Surrey Board of Trade Issues 10-Step Guideline for Next Week’s BC Budget – Throne Speech Needed to Focus on Tax Reform Messaging

The Surrey Board of Trade knows that today’s Throne Speech presented by the BC Government sets out general policy priorities and that the BC Budget, to be presented on April 20, will set out the details on how the government plans to pay for that agenda, and any possible revenue-generating opportunities.

“The 2021 BC Government Throne Speech highlighted many of the economic priorities that the Surrey Board of Trade has advocated for including transportation investments like the Pattullo Bridge replacement, Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, and George Massey Project, housing affordability, childcare, healthcare investments – including the new Surrey Hospital, education, arts and culture supports, investments for businesses, and investments in technology,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.

“The Surrey Board of Trade was hoping to hear that the BC Government would implement a comprehensive provincial tax review to address the cumbersome Employer Health Tax issues or red tape reduction. We look forward to hearing specific details next week, and hopefully a clear agenda. The fastest and least painful path to recovery is by encouraging business investment and job creation. Reconceiving our provincial tax system is a must to rebuild our economy, critical to BC’s ability to recover from COVID-19’s impact.”

The Surrey Board of Trade wants a public consultation process for the BC tax regime to solicit ideas on potential tax reforms.

Highlights from the Throne Speech include:

·       Infrastructure investments including: Pattullo Bridge replacement, Trans-Canada Highway widening. projects, the George Massey crossing replacement, Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, and a new Surrey Hospital

·       Budget deficit: approximately $13 billion.

·       Indigenous reconciliation: language revitalization; child welfare improvements; human rights of Indigenous People legislated; and systemic gaps in healthcare, housing, services decision-making and prosperity must be done with Indigenous Peoples.

·       Tourism and Hospitality support.

·       Charitable and not for profit sector to be supported.

·       Return to balanced budgets as economy recovers.

·       Greater investments in mental health via the Pathway to Hope program.

·       Improving health care so that BC is better prepared for future challenges by addressing cracks in long-term care that COVID-19 has exposed, reducing surgery wait times and building more hospitals and urgent primary care centres in every part of British Columbia.

·       Making life more affordable through changes to ICBC that will cut car insurance rates by 20%, expanding access to $10-a-day childcare spaces, investments to help get thousands of “missing middle” rental homes built throughout the province, and investments in early childhood educators.

·       Supporting businesses with grants to help them build or expand online stores, and by introducing legislation to support the operations of the InBC strategic investment fund, which will help promising BC firms scale up and keep jobs here at home.

·       Developing BC’s first anti-racism law, reforming the outdated Police Act, and introducing landmark legislation to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion experienced by British Columbians with disabilities.

·       Protecting the environment by reforming forestry legislation to meet the challenges of the 21st century, continuing to take action on recommendations to protect old growth stands, and improving waste management for plastics.

·       Investing in boosting digital connectivity in rural, remote and Indigenous communities – building on the progress made to bring better internet to thousands of households around the province.

“The Surrey Board of Trade looks forward to hearing about how the BC Government plans to balance the budget by reimagining the economy beyond the pandemic, focusing on new comprehensive actions to support business, revenue growth and industry innovation. We have provided a 10-step guideline on what we want to see in next week’s BC Budget.”

The Surrey Board of Trade is committed to making Surrey an opportunity city by instigating change at all levels of government to support and attract business.

10-step Guideline

The Surrey Board of Trade denotes that the following 10 steps are needed in order to reimagine governmental support to bolster economic activity:

This won’t be the last pandemic or disaster that we face. We need to manage and contain the virus but, at the same time, governments can continue to unlock potential in primary care, digital and telehealth sectors to make these services efficient and accessible to all.

Re-skilling and up-skilling must continue to be a priority. Governments need to continue to rethink and implement new learning and education systems. Best practices include adopting hybrid learning models, building skills-based learning modules, funding continuous learning courses, and creating virtual resource centres. Governments and employers can also foster an effective re-skilling ecosystem that includes micro-credentialing for lifelong learning.

Companies will need to make their supply chains more resilient—for example, by reducing the number of unique parts, building in redundancy across suppliers, near-shoring, and regionalizing supply chains. In addition to securing health equipment and essential food supplies, governments can help companies increase their resilience. At the same time, governments may need to consider the policy implications of remote working in the knowledge economy: as exports of highly skilled services grow.

Stimulus needs to work. Some best practices could include expanding green energy and energy efficiency; accelerating government digitization and offering companies incentives to adopt new technologies; and shaping the workforce of the future to increase resilience in the face of rising automation.

Deliver contactless government. The COVID-19 pandemic has made digital transformation a priority— digital channels have become more important, and citizens and customers increasingly prefer them. Examples of best practices include automating daily data collection from key operators to closely monitor and support decision making about critical food items at risk, as well as the use of “express digitization”— rapid development of automated online platforms.

Manage government balance sheets with an investor mindset. Many countries have applied traditional debt issuance, revenue optimization, and expenditure control to address the immediate challenge, all of which can be further optimized. Over the medium term—one to three years—governments could monetize the assets on their balance sheets, a strategy that represents a largely untapped and potentially greater opportunity to raise additional revenue and reduce deficits.

Institutionalize best-practice crisis response to prepare for the next crisis. The COVID-19 crisis has pushed many countries to identify and start creating the elements of an effective local outbreak response. Several governments have established crisis nerve centres, enabling coordination of multiple work streams across existing crisis-response structures in government and society for greater response. Establish a plan-ahead crisis unit (for example for an earthquake) —a cross-functional team freed from day-to-day crisis management that looks ahead and considers simulations of various scenarios.

Make faster, better decisions using data and analytics. Assemble cross-functional teams to develop analytics solutions for faster responses to changing situations and emerging risks and issues. Next practices might include applying advanced use cases in data and analytics, such as nowcasting—forecasting the near future, present, and even the recent past using frequently measured indicators—to inform policy and decision making.

Cultivate smarter, more productive ways for public servants to work. Automation could strengthen public-service productivity and move significant numbers of public servants from back-office jobs into more valuable and meaningful citizen-facing roles.

Partnering with the private sector and multinational institutions to design and implement well-structured stimulus measures, can help government prepare workforces for a technology-focused future and improve the long-term competitiveness and resilience of key industries.