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‘Co-shaping of markets’: B.C. promises new economic plan as it looks beyond pandemic

Province tapping London-based economist to help develop new economic strategy
Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Minister Ravi Kahlon | Submitted

The B.C. government is pledging to create a new economic plan as it embarks on looking beyond the immediate impacts of the pandemic.

The province is currently in the midst of an economic restart plan affecting everything from the reopening of casinos to the return of more workers into offices.

But Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Minister Ravi Kahlon said Wednesday this new economic strategic will be more long-term in nature and will be “developed and led by British Columbians.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted much of our global economy. It's caused people around the world to rethink even the simplest aspects of our lives. There have been many examples of unwelcome changes, such as being isolated from family and friends. This time has given us an opportunity to consider new ways to create positive change,” he said while announcing the first details of this new plan.

Consultations with provincial and Indigenous leaders are presently underway, and the province has already hired a special adviser in the U.K. to help with its direction.

Mariana Mazzucato, a professor in economics of innovation and public value at University College London (UCL), said the new economic plan is not going to be based on a top-down model.

“But it does mean a process about co-creation and co-shaping of markets, co-shaping of the economy to the actual goals that we're interested in vs. just kind of filling the gap of something that's not there,” said Mazzucato, the founding director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.

She said instead of working with a static list of key sectors, the new plan should be about identifying problems within the economy and developing methods of addressing those issues.

“So working with British Columbia and studying really concrete targets that brings together lots of different sectors, and also the redesigning the instruments — procurement, grants, loans to really galvanize crowded bottom-up experimentation by multiple sectors and actors in the economy,” Mazzucato said, adding Canada has been too reliant on tax incentives in the past.

She said tax incentives only serve to increase profits unless they come attached with proactive public investments that “excite business to actually want to invest in an area.”

“Every sector should be part of that for bringing conditionalities at the center of public policies to make sure that public policy isn't just kind of handout, subsidies and guarantees,” Mazzucato said.

She said public institutions frequently hand out money without a clear goal in mind.

“We’re keen to work with specific solutions for that,” Mazzucato said.

Kahlon said the province will be working on this plan over the coming weeks and months.

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