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

Police incident in Mount Douglas Park leads to road closure

Officers turning cars away, letting hikers go up trails

PHOTOS: Women’s March through downtown Victoria draws crowds of activists, allies

Attendees of all ages carried instruments, posters with empowering messages

New Victoria Conservatory music scholarship recognizes long-time Sidney resident

O. Thomas Webb died in Sidney last year after retiring to the community in 1975

Victoria resident lives well despite dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Most Read