Logging trucks gather from around the B.C. Interior to head to downtown Vancouver, Sept. 27, 2019. (B.C. Logging Convoy/Facebook)

B.C. VIEWS: An unpredictable year ahead

B.C. economy continues to do well generally, with low unemployment rates and good job creation numbers

It’s been an interesting year in B.C., politically, economically and socially. It sets the table for an unpredictable 2020.

In January, new municipal councils had just taken office – some with very ambitious agendas. A year later, what stands out is the increase in property taxes. Vancouver is a shining example. The 2019 property tax increase was 4.5 per cent, the 2020 increase seven per cent.

This exclusive of increases for TransLink and Metro Vancouver, the regional district.

In all parts of B.C., property taxes jumped in 2019 because of the provincial Employer Health Tax, meant to replace Medical Services Plan premiums. All employers with a payroll of $500,000 or more must pay the tax – including local governments, health authorities, school districts and other agencies funded by taxpayers. MSP premiums are now history, but taxpayers now pay even more – indirectly.

READ MORE: B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

The B.C. economy continues to do well generally, with low unemployment rates and good job creation numbers. The province is running a surplus – rare in provincial circles these days. Local situations aren’t all as promising. The forest industry is in crisis mode – many mills have been shut down this year, largely due to a limited supply of timber and high stumpage rates.

A strike by loggers and contractors against Western Forest Products on northern Vancouver Island is in its sixth month, with no resolution in sight. No one in business or politics seems to have any clear answers as to how best to restore the industry to at least some of its former strength.

On the LNG front, which has the potential to create a lot of jobs and boost economic activity well into the future, two projects are proceeding nicely – the LNG Canada project in Kitimat and Woodfibre project in Squamish. A third project, the Kitimat LNG project, has some challenges. Chevron, a 50 per cent partner, wants out. Thus far, no potential buyer has come forward.

LNG is good for the environment. It has the potential to significantly lower emissions in China and other parts of Asia. Natural gas emits slightly less than half the carbon dioxide emitted by coal. Changing Chinese coal plants to natural gas will be a significant step towards lowering worldwide emissions. This point is not made nearly often enough by political leaders.

READ MORE: Chevron’s move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

The Green Party under Andrew Weaver, who is departing his job as party leader early in 2020 and says he won’t even be a member of the party after his resignation, opposes LNG with all its might. The party lacks understanding of the resource-based economy of much of B.C. outside Vancouver and Victoria, and short-sightedly ignores benefits of helping Asian countries reduce emissions.

One of the most significant moves made by the B.C. Legislature this year was unanimous adoption of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people. Implications go far beyond provincial laws.First Nations people will take a more leading role in the economy. Many social issues which have plagued many First Nation communities from the time of first contact with Europeans have a much better chance of resolution.

ICBC, which impacts all B.C. drivers, continues to be a raging dumpster fire. There is no sign of the fire even being tamped down. This will plague the government and hit drivers hard.

Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor with Black Press Media. Email him at frank.bucholtz@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

MISSING: 26-year-old woman Shorene Jones

Victoria Police are looking for a woman last seen on March 25

COVID-19: Greater Victoria schools to spend next two weeks planning next steps

Vulnerable students, health and safety top priorities for school district, teachers’ association

Victoria vocalist Maria Manna reaches out to hard-hit Italy with special online song

Jazz singer to perform ‘Hymn to Freedom’ with Italian lyrics on Facebook at 2 p.m. Monday

Victoria police arrest suspect in two daytime robberies

A robber told businesses he had a weapon and demanded cash

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

’The energy sector is destroyed beyond repair’: expert on COVID-19’s impact on economy

‘That’s never been heard of before; no one sells oil for $4 a barrel.’ – Dan McTeague

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

Most Read