Op/Ed: Chris Gardner impasse must be broken to preserve investor confidence in Canada

by Keith Powell
Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA).

Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA). — Photo courtesy ICBA

With just four weeks left until Kinder Morgan’s May 31st deadline for action on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, the Confidence in Canada movement is pushing hard for the Canadian and B.C. governments to show the necessary leadership to move forward, get the project built, and show that Canada is a place where job creators can safely invest.

Full-page Confidence in Canada advertisements ran in both Monday’s Hill Times and Wednesday’s Vancouver Province, calling for an immediate resolution to the Trans Mountain impasse and stressing the importance of showing investors and job creators that Canada is a safe, reliable place to do business. There are now 110 business, labour, municipal and community organizations supporting the Confidence in Canada movement.

While the federal government's decision to intervene in the constitutional reference question filed by the B.C. Government is a welcome step, a lengthy court process will not address the immediate challenges facing the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, nor will it bolster investor confidence in Canada.

“We have seen little visible action towards a solution from any level of government in the nearly three weeks since the Prime Minister met with the Premiers of Alberta and British Columbia,” said Val Litwin, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “The clock is ticking, and as it does, local and international investors – large and small – are making decisions today about where to invest capital. Unfortunately, their confidence in Canada is declining as governments fail to demonstrate tangible action to move this Trans Mountain project forward.”

The signatories of the Confidence In Canada letter encourage Canada, BC and Alberta to explore the federal government’s $1.5 Billion Oceans Protection Plan as a potential source for solutions.

“It is incumbent upon the B.C. government to state their concerns regarding the ocean protection plan immediately.” said Laura Jones, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).“Continuing to create doubt without providing any reasonable suggestions on how to fix it is simply immature and does not show leadership”

“Governments at all levels need to recognize the material, negative impact this impasse is having on our international reputation – well beyond pipelines and energy,” said Iain Black, President & CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. “Private investment is critical to creating jobs and ensuring Canada flourishes economically over the long term. Debating clearly-established jurisdiction, and creating uncertainty via political posturing over already-approved projects sends the exact wrong message to job creators thinking about investing in any Canadian industry.”

“The global reputation of our country as a safe and secure place to invest and to do business is at risk,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia. “This is about certainty, fairness and respect for the rule of law. Society expects businesses and governments to comply with the conditions and rules laid out by democratic and regulatory processes. Sadly, Canadian jobs, communities and quality of life are threatened because we take too long and are too complex compared to the rest of the world.”

According to The World Bank Doing Business Report, Canada ranks 34th of 35 OECD counties in the number of days it takes to obtain a permit for a new general construction project at 249 days. Since 2013, inbound foreign direct investment has fallen by 56 per cent, down $40 billion. With the new U.S. corporate tax regime eroding Canada’s competitive advantage on business investment, governments must act quickly and collaboratively to restore confidence in Canada’s economy.

Canadians are encouraged to join with the more than 10,500 Canadians who have sent emails through ConfidenceInCanada.com and other member platforms calling for the Canadian, B.C. and Alberta governments to come together and solve this economic confidence crisis. Recent polling also shows a majority of Canadians – including British Columbians – support the building of the pipeline.

“People are speaking loud and clear - government needs to act to restore confidence in Canada,” said Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA). “When a project – whether it’s a pipeline or a dam or a school or a hospital– gets an approval, it should be allowed to proceed. Certainty should be assured when the government says yes – we cannot start from scratch on projects every time we have a new government.”

The updated letter signed by 110 business, labour and municipal organizations across the country calling for action on the impasse over the Trans Mountain Pipeline is available here.

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