There are issues affecting business that are important to our business community and we have invited each candidate to respond to the following questions by September 8, 2015
Their responses will be posted verbatim on our website.
We will be hosting an all candidates meeting October 14, 2015, at the Inn at the Quay in partnership with the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the New Westminster RECORD Newspaper, from 7:00 pm- 9:00 pm. These questions as well as others will be posed during the session.
The Lower Fraser River faces significant challenges. There are a number of significant issues that have put at serious risk the Lower Fraser River and hence those activities that depend upon it.
Fraser River Flood Prevention
There are 300,000 people and $50 billion worth of development on the flood plain of the Lower Fraser River. These are vulnerable to the increasingly frequent extreme weather events that are projected to impact the river. In 2007 the river came perilously close to overtopping the dikes in the Fraser Valley during the spring freshet. A recent authoritative study predicts that “— so-called 100-year flood events will occur in roughly four to ten year intervals. The flooding in 2013 in Calgary and Toronto as well as research concerning the increased incidence of extreme weather as a result of climate change has highlighted the need to act urgently to enhance flood protection along the Lower Fraser.
The river poses a substantial threat to this key economic region. Historically there have been devastating floods from the spring freshet of the river. In addition, with rising sea levels there is a growing threat of winter storm surges that already could overtop the very extensive diking system along the tidal part of the river and adjacent coastal reaches. There is an urgent need to revitalize the dikes and increase their height to protect the tidal areas of the river in Greater Vancouver and the upstream agricultural land, First Nations and urban communities vulnerable to the annual spring flood threat.
With the growing risk of extreme weather events, it is very important that a renewed, collaborative, multi-level government effort be undertaken to renew protection from floods.
1 What would be your government’s vision regarding a flood management strategy for the Fraser River?
- The Fraser River is not an arbitrary subsection of geography that any one agency can deal with independently. What would be your vision for a multi stakeholder task force to address flood management and who would bear the costs of the formation of the task force?
Fraser River Navigation
The Lower Fraser River is a vitally important resource to the Greater Vancouver region, the province of British Columbia, and the entire country. In addition to port activity on the Lower Fraser River that rivals Canadian traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway, both in terms of tonnages and jobs, the Lower Fraser supports a myriad of other economic activities vital to the region and beyond. Given its strategic assets, the river is poised to become an even more significant economic driver in the future.
However, the Lower Fraser faces a number of significant challenges that if not dealt with effectively and promptly, could jeopardize not only future growth, but also could result in great damage, public safety concerns and huge financial losses in the nearer term.
The flow of the Fraser River annually brings with it many millions of tonnes of gravel, sand and finer sediment, particularly during the spring freshet. Over millions of years that material has built up the valley floor and the delta of the river. At the same time, it threatens navigation in the Lower Fraser River, requiring extensive and expensive ongoing dredging to ensure navigable depths and the removable of deposits that clog the river channels. While the main shipping channel is being maintained by annual dredging, there is inadequate funding for maintenance of the secondary channels, with serious impediments to their use.
Key to the long-term economic viability and overall prosperity of the region is a plan to permanently deepen the River to allow access for larger ships. Currently, much of the opportunity for increased business and growth is being lost to the United States. Permanently increasing the depth of the Fraser River beyond its current 11.5 meters is a critical way to support increased Asia-Pacific Gateway capacity, keep business activity in Canada and create a more sustainable future for all stakeholders.
- Would you support a Capital Dredge program to increase the depth of the Fraser River to facilitate growth in economic activity?
- What would be your vision for building the capacity of the Fraser River in addition to a Capital Dredge Program?
Infrastructure which is critical to the economic and livability of our communities is aging and failing.
Government financial procedures for decades failed to allow for necessary upgrade, renewal and replacement of the infrastructure. That condition continues today. Government support at all levels is required to renew our infrastructure plus assist with paying for new and increased regulations and standards. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has estimated the backlog of upgrade and expenditure of existing municipal infrastructure to exceed $150 billon.
With aging infrastructure and limited resources, our communities face huge challenges in financing the necessary repair, replacement and upgrade of our infrastructure. There are 196 municipal governments in BC and 198 First Nations communities. Our communities, industry and businesses rely on our utilities, transportation and power system to sustain our business. Business interruptions due to broken
watermains, blocked sewers, power outages and other related causes are becoming the norm with huge economic loss.
Our employees rely on essentially the same services for a productive happy life, yet these services are failing due to lack on monies available to replace and upgrade these services and facilities. Our communities also face financial challenges from increasing standards and regulations without the financial mechanisms to pay for it. The primary resources at municipal level are property tax. Our businesses pay a much higher tax rate than our residential taxpayers.
Significant increase in property taxes is not affordable either for our businesses or for many of our residents. Senior government needs to be more involved in renewing the basic fabric of our communities.
Today our communities receive only eight cents on every tax dollar collected by all levels of government, significantly down from 24 cents a decade ago. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimated the backlog of needed expenditure 5 years ago at $123 billon. This, today, translates into a backlog exceeding $150 billion for infrastructure renewal for just our municipalities.
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities clearly states in their submission to Infrastructure Canada (September 2012):
Local infrastructure is not only connected to such values as human and environmental health, but also to the health of the economy, through its ability to attract, and retain, business investment. Local governments build communities – communities where people want to live, and where businesses want to locate. This includes not only such basic infrastructure as water and sewer, but also transit and roads, to ease congestion and support efficient goods movement, right through to infrastructure to support protective services such as police and fire, and to provide recreational, cultural and other infrastructure needed to attract workers and customers.“
- Is your government prepared to establish a long term sustainable funding to support, renew and replacement of ageing infrastructure for our communities?
- If this funding is established and upon approval of funding, how would Federal-Provincial react quickly to make funds available to our communities to address these infrastructure deficiencies?
- New Westminster is located in an active seismic area and the infrastructure upgrades would also improve our regions’ ability to withstand a significant seismic event and minimize loss and injury to property and life. What are your government’s plan to address seismic vulnerable communities such as New Westminster?
Innovation and Commercialization for SMEs
The federal government has recognized the importance of an innovative, knowledge-based economy to the nation’s future prosperity by investing in research and development (R&D).
For many SMEs, the efficient and reliable commercialization of R&D into new products, processes and services is extremely challenging, particularly given the limited resources available to SMEs.
By better supporting SMEs to commercialize breakthrough ideas, innovation will become a catalyst for the development and growth of new businesses, high-value jobs, and long-term economic prosperity for Canada. Several studies have concluded that there is a gap in the Canadian marketplace with respect to available resources and capital for SMEs.
Public sector procurement policies could focus on value creation through the adopting of new
Technologies. New policies that could support innovation and technology adoption through procurement by connecting SMEs with federal departments and agencies would be of high value. By helping to grow SMEs into globally completive enterprises, long-term sustainable policies will help assure their continued presence in Canada, increasing economic activity and leading to job creation.
- What incentives do you believe can be initiated that will aid in the development and
adoption of new innovation for Canadian start-up businesses?
- What do you believe could be a public sector procurement policy that focuses on value creation through the adoption of new technologies.?
The largest financial tax incentive provided to privately held small business corporations in Canada is the Small Business Deduction (“SBD”). The SBD allows these companies to pay taxes on their first $500,000 of profit at a significantly lower rate of tax. This mechanism has been a long standing tool to promote growth of small businesses in Canada.
Small businesses are well known to be the drivers of employment and economic growth in Canada. Accordingly, both the Government of Canada and the provinces have recognized the sector’s importance and have provided (and expanded) the benefit of the SBD to maintain the sector’s health and foster growth.
The federal government has also implemented tax credits and tax incentives to certain sectors of our economy such as the film and television tax credits.
- What additional incentives and or tax credits would you envision your government considering for our Small and Medium Sized businesses?
SME and Labour Market Training
Skills mismatches in Canada’s labour market are a threat to the country’s economic growth. Many Canadian businesses have job vacancies, but they are not finding the right matches among the workers available. This suggests that we need policies geared towards helping workers acquire better skills and ensuring the skills acquired match the needs of employers.
Over 98 per cent of businesses in Canada are small, with fewer than 100 employees. In New Westminster 99% of our businesses are SMEs.
While small businesses provide a lot of on-the-job training for employees, they are usually less able to offer formal off-site training, as compared to larger companies.
- What programs would you recommend to the SMEs in New Westminster that would address their skill shortage needs?
2. What other opportunities are available to SMEs to address their labour needs?