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David Eby: Together, business and government can support economic success

Traditionally, the relationship between government and the business community has been understood to be relatively simple: Government stay out of the way, and let businesses get on with growing the economy.
Photo credit: Province of BC/Flickr

Traditionally, the relationship between government and the business community has been understood to be relatively simple: Government stay out of the way, and let businesses get on with growing the economy. Today, around the world, both business and government have a far more nuanced understanding of how government can act to provide a strong platform for economic success, or undermine even the best-run businesses by failing to act when action is needed. 

In B.C., some of this understanding comes from COVID and associated public-health measures, where an immediate and urgent provincial government response kept many businesses running through the darkest days of the pandemic, ensuring that we could be one of the fastest-recovering provinces coming out of it. We now have more jobs than we did before the pandemic, and the recovery of women back into the workforce is the strongest in Canada thanks to our childcare initiatives. 

Increased emphasis on environmental social and governance (ESG) investing internationally has also shone a spotlight on the role governments can play in supporting business. Governments that ensure strong ESG values can help businesses increase value for shareholders and attract investment that would otherwise steer clear. New partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, strong environmental protections, an open and welcoming society and high human rights standards in our province tell a compelling story about how companies can support their publicly stated values when they buy B.C. resources, services and products. 

And, perhaps most importantly, some of this still-developing understanding of symbiosis comes from the crunch facing businesses looking for employees in our high-growth provincial setting. Government policy on housing, skilled trades training and child care can make the difference between a prospective employee accepting a job offer or a high performer deciding to take another opportunity at a competitor. 

The strongest-performing economies around the world show clear partnership, consistent co-operation and mutual support between the private and public sector. Government policy helps strong performers find and develop export markets, creates an attractive proposition for global talent to relocate and facilitates research and training partnerships that allow the expansion and deepening of competitive advantages. 

As premier, you will see me reaching out to the business community to continue to build on our partnership. Government cannot be successful in delivering services and a high quality of life for residents without a strong economy supported by thriving businesses. Similarly, businesses can’t be successful without governments investing in the people who make up the communities in which companies operate. 

Strong global headwinds – including global inflation, supply chain challenges, geo-political issues and shortages of key workers – are making a mark on the daily lives of British Columbians. By focusing on their priorities of high-quality health care, the costs of daily life – including attainable and available housing – safe communities and a clean and secure economy that can withstand global swings, our government will be helping to build a strong base for business success. 

Over the next year, you can expect to see our government working with you to deepen and expand our trading partnerships under our trade diversification strategy. You will see us working to shorten provincial permit approval times – a priority listed in the mandate letters of several provincial ministers. This is an effort that will both support business and help us build more housing, faster. 

You will see us delivering initiatives that increase efficiency, long-term sustainability and B.C.’s role as a climate leader in traditional sectors like forestry and mining. These efforts will be facilitating stronger partnerships and economic development with, not at the expense of, First Nations in our province. You’ll see us make a strong push in agriculture to support our farmers, while increasing processing opportunities that will create jobs and reduce food costs, increasing food security for people. 

Because diversification makes us more secure, you’ll see strong efforts from us to enhance and support development in many different areas: Tech, cleantech, hydrogen, biotechnology, education and the creative sectors, including film and animation. Finally, you’ll see us investing in infrastructure – from housing, to roads, to transit, to hospitals and schools – that British Columbia will need to respond to our record-setting population growth and to move goods quickly through our Pacific gateway across North America. 

If we learned one thing coming out of COVID, it’s that we can’t take on big challenges alone. Government can’t solve problems by itself. Similarly, businesses can’t reach their full potential alone. British Columbians, pulling together, can ensure we’re a province where business thrives because government is investing in people and relationships in a way that supports clean, fair and sustainable growth in one of the best places on Earth to live. 

I look forward to working with you, and with all British Columbians, to make our province into a place where everyone can build a good home. 

■ David Eby is the premier of British Columbia.