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10 key things businesses need to know about the re-elected BC NDP government

Photo credit: BC NDP

Photo credit: BC NDP

The B.C. provincial election produced a clear victory for Premier John Horgan and the BC NDP, who won or are leading in 55 of 87 seats with 45% of the vote (at the time of publication). That gives Premier Horgan a majority government for the next four years, and a strong mandate and the political capital to make good on his promises.

On the surface, the BC NDP’s plan was the most status quo plan offered up by any of the parties. That’s by design, to appeal to voters whose world changed in March with the arrival of COVID-19, and who wanted nothing more than stable government focused on pandemic response. That’s what the BC NDP offered, and that’s what voters chose.

The BC NDP positioned its platform as modest and responsible for the times we’re in. Key promises included:

  • New spending in high-priority areas like healthcare, childcare and housing
  • Targeted pandemic supports for business (tax credits for capital investment and hiring staff) and low- and modest-income families (an income-tested $1,000 COVID-19 benefit payment)
  • Income tax and corporate income tax brackets and rates remaining the same

What does the election result mean for business and industry?

“There's nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself,” American writer Dave Barry once noted. “Except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you've been missing the whole point of the ocean.”

On the surface—there’s nothing to see here with this BC NDP government. It’s steady as she goes. But take a closer look at their platform. There’s a series of policy initiatives in there that will have wide-ranging effects on businesses operating in B.C. These are initiatives that you need to know about, understand and—very likely—address in your public affairs strategy and planning.

1. Oil and gas royalty changes

The BC NDP says it will review sector royalties “from an environmental lens.” If you have an interest in the energy sector, you’re going to want to take part in this review to ensure what comes out of it supports your business and environmental performance objectives.

2. Fast-tracking electrification

A promise to “expand electrification infrastructure to make it easier for industries to go green” raises the questions: Who’s going to pay for that? What will that mean for industrial rates? And how do independent and Indigenous power providers fit in if Premier Horgan shelves Site C amid growing concerns about intractable geotechnical problems?

3. New climate and environmental regulation

The NDP says it will phase out single-use plastics. If you’re in retail, hospitality, or consumer goods manufacturing—are you ready to take part in the policy development? And if you’re in an energy-intensive sector like mining, forestry or transportation—how do you make sure your interests are reflected in the BC NDP’s new push for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050?

4. Coastal protection

Do you operate out of a B.C. port? Export goods through a port? Are you a marine tourism operator? Involved in fisheries? The BC NDP is planning a “new provincial coastal strategy” to “better protect coastal habitat while growing coastal economies.” This work will impact your business. What’s your vision for a plan like that and are you ready to engage the provincial and federal governments and Indigenous peoples about what that plan should entail?

5. Capital investment

To support economic recovery, the BC NDP plans to increase capital investment by $3 billion a year through a new Recovery Investment Fund. Do you have a project that would benefit from this kind of investment? In addition to preparing a solid business case, you should also consider the fund’s terms of reference and making sure that the kind of project you want to advance is eligible.

6. Housing supply

If you’re in development and construction, you’ll want to get ready to have your say on new measures the BC NDP is planning to bring down costs for developers. That includes “eliminating outdated parking minimums in projects close to public transit, developing a single-window provincial permitting process, and working with communities to streamline approval processes at the local level.” Want to make sure these new rules make life easier and not more difficult and expensive for you and buyers? Do you have other policy ideas that could help reduce housing costs? Now’s the time to start planning.

7. Lower drug costs

The BC NDP says it will fight for a national pharmacare program while enhancing B.C.’s own fair pharmacare plan. While the federal government is taking the lead on this file, healthcare is a provincial responsibility, and B.C. is one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strongest allies. Plan to include B.C. in your national advocacy work.

8. Digital transformation in healthcare

COVID-19 has exposed provincial governments’ reliance on old approaches and old technology for tackling life-and-death challenges. Increasingly, the health sector and the provincial government are turning to advanced tech, data and analytics to track outbreaks and project risks. That’s helping health experts and policy makers make potentially lifesaving evidence-based decisions. The BC NDP has promised a host of measures to modernize B.C.’s health system. If you’re a tech solutions company that can help, now’s the time to engage the provincial government.

9. Indigenous reconciliation

The BC NDP continues to advance a new model of shared decision-making that partners with Indigenous peoples. As the provincial government works to advance this policy direction, if you’re interested in land and resource use allocation and decision-making, now’s the time to be engaging government and directly with First Nations to ensure the province’s path forward is clear, stable and sustainable for everyone—including you.

10. Labour reform

BC NDP promises include reviews of B.C.’s Labour Code and Employment Standards Act. Flexible work (“the gig economy”) in particular is singled out. As always with changes affecting employment terms, conditions and rules, employers and workers alike will want to engage government to advance their vision for fair workplaces that support a strong economy.

That’s an ambitious agenda—and with progressive governments in place in Ottawa and in many B.C. local governments, there’s a strong likelihood they will all move forward. So—get ready.

Want to learn more? NATIONAL Vancouver is here to help you think three steps ahead. Our team of public affairs leaders can help you get ready for what’s next. For more information, contact Jeff Ferrier, Vice-President, Public Affairs at: jferrier@national.ca