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

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

Parksville city hall sign. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville city council approves 2021 workplan

Public input still sought on municipal budget and financial plan

Colin Springford expressed his thanks following a birthday truck parade that was held for him on his 75th birthday on April 10, 2020. (Submitted photo)
Longtime Nanoose Bay farmer Colin Springford dies at age 75

‘He will be deeply missed, always loved and never forgotten’

Nicole Shaw, left, and Sekoya Dawn next to their respective works at the Qualicum Arts Supply and Gallery in Qualicum Beach. The art will be on display until the end of February. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Acrylic artists display work in Qualicum Beach

Nicole Shaw and Sekoya Dawn both featured at Qualicum Arts Supply and Gallery

Gord John stands during question period in Ottawa in Sept. 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTIAN DIOTTE, HOUSE OF COMMONS PHOTO SERVICES)
2020: A Year in Review with Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns

NDP MP wants to ‘build back better’ in 2021

Parksville Fire Department crews attended the scene of a house fire on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at the end of Foster Place in Parksville. No injuries were reported. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Fire crews called to battle house fire in Parksville

No injuries reported, kitty rescued

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Most Read