The Surrey Board of Trade has presented a 10-step “economic guideline” in response to the provincial government throne speech delivered Tuesday and in anticipation of B.C.’s budget, to be revealed on Feb. 22.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the board, noted that while the throne speech delivered by Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin highlighted improvements to transportation infrastructure, healthcare, childcare and the agritech sector, the board “did not hear about improving tax competitiveness or steps towards looking at tax reform for business, such as addressing Employer Health Tax issues or red tape reduction.
“Re-conceiving our provincial tax system is a must to rebuild our economy, critical to B.C’.s ability to recover from COVID-19’s impact,” Huberman said.
The board’s 10 points addresses health care, education, international trade and supply chains, stimulus, government efficiency, financial accountability, preparing for future crises, data and analytics to help businesses and reduce citizen inequality, a “smarter way” for government employees to work, and private sector partnerships.
Huberman noted this won’t be the last pandemic or disaster society will face. “We need to manage and contain the virus but, at the same time, governments can continue to unlock potential in primary care, digital and telehealth sectors to make these services efficient and accessible to all.”
The board says government needs to adopt “hybrid learning models, building skills-based learning modules,” fund continuous learning courses, and create virtual resource centres while companies must make supply chains “more resilient” with government help. It also recommends the expansion of “green energy” and energy efficiency, acceleration of government digitization, presenting companies with incentives to adopt new technologies, and “shaping the workforce of the future to increase resilience in the face of rising automation” as well as “deliver contactless government.”
The Surrey Board of Trade maintains that the pandemic “has made digital transformation a priority— digital channels have become more important, and citizens and customers increasingly prefer them. Examples of best practices include automating daily data collection from key operators to closely monitor and support decision making about critical food items at risk, as well as the use of “express digitization”— rapid development of automated online platforms.”
As far as financial accountability goes, it says the provincial government should manage its balance sheets with a “investor mindset.
“Many countries have applied traditional debt issuance, revenue optimization, and expenditure control to address the immediate challenge, all of which can be further optimized. Over the medium term—one to three years—governments could monetize the assets on their balance sheets, a strategy that represents a largely untapped and potentially greater opportunity to raise additional revenue and reduce deficits,” a board press release states.
On preparing for future public crises, the board notes that some governments have already established “crisis nerve centres” which enable the “coordination of multiple work streams across existing crisis-response structures in government and society for greater response.” It recommends a “plan-ahead crisis unit – for example for an earthquake or flood — or in other words a “cross-functional team freed from day-to-day crisis management that looks ahead and considers simulations of various scenarios.”
The board also wants the provincial government to “cultivate smarter, more productive ways for public servants to work” and says automation could help increase productivity and “move significant numbers of public servants from back-office jobs into more valuable and meaningful citizen-facing roles.”
Moreover, the board maintains that government partner with private sector and multinational institutions to “design and implement well-structured stimulus measures” as this would help government to “prepare workforces for a technology-focused future and improve the long-term competitiveness and resilience of key industries.”