Business leaders express concern about promises in B.C. NDP Green agreement

By on June 1, 2017

Photo: BC Green Party
Photo: BC Green Party

CALGARY—Some business leaders in Canada expressed concerns Wednesday that the fallout from British Columbia’s election is discouraging the private sector from investing in the province.

Promises by B.C.’s NDP and Greens to hike the minimum wage and carbon tax could further jangle investor nerves after both parties also committed to immediately stopping the Trans Mountain expansion.

“The election outcome, and the vow of the Green-NDP alliance to obstruct that pipeline, sends a very worrying message to investors about Canada as a predictable, reliable place to invest,” said Gary Leach, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada.

He said the anti-pipeline resolution affects not only the oil and gas sector, but the overall investment climate.

“It’s a destabilizing event for investor confidence in Canada generally, and we’ve been struggling with that.”

On Tuesday, the NDP and Greens formalized their alliance in a four-year agreement that commits to raising minimum wage to at least $15, increasing the province’s $30 carbon tax by $5 per tonne annually beginning next April and referring the Site C hydro dam project to the B.C. Utilities Commission to determine economic viability.

“It would be fair to say the business community is feeling a lot of uncertainty,” said Val Litwin, the president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Litwin said he hopes the NDP, should it form a minority government with the support of the Greens, would consult with businesses before making tax changes or raising the minimum wage as they would end up paying those costs.

Tim McMillan, head of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said any increase in costs on his members could threaten future investment.

“To attract investment in any business, and certainly in the natural gas and oil industry, we have to be competitive,” said McMillan.

“Today, we’re already seeing capital leaving Canada and moving towards the U.S.”

Liberal Premier Christy Clark has said she will recall the provincial legislature in June where she expects a confidence vote will result in the probable defeat of her government.

The Liberals won 43 seats in the May 9 election, one shy of a majority, but the formal, four-year agreement between the Greens and NDP would give them 44 seats, handing them a one-seat majority.