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  Photo courtesy: www.tourismkelowna.com Photographer Brian Sprout - Picture BC Photo courtesy: www.tourismkelowna.com Photographer Brian Sprout - Picture BC

Welcome to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber works to ensure the Okanagan region will become the most economically prosperous region - and the most desirable place to live and work - in Canada. As the area's leading membership driven business organization, we are committed to providing value to our members.
 

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  • The Top 3 Issues in the Federal Election: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
    Jun 30, 2015

    Jobs are always a top issue in a federal election, but with this shaky economy, it’s fast becoming the number one priority. Opposition parties have made much of the recent bad news: in the first quarter, Canada’s GDP shrank by 0.6%, exports tumbled 5.6% and corporate profits fell by 14% as the drop in oil prices slammed the Canadian economy.

    And yet the Canadian labour market has held up well, adding an average of 20,000 jobs per month since the beginning of 2015. In fact, Canada added a rip-roaring 59,000 jobs in May. What gives? Where are these jobs coming from in the midst of economic despair?

    Our regional differences are as stark as ever. Energyrich provinces once drove job creation while the manufacturing sector of Central Canada lagged behind. Now lower oil prices and a weaker Loonie have flipped the numbers. Still, the outlook is very mixed.

    There are now 25,000 fewer jobs in the Alberta oil patch, but there is good reason to believe that the worst is behind us. Firstly, oil prices have stabilized around the $60 range and are headed slightly higher. The market no longer fears a drop to $20 as Citibank had predicted. Secondly, oil sands projects require huge upfront investments, but once those are made, they can go on producing for years with relatively low costs. And they need to keep operating continuously: most can’t be shut down without damaging the equipment. Thirdly, new investments are on-track with 10 new oil sands projects scheduled to start this year and 7 set for 2016 with total capacity over 300,000 barrels per day, according to Oil Sands Review. These are probably safe because once they’re partially paid for, “you don’t stop a project mid-cap-ex”. Some exploration and drilling activity has been scaled back, but job losses should ease.

    In manufacturing, the outlook is much improved and the parties have all pledged support for the sector, which is certainly welcome. The challenge is that manufacturers are increasing production by investing in capital and new technologies: they’re becoming more efficient and more competitive. As a result, we’ll see an impressive resurgence in manufacturing and exports, but it may not translate into big job gains.

    The political parties are missing the big picture by focusing so much on jobs in manufacturing and natural resources because together they account for just 11% of the labour force. The overwhelming majority (78%) of Canadian employment is in the service sector and recently it’s been the fastest growing part of our economy.

    Services are a poorly understood grab bag of different occupations. It’s sometimes perceived as low-paying because it includes retail and restaurants, but there are also scientists, engineers, lawyers and financiers.

    Over the past year, Canada’s fastest job growth is in sectors like business and support services (up 4.5% compared to last year), education (up 4.1%), finance and insurance (up 3.5%) and professional, scientific and technical (up 1.7%), while retail has barely budged (0.3%). And the gains in high-end services employment are spread right across the country.

    With the election just around the corner, we would love to hear a politician say: “we need highly specialized skills to compete and succeed in the service economy. That’s why we must invest in Canadian education and training to make it the best in the world.”

     

    -Hendrik Brakel, CCC 

  • Commodity Wildcard: What is happening in China?
    Jun 22, 2015

    When someone asks where commodity prices are headed, they’re really asking: what’s the outlook for China?

    Last year, China consumed more coal than the rest of the world combined and imported 70% of the world’s seaborne iron ore. In 2012, China accounted for half of the global growth in oil demand. It’s a commodity behemoth and the recent slow-down in the Chinese economy is a big reason for weakness in prices for this sector. Should we be worried?

    China’s economic growth is definitely slowing, but the real concern is that official estimates of China’s GDP growth are overestimated. Economists are scratching their heads and coming up with widely varying estimates:

     China GDP Growth in Q1 2015    
    Source   Estimate
     China’s Official Govt. Statistics Bureau  7.0% 
     Citibank   6.0%  
     Capital Economic  4.9%  
      Conference Board China Centre   4.0%  
     Lombard Street Research   3.8%

    Why all this guessing? China’s growth numbers are always suspiciously consistent and always within 0.2% of the government forecast. Moreover, skeptical analysts see hard data, such as industrial production, energy consumption and construction, which are much weaker than GDP, and are using it to create their own estimates of what is going on. But it’s not just the data that is worrying.

    The big question is China’s real estate. Property prices in 70 Chinese cities have fallen for more than a year, and 60 million empty apartments await buyers.

    The Chinese government is well aware of the risk and has taken action. The Central Bank has lowered interest rates three times and it has twice reduced the amount of reserves that banks must hold, while easing mortgage rules. Still, new construction starts have fallen 16% in the first five months of 2015, a significant hit to the economy.

    The challenge is that China is trying to shift the focus of its economy away from exports towards domestic growth, all while gently deflating a housing bubble. China has lots of resources, $4 trillion of reserves and its tight control of the banking sector gives it policy levers that other governments could only dream of. The Chinese government can intervene to stimulate demand, but China’s economy will grow a slower pace.

    What does it all mean for commodity prices? The following graph shows China’s demand growth for oil, which has been massively volatile, oscillating from 16% growth to 2%. And that was during times of smooth sailing. We believe commodity prices should improve in 2015, but producers should brace themselves for more volatility as the world’s biggest consumer of natural resources has a bumpy road ahead.

    -Hendrik Brakel, CCC

  • Breaking Barriers to Employing in Multiple Provinces
    Jun 16, 2015
    Many businesses in British Columbia's resource sector must grapple with differences between the employment standards legislation of British Columbia and Alberta. This places an undue burden on many small businesses, and may result in a competitive disadvantage to British Columbia businesses relative to those based in Alberta. British Columbia should eliminate this drag on business by harmonizing key provisions of its employment standards legislation laws with those of its eastern neighbor.
    A new resolution was presented at the BC Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting and Conference, May 24-26 in Prince George called Harmonizing British Columbia's regulation of worker hours that won the unanimous support of the province's Chambers of Commerce.                                               
    President of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Ken Carmichael felt that it was important that the Chamber attend this event to ensure that our local businesses' views are heard and understood at the provincial level, and that our local companies keep their competitive edge.  
    Part 4 of British Columbia's Employment Standards Act ("ESA") provides various conditions on employees' hours of work and overtime. Among other things, this legislation prescribes conditions on split shifts, hours before overtime applies and hours free from work each week.
    British Columbia's ESA differs from Alberta's Employment Standards Code. As a result, businesses that operate in British Columbia and Alberta must abide by different regimes. Particularly in industries where there is close integration of operations across provincial borders, this causes complications in scheduling and payroll practices. Such complications are especially burdensome on small business.
    As well, British Columbia's ESA, in general, provides less flexibility than Alberta's Employment Standards Code.  In markets where Alberta and British Columbia businesses compete for the same opportunities, the differences in applicable legislation can result in a competitive disadvantage for British Columbia business.
    By harmonizing British Columbia's ESA with Alberta's Employment Standards Code, the provincial government can ensure British Columbia businesses do not face the complications of dealing with multiple employment standards regimes and compete against Alberta business on a more level playing field.
    If employers are dealing with this issue we advise them to be aware that the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Province to work with the Alberta Government to harmonize British Columbia's Employment Standards Act hours of work and overtime provisions with those in Alberta's Employment Standards Code prior to seeking  harmonization of employment standards with other provinces.
     
    -KCC Contributor 
  • Advocacy Update
    Jun 08, 2015

    Recently, our CEO, Caroline Grover and myself travelled to Prince George for the BC Chamber AGM. We brought forward five resolutions from our membership and received support from our colleagues across the Province.

    The theme this year for four resolutions seems to be the continuing fight on four separate issues where we have seen some success and support from Provincial and Federal governments, but feel that there is still room for improvement. We recognize the positive support the BC and Canadian Chamber networks receive from government on many of our resolutions and sincerely appreciate that we are their go to organization representing business.

    1. We are asking the Province to tighten the net and improve check points on BC border points. To ensure that no invasive mussel species enters BC’s pristine lakes on boats and devastates our infrastructure and lake dependent economies.

    2. Another on-going issue is the shipment of private purchase wine, beer and spirits between provinces. Some provinces like Ontario are refusing to allow the free flow of quality BC product. The BC Government will be asked to keep the pressure on these hold outs.

    3. The digital media industry has become a significant economic driver in B.C. with no signs of slowing down over the next years ahead. With this growth B.C. has an opportunity to set up the infrastructure necessary for this industry to become global leaders across all its sectors and continue to strengthen B.C.’s economy. There is an opportunity for the provincial government to work with the federal government, local governments, the academic sector and the digital industry to identify impediments to this sector’s growth.

    4. The Chamber network continues to work with the real estate and construction associations to draw the province’s attention to the Property Transfer Tax that is counter productive to housing affordability. We are making joint recommendations to ensure tax flows to government are tied to indexing of new housing prices and ultimately we call for the elimination of the Property Transfer Tax. We have also asked to eliminate tax on title transfers of common owner, better breaks for first time home owners and higher rates for non-resident property owners.

    5. And we rounded out our weekend of policy debates with a new resolution to consider changes to British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act to harmonize its hours of work and overtime provisions with those in Alberta’s Employment Standards Code. This is an issue with employers who have employees working in both provinces.

      

    -Ken Carmichael, President, KCC