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Welcoming provincial measures to support B.C. wines

On February 10, the BC Green caucus called on the BC Government to take steps to promote the BC wine industry in light of Alberta’s recent petty announcement that it was initiating a boycott.

We are delighted that the BC Government today announced a number of measures to support and promote the BC Wine Industry.

Below is the media release we issued in response to this announcement.


Media Release


B.C. Green Caucus welcomes provincial measures to support B.C. wines
For immediate release
February 14, 2018

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, welcomed the government’s measures to support the B.C. wine industry. Weaver previously called for a number of the same measures on February 10.

“I am glad that our government is standing up for this signature B.C. industry,” said Weaver.

“We called for a number of these measures last week because our wine industry represents the exact type of business we should be championing in this province. B.C.’s wineries are innovative, homegrown businesses that generate significant economic activity for communities across the province. After seeing the previous government relentlessly chase economically unviable sunset industries like LNG, it is frankly refreshing to see our government focus on sustainable local businesses.”

“I had the opportunity to meet with a number of Okanagan wineries over the past couple weeks. We have heard many exciting ideas about how we can better support them. Smaller wineries in particular benefit from a focus on tourism that brings people to B.C. We will continue to push for measures that will help B.C. wineries of all sizes thrive.”

Adam Olsen, B.C. Green Party spokesperson for Agriculture, added, “I am delighted that Minister Popham is stepping up to support B.C wine. B.C.’s wine industry generates $2 billion worth of economic activity and they’re growing: between 2003 and 2016, the number of B.C. wineries increased from 81 to to 273. We are only seeing the beginning of the success for this incredible industry.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

B.C. Greens call for Government support of B.C. Wine industry

Today we issued a media release calling on the BC Government to promote the BC wine industry in light of Alberta’s recent petty announcement that it was initiating a boycott. I reproduce our media release below.

On a slightly different note, readers who might think that the BC Liberals were good for the BC Wine industry might wish to think again. Their mismanagement of the BC Wine Institute VQA specialty licenses has led to NAFTA and WTO challenges by the US and Australia, respectively.

There was no need to create new licenses as the existing ones had already been grandparented in. There would have been no grounds for challenges if they had simply left things alone.

I warned the BC Liberals in 2015 that this was likely going to happen. Unfortunately this is now yet another mess created by the BC Liberals that has to be cleaned up.


Media Release


B.C. Greens call for Government support of B.C. Wine industry
For immediate release
February 10, 2018

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party today called for the B.C. government to take immediate mitigation steps to help provide support for B.C. wineries.

“B.C.’s wine industry is a provincial treasure that brings significant tourism and economic activity to our province,” Weaver said.

“More than that, it represents the best of our province – innovators who have developed their businesses into an internationally renowned region. Today we are calling for the provincial government to take decisive action to support these businesses who have been unfairly targeted by a neighbouring government.”

Specific mitigation measures currently supported by the B.C. Greens include:

  • Launch a “Drink Local” program to encourage British Columbians to buy wine from BC wineries, including a promotional campaign in BC Liquor Stores and a province wide advertising campaign to encourage the purchase of 100% BC craft alcohol.
  • Explore whether wholesale prices could be provided to licensed restaurants to encourage the purchase and promotion of wine for BC wineries.
  • Provide funding to increase BC VQA export sales in other Canadian provinces and to international markets.

“The B.C. Green Caucus is 100% behind the government’s decision to ensure that major decisions are based on sound evidence – something that was not the case in the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline. It is incredibly petty that the Alberta NDP government has chosen to go after small business in B.C. in response and we hope all British Columbians will we stand with us in support of our coastline and in support of our wineries.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Welcoming clean tech investment from Western Economic Diversification to Alacrity

Western Economic Diversification Canada today announced a $787,115 investment in the Victoria-based Alacrity Foundation of B.C. to support the western clean technology sector. BC announced that it would supplement this funding with an additional $79,000.

We are absolutely thrilled with this investment in Alacrity. The foundation has played a crucial role in incubating, nurturing and growing innovative local tech companies through to maturation. They have a global reach with regional offices in China, France, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, Turkey, Wales and Ottawa, Ontario.

Below I reproduce a copy of our press release celebrating this investment.


Media Release


Weaver welcomes clean tech investment from Western Economic Diversification to Alacrity
For immediate release
January 23, 2018

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, welcomed an investment of over $787,115 to the Alacrity Foundation of B.C. to support the Western Clean technology sector.

“This is exactly the type of investment we need to be making to ensure that B.C. and Canada are global economic leaders,” said Weaver.

“The world is forging ahead with the transition to the low-carbon economy. Countries as diverse as China, to Germany, to Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in clean technology and alternative energy. With our highly educated workforce, outstanding postsecondary institutions and entrepreneurial spirit, B.C. is poised to be a leader in the clean tech revolution.

“Government has a significant role to play in championing this vision and setting the priorities for our province. Our party will continue to support investment and innovation in this sector so that we can make this vision a reality.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Justifying my support for discontinuation of International Business Activity Program

As noted earlier, today in the Legislature we were in Committee Stage for Bill 2: Budget Measures Implementation Act 2017. This is a bill that implements the various initiatives discussed in the BC government’s most recent budget update.

One of the sections in the Bill dealt with shutting down the International Business Activity Program. I took this issue very seriously as I was concerned about the unforeseen or unintended consequences of cutting this program. Prior to speaking to the amendment I sought two briefings on this particular section of the bill from staff within the Finance ministry. The evidence I gathered informed the decision I ultimately made.

Below I provide the rationale for my support in eliminating this program.

I also append in the text below an exchange I had with Shirley Bond, the MLA for Prince George-Valemont. In it you will see that I support her statement that the partisan BC NDP Caucus claim that AdvantageBC was a BC Liberal corporate giveaway scheme was not supported by the evidence (the program started under the Social Credit government in 1988).


Video of Justification



Text of Justification & Followup


A. Weaver: I thank the member for Prince George–Valemount for putting forward the amendment. I also wish to thank her sincerely for providing me with information, including a copy of the MMK Consulting report Building B.C.’s Brand and Assessment of the International Business Activity Program.

I have sought two briefings on this particular section of the bill out of concern, as expressed by the member for Prince George–Valemount and others on the opposition side, with respect to: what are the unforeseen or unintended consequences perhaps of cutting this program?

I will say also that I do commend the present CEO of the program, who has clearly taken steps since a previous review to get it on its right track. But if we come, in speaking to the amendment, back to the history of this program, the international business activity program was actually brought forth in 1988 at a time when the corporate tax rate — combined province and federally here in British Columbia — was over 50 percent.

At the time, the rationale for bringing it in was that in British Columbia we were not competitive with other jurisdictions in terms of the corporate tax rate.

Now, as of January 2018, the corporate Canada-plus-B.C. tax rate will be 23 percent. Corporate tax rate has come down 23 percent since the introduction of this program.

If we look, very recently, in terms of what this program is being used at, I have, in the briefings that I’ve sought to get to the full details here…. I understand that, in terms of what’s using it, factoring contributes about 29 percent; dealing in securities, about 28 percent; foreign exchange, about 33 percent; and other issues, such as with the film industry, etc., 10 percent of the usage.

Now, the issue of factoring is an interesting one. What it allows to occur, for example, is British Columbia…. It’s done in a non-arm’s-length fashion. You can set up, in a non-arm’s-length fashion, businesses in other jurisdictions. For example, if I’m a business, I can trade amongst myself by setting up a corporation in America, say, and have a company in Canada. I can go back and forth between myself and take advantage of the tax credits in this program, when really all I’m doing is taking advantage of something that is finding a means and ways of taking advantage of a specific tax break.

Where it gets particularly egregious…. This is a 33 percent that comes in with foreign exchange. I’d like to give a specific example. Let’s suppose that I would like to loan you $100 million U.S., and in order of doing that, I’m going to not loan you but find you $100 million U.S. as capital, so you’re going to get access to it. There may be, say, a 5 percent or a 3 percent commission attached with that. Now, if I’m registered in this, I can go and get the B.C. taxpayer to give me a 12 percent tax credit on that 3 percent commission.

The problem here is that that’s just not right. Why should the B.C. taxpayer…? This is 33 percent of the business model within this international business activity program. One-third of all the activity involves foreign exchange. Any service fee associated with getting money from somewhere…. And it just has to be the money. It doesn’t have to come from another jurisdiction. If it’s another foreign currency, it’s eligible for the money.

One-third of the business model, and you get a 12 percent tax credit. The B.C. taxpayer is subsidizing those who don’t need a subsidy just for the commission. It’s just wrong. I can’t see any justification for that.

You know, I’ve looked at this in detail. I understand that this report is a thoughtful report by MMK Consulting. Unfortunately, it only relied upon interviews, and pre-audited fees were looked at — that is the information that was used. That’s my understanding. The claim of 7,800 jobs that was embedded in this report is actually based on a large number of assumptions that I think could be challenged by the civil service and government if the actual income tax reporting data were available.

I’m not saying that this isn’t a thorough report, but I’m saying the analysis in this report did not have the actual data, the income tax data, that would allow it to make exact or precise assessments of jobs and income.

I took this very seriously. I took the suggestion of the member for Prince George–Valemount very, very seriously. It was not until the second extensive briefing from the civil service…. I’m very grateful to the minister and the staff of the civil service who have provided me with this briefing. It is only after extensive briefing that I must say now that I support the rationale here in recognition of the good work done by the present CEO, and I cannot support this amendment.

S. Bond: I appreciate the comments that have been made. I go back to the fact that the quote that I…. You know, this is a reasoned amendment. It’s not saying that eventually this program needs to be tweaked, modified, changed, but the minister has moved on this issue more quickly than anything else that she’s undertaken. I go back to the words in the NDP government caucus release that “there is a lack of evidence and this is a B.C. Liberal giveaway scheme.”

The request is a simple one. Take a look. Extend the time frame. The program has shown benefit, and I think our job in this House is actually to ask those questions. While there may be some amusement about that on the other side, the fact of the matter is that this has made a difference in British Columbia.

The question is simply: why so quickly? Why not give it the opportunity?

And to the minister: “I’m not interested in referring it to the task force.” That’s exactly what a task force is created for. It’s simply the opportunity to take a look at a program that’s existed, look at its merits and its weaknesses, and take the opportunity to take some due process here. In fact, in our view…. That’s why the amendment has been tabled. There was a significant lack of due process. Quick action. We’re simply asking for reconsideration and allowing there to be some time before the decision moves forward.

A. Weaver: I wanted to stand and support the member for Prince George–Valemount’s comments, with respect to this being a Liberal giveaway. Clearly, this is not a B.C. Liberal giveaway. It’s a program that was established under the Social Credit government in 1988. It was developed and continued through the NDP governments of the 1990s and continued through the 2000s under a B.C. Liberal government.

I think it’s very unfortunate wording that it’s been phrased that way, but it doesn’t change my views with respect to the actual amendment itself. I do respect the fact that it was brought forward. I think it’s a very reasoned amendment. But in light of the briefings that I’ve had with Finance staff, I remain still committed in opposition to this amendment

On the need for more engineers to be trained in BC

At every level — undergraduate, master’s, and PhD, B.C. lags behind other provinces in terms of the number of engineers it graduates per capita.

Of the 9 provinces that offer engineering undergraduate degrees, BC ranks a dismal 8th. It ranks 7th in Masters and 6th in PhDs (see graphs below using data from Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow Share: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 2011-2015).

Quebec and Ontario graduated 40% more undergraduate engineers per capita in 2015 than BC. They graduated 280% and 300%, respectively, more Masters Degrees per capita while Nova Scotia graduated 500% more per capita. And Quebec also graduates more than twice the number of PhDs per capita than BC.

In fact, BC is one of the lowest ranked jurisdictions in the world in terms of engineering PhDs awarded per capita. To compound this discrepancy further, BC has the strongest projected employment growth for engineers in Canada.

This is an unacceptable situation for a jurisdiction attempting to position itself as an innovator in the emerging 21st century economy. It’s particularly troubling as universities in BC are chomping at the bit to expand their offerings. For example, an exciting opportunity exists in Squamish to create a innovative centre for clean energy research, training and industry partnership. UNBC is also hoping to establish an engineering program to meet the demand for professional engineers in northern communities.

To pick up on this theme I asked the Minister of Advanced Education how her ministry was going to facilitate the development of these programs and increase the number of engineering graduates in British Columbia, and in particular, UNBC. As you will see from the video and text below, the BC Liberals were quite unruly during question period and had to be reprimanded by the Speaker a number of times.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: At every level — undergraduate, master’s, and PhD, B.C. lags behind other provinces in the number of engineers it graduates per capita. Of the nine provinces that offer engineering undergraduate degrees, B.C. ranks a dismal eighth. It ranks seventh in master’s and sixth in PhDs. Quebec and Ontario graduated 40 percent more undergraduate engineers per capita in 2015 than B.C. They graduated 280 and 300 percent, respectively, more master’s degrees than B.C., while Nova Scotia graduated 500 percent more master’s degrees than B.C. Quebec has more than twice the number of PhD graduates. In fact, B.C. is one of the lowest-ranked jurisdictions in the world in terms of engineering PhDs per capita.

To compound this discrepancy further, B.C. has the strongest projected growth, for engineers in Canada. There are post-secondary institutions eager to fill the need. UNBC has been trying to get an undergraduate engineering program…

Mr. Speaker: Member, your question.

A. Weaver: …for years. The engineering department at UBC wants to build a tech campus in Squamish.

To the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, how is her ministry going to facilitate the development of these programs and increase the number of engineering grads in British Columbia?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.


Answer


Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Sorry, what was that?

Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Yeah, exactly. It’s not you asking the question. I’m the one answering the question, through the Speaker.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. M. Mark: No, it’s okay. I’m used to this. I’m used to this circus on the other side. It has only been a week, but it’s been fun.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. M. Mark: I thank the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head for the question.

Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Well, of course I do. I like to stand in this House as an advocate for post-secondary education. For the last 16 years…. In the first 21 days on the job, I had a chance to travel the province and hear from students and get to see STEM in action — science, technology, engineering and math.

We’re going to do something about this on this side of the House to send a message to students that we’re on their side, that we’re going to invest in their education. We’re going to invest in the tech sector.

We know that the tech sector is a $26 billion industry. Our friends on the other side of the House remind us that we’re not interested in jobs, but we need to make sure that we’re training people up. We’re going to make sure that those 100,000 people that are contributing to the economy are trained up in engineering. So we’re going to increase co-op placements. We’re going to increase apprenticeship placements. We’re going to make sure that the trade seats are relevant all across the province, not just select regions in the province.

I look forward to working with the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head on increasing the seats in engineering in B.C.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: If ever there was any doubt why this boisterous bunch needed to be put in a time-out, today is the justification for that.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: In mathematics, hon. Speaker, “QED” is often used to demonstrate exactly what I was just saying.

UNBC has proven that if we train people in the north, they stay in the north. In fact, more than half of their 13,000 alumni live in the north, contributing to the society, culture and employment base. Engineering should be offered at UNBC. It would add to those figures.

I recognize that 16 years of rule by the Luddites opposite, who do not understand the importance of the new economy, abandoned rural B.C. and left them on the hook. They abandoned development in rural B.C….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Member, please be seated for a moment.

Members, we are reminded that when someone is speaking, we will listen with good manners.

A. Weaver: My question to the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training is: what is your ministry doing to ensure vibrant educational opportunities are available across all disciplines in our northern communities, in order to allow these communities to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the 21st century economy that have been left out because of 16 years of incompetent rule by the B.C. Liberals?


Answer


Hon. M. Mark: I’m so pleased to hear a question about post-secondary advocacy in this House, because it’s about time that we have a government that’s going to advocate for the students all across British Columbia and make sure that we have those seats available. It is unacceptable that that government brought us to eighth place, in this province….

Interjections.

Hon. M. Mark: Pardon me? It’s exciting in here. I love the excitement. It’s about time that people are standing up for post-secondary education instead of standing in the way.

We’re going to get to increasing those seats across B.C., up in UNBC. We’re going to make sure that we’re investing in jobs in the 21st century. We’re going to make sure that we’re not standing the way by increasing debt and tripling tuition, like what was done under the last government in 16 years.

We are going to stand beside the students in British Columbia, and we made those measures, in the first 60 days of forming government, by reducing student debt, by making sure that we increase seats for students in the trade sector and the engineering sectors. We’re standing beside students in this province, and we’re sending a message that we are going to invest in them, not stand in their way.