and wildfires, and then increasing our investment in measures to protect communities and businesses.

Terry Teegee

Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

We look forward to collaborating on the Action Plan for An Act Respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2021), which will commit the Canadian government, fully supported by cabinet, to its full and effective implementation. Increased intensity on work for priority issues, such as the National Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Women, Girls and Two-Spirit people, clean drinking water, climate change, housing and homelessness and so many other urgent issues is expected as Bill C-15’s Action Plan is fully realized. This process requires nation-to-nation engagement that will bring significant progress on what is so urgently needed.

Jill Tipping

CEO, BC Tech Association

I want Canada’s new government to purposefully set a path for economic growth, centred on people and their innovation. We exit the pandemic with a significant debt burden and an urgent need to accelerate our economic growth driven by innovation so we can pay for it. That means feeding rather than starving a high-potential innovation ecosystem like B.C.’s so that more companies here can realize their full potential. And it means investing in people to equip more Canadians with the skills to fully participate in the modern economy. 

Ian Tostenson

CEO, British Columbia Restaurant & Foodservices Association

We want incentives for people to go back to work and the government to significantly reduce approval times for Skilled Foreign Worker applications in order to provide immediate assistance to our labour shortage crisis.

Tamara Vrooman

President and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority

As a major supporter and driver of our regional economy, we look forward to seeing a new government that is focused on recovery and growth.

This includes advancements in clean technology and climate action, as we work towards a greener and more resilient future, where YVR will be net zero by 2030. Importantly, as we continue to work closely with the Musqueam Indian Band, we look forward to seeing a federal focus on advancing truth and reconciliation in Canada and growing our future economy through social and financial inclusion across our country.

Heidi Waechtler

Executive director, Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia

From our federal government, B.C.’s book publishers would like to see a combination of policy intervention and strategic investment in the sector in order to address ongoing market challenges and aid sector recovery.

Our recommendations, such as increasing Canadian publishers’ competitiveness by bringing the annual investment in Canada Book Fund’s permanent programs to $58.4 million; implementing market-based solutions through reform of the Copyright Act; and keeping our book industry Canadian and put Canadian-owned publishers first.

Chip Wilson

Owner, Hold It All

I like small government. I think that government is highly inefficient. I want a finance minister who is not a financial infant. I want somebody that actually understands how to balance books.

I want a finance minister, and a prime minister, who has run a business of at least 40 people and has revenue of at least $20 million – someone who has paid taxes, understands human resources issues and understands what it is like to deal with government red tape.

Andrew Wynn-Williams

Divisional vice-president, B.C., Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

A new government needs a pro-jobs and pro-growth manufacturing strategy with the goal of attracting at least 2% of the annual manufacturing investment into the OECD, or $50 billion over the next decade. This 2% challenge requires a comprehensive industrial strategy focused on:

1) Finding the workforce.

2) Stimulating investment in innovation and advanced technologies.

3) Increasing Canadian exports.

4) Adopting a net-zero strategy.

Andy Yan

Director, City Program, Simon Fraser University

I hope the new government recognizes that federal housing policy is a combination of policies around supply, demand and finance. Moreover, at the federal level, housing is like a game of hockey where the federal, provincial and local levels of governments set up the rink for the market and non-market housing players as opposed to golf with only one player.

Bryan Yu

Chief economist, Central 1 Credit Union

The critical issue facing Canadians over the next five to 10 years will likely remain the housing market. Demand-side policies, taxes and other restrictions have shown to have temporary effects on market conditions and prices. It is necessary that all levels of governments work together to support expansion of the housing supply, which could include a focus on building social and affordable housing, and policies to address exclusionary zoning, to curb erosion in affordability. •