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

17-year-old girl from Nanaimo reported missing

RCMP asking for help finding Trisha Harry

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

VIU faculty members looking at COVID-19 impacts on communities

Vancouver Island University’s research award committee funds nine projects

City of Nanaimo paving work to alter traffic on Howard Avenue

Road rehabilitation work will re-route traffic in Harewood on Thursday

Infringing festival finds a way to dance during pandemic

Crimson Coast Dance Society holding drive-in, micro and physically distanced events July 10-19

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis

The male pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

B.C. premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

Police shouldn’t struggle with health issues, Horgan says

Time to protect B.C.’s unique glass sponge reefs, conservation group says

Climate change is a “serious and immediate threat” to the 9,000-year old sponges: study

Time to protect B.C.’s unique glass sponge reefs, conservation group says

Climate change is a “serious and immediate threat” to the 9,000-year old sponges: study

Indigenous leader Ed John pleads not guilty to historical sex charges

Ed John’s lawyer entered the plea by telephone on behalf of his client

Most Read