Too often when British Columbians hear the term 'prosperity', the belief is that the rich are simply getting richer and the poor poorer. In fact, in a recent survey commissioned by the Business Council of British Columbia found 84% of British Columbians believed this to be true. While the reality may not be quite this stark, there is no question that many BC families have accumulated higher levels of debt and are under increasing financial pressure in their day-to-day lives.
Why should BC businesses care about this widely held sentiment in BC?
The answer lies in part, with what we view as an increasingly critical need to more closely associate the value of economic development with the interests and opportunities of British Columbians – both now and for future generations.
Our economy and society are undergoing seismic shifts driven by demographic changes, in particular aging baby boomers, and by an erosion of the traditionally strong economies of Europe and the US which has been combined by an economic re-orientation to the Asia-Pacific. These realities will drive global growth, shifting investment patterns and having a profound impact not just on corporate success, but also on our province’s ability to diversify and generate revenues to fund the services we all want.
This requires the need to build and define a new agenda that delivers a stronger sense of ‘shared prosperity’ for British Columbians - one with greater accountability of business and individuals and a higher level of discussion and debate than has been the tradition in BC. Against this backdrop, the BC Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of BC are launching a new initiative that we call the “BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity”.
At its roots, shared prosperity means that we have a healthy economy that maximizes our strategic advantages and assets in order to sustain the quality of life most British Columbians envision for themselves and for future generations. We think this is a worthy goal. Today’s challenge for business is therefore to not only support and substantiate policies that have helped grow and develop the province, but also, to help restore a stronger connectivity between economic prosperity and our individual, family and community prosperity.
Unfortunately, the opportunity to develop shared prosperity is often positioned as a contradiction in BC, a perception that you can have one or the other but not both. Our institutions have tended to amplify differences for political, ideological or self-interested purposes, often based on incomplete facts and divisive “us versus them” or “yes versus no” approaches to debate. The BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity aims in part, to transcend these differences and work on a new tone for the conversation about future opportunities for British Columbians.
To assist in reviewing and guiding the policy work and ideas that we hope will encourage BC to achieve its full potential, we have engaged a diverse group of community leaders – from academia, business, NGOs, entrepreneurs and labour – to form an advisory committee to guide and challenge the process. Our policy development process will be province wide, including seven regional workshops to be held across the province later this fall. Working with the local Chambers of Commerce, we are going to bring a regional voice to the BC Agenda for Shared Prosperity.
And next spring we will hold a provincial summit, bringing global perspectives together with our BC Agenda to produce a non-partisan framework for advancing the opportunities in front of our province.
Throughout our province’s history we have, at times, risen above the fray to lead the country with new development, world leading policies, institutions and creative thinking. BC is at its best when we move forward with a common goal. However, too often the outcomes have been politicized, fraught with activist opposition, conflict and ideological self interest that fail to realize our collective full potential. Public cynicism has been the inevitable result.
As the province collectively takes stock of the challenges and opportunities in front of us, the Business Council of BC and the BC Chamber of Commerce are taking a forward looking approach to generate ideas through a policy process that seeks to establish the ingredients for shared prosperity in BC.
Page A17, October 4, Vancouver Sun