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

What the economy is saying for BC and Kelowna Business

by Admin 7. December 2016 10:48

Thank you to all of those who participated in the "Collective Perspective" survey sent out last month by BC Chamber President. The results discovered a strong confidence among the business community in both the current health of their businesses and their future outlook on the economy.

“This pan-provincial snapshot offers a unique look into the hearts and minds of B.C. businesses,” said Val Litwin, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “We hope this survey will be useful to all parties heading into the provincial election.” Nearly 1200 businesses of all sizes, representing all sectors of the economy and from all regions of the province participated in the survey. 

- An impressive 92% of businesses believe their businesses are in good or acceptable shape today (refer to pg. 8 of report). - Approximately 4/5 of B.C. businesses surveyed expect that they will grow their businesses over the next five years (refer to pg. 12 of report).

- A large majority of respondents believe the government is supportive of B.C.’s business community, with the provincial government taking the highest praise, followed by the federal government and then local government (refer to pg. 16 of report).

- Respondents expressed that many sectors of B.C.’s economy will become “more important” over the next five years to ten years, with Tourism, Clean Technology, International Trade and Health Services emerging as the top sectors (refer to pg. 17 of report).

- Respondents also expressed that even the province’s most well-established industries like Forestry and Mining will become “more important” to the business landscape over the next three to five years (refer to pg. 17 of report). Under the section “what matters to business success” our respondents identified the four most important factors affecting their business where they need more help (refer to summary graph on pg. 25 of report):

Because your plans for 2017 hinge on knowing what's up with the economy, in addition to supporting this survey, we've partnered with The Conference Board of Canada to bring you Pedro Antunes, their Executive Director, Economic Outlook and Analysis, and Deputy Chief Economist, for Kelowna's Business & Food Sector Outlook Conference.

Attending this 1/2 day conference will give you an in-depth look at the economic conditions of Canada, B.C. and Kelowna, how they interact with the global economy, and where business is headed in 2017. For the full agenda and speaker list; please visit the event agenda page. Register today for only $249 using priority code: MP - KCC

For more information, or for group pricing please contact Natasha Chipilova at the Conference Board at 613-526-3090 ext. 478.

-KCC  

 

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How Simple Breakroom Tweaks can improve Workplace Productivity

by Admin 22. November 2016 08:09

With many people feeling busier at work than they’ve ever been, some are simply forgetting to take breaks. In fact, our survey found half of employees feel they can’t leave their desk to take a break, despite 90 percent of employers saying they support breaks throughout the workday. That’s not good, considering taking a break is one of the best ways to recharge and refuel throughout a busy day.

While you can’t physically force employees to take a break, there are certain ways to encourage them, one of which is changing up the current ordering process for your breakroom to make it more inviting and enticing. Given that 76 percent of those surveyed said they could unwind and de-stress if they had a well-stocked, comfortable breakroom available, it’s time to start thinking about your current purchases.

Not sure where to start to kick off your breakroom ordering process? Here are a few suggestions.

 Purchase healthy snacks: Employees want healthy snacks – 57 percent of survey respondents said they’d want snack options such as nuts, protein and granola bars added to the breakroom. Consider changing or adding to your purchasing decisions to include healthier choices.

 But, have something for everyone: Not everyone craves mixed nuts on their breaks – some people are looking for candy, cookies or chips, and that’s okay. In order to make sure there’s something for everyone, offer a good mix of sweet and salty treats in the breakroom.

 Purchase a variety of beverages. While coffee is important for many employees to stay alert and productive throughout the day, not everyone drinks it. Make sure to also order tea, as well as soft drinks and sports drinks, to satisfy different preferences in the office.

 Think about comfort: Furniture is a major consideration for the overall comfort and appeal of the breakroom. It’s important to purchase tables and seating that invite employees to unwind and socialize with colleagues. It’s also crucial to order ergonomic furniture that offers proper support to avoid injury.

Providing employees with an inviting place to take a break that also offers something for their particular taste will help them feel appreciated and more productive throughout the day. For more information on how you can incorporate new breakroom products into your current budget, click here to browse options from our office supply benefit provider.

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Big Opportunities for Small Business

by Admin 28. October 2016 13:44
Many small business operators are driving themselves at break-neck speeds trying to keep pace with their rapidly changing work environments. They don’t know how to adapt, so they just keep running faster and faster.
 
The good news is that proactive leaders in all industries are gearing down from what seems like the unmanageable speed of light, to the more enjoyable speed of enlightenment. They’re getting back to business basics by examining a simpler approach based on values, innovation, collaboration, and communication. While doing so, they’re profoundly enriching their personal and professional lives.
 
Check out how you, too, can slow down, take a big, deep business breath, and explore how to navigate your own entrepreneurial speed-way in ways that rally both human and financial resources.
 
And we promise you’ll enjoy the ride!
 
Big Opportunities for Small Business is an S3 series of a six half-day workshops in partnership with the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce (KCC). While each workshop sets the stage for the next, attendees can register for any number of workshops. Each is $129 (+ Eventbrite fee), with a special 'six-pack' price of $599 (+ Eventbrite Fee). Qualifies for BC Job Grant! 
 
1. Pinpointing Enterpreneurial Values (Nov 24th, 2016) - How to hit your business bulls-eye
2. Activating Insightful Innovation (Jan 26th, 2017) - How to optimize organizational performance
3. Building Constructive Collaboration (Feb 23rd, 2017) - How to frame and maintain synergistic partnerships
4. Growing Fruitful Networks (Mar 23rd, 2017) - How to strengthen communication and outcomes
5. Cracking the Sustainability Code (April 27th, 2017) - How to be competitive in changing markets
6. Taking the Living Business Challenge (May 25th, 2017) - How to plan for agility and resilience
 
Vist our Event Page to learn more!  http://www.kelownachamber.org/events/Workshop-Big-Opportunities-for-Small-Business-1897/details
 
-KCC 
 

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And the Award goes to...

by Admin 20. October 2016 13:51

A red carpet entrance. A professional photoshoot. Cocktail Reception... this was the scene at the 29th Business Excellence Awards. Finalists making their way through the crowd were treated to a life-sized illuminated ice sculpture of the crystal award they were all hoping to take home. The 4-foot tall statue was a glistening reminder of the sacrifice and hard work it took them to be considered a Finalist, an honour in itself... As bright as that was, moments later it was outshone by a flurry of fueled flames surrounding two talented firedancers. Cosmic Co Motion entertained the crowd for the remainder of the reception.

Nearly 400 guests attended the ceremony and dinner, emceed by the lovely and talented Tamara Joel. The evening was photographed by Mr. Alex Hill, a dedicated professional who did a splendid job capturing the evening. 

The awards recipients, in order:

1. RISING STAR AWARD: BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery

Sponsored by: Urban Systems

2. SMALL BUSINESS AWARD (4-15 employees): Highstreet Ventures Inc.

Sponsored by: Prospera Credit Union

3. MID-SIZE BUSINESS AWARD (16-50 employees): Diversified Rehabilitation Group

Sponsored by: BDO Canada LLP

4. SOCIAL ENTERPRENEURSHIP AWARD: Two Hat

Sponsored by: Interior Savings

5. YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR AWARD:  Rachel Clarida, Hatch Interior Design Inc.

Sponsored by: Kelowna International Airport

6. SUSTAINABILITY AWARD: Evergreen Building Maintenance Inc.

Sponsored by: Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board

7. DISTINCTION IN HOSPITALITY & TOURISM AWARD: Gray Monk Estate Winery & Vineyards

Sponsored by: Tourism Kelowna

8. MARKETER AWARD: Csek Creative.

Sponsored by: Pushor Mitchell LLP

9. TECHNOLOGY/INNOVATION AWARD: WTFast

Sponsored by: UBC Okanagan

10. LARGE BUSINESS AWARD (51+ employees): Sun-Rype Products

Sponsored by: Grant Thornton LLP

11. BUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR: Tony Stewart

Sponsored by: MNP LLP 

Thank you to all who attended -  and a special thank you to Dan Albas, for an incredible job of tweeting!  See Alex's photos here!  See our amature photos of the reception here. 

See you at the 30th!

 -KCC 

  

 

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2016 Business Leader Announced

by Admin 7. October 2016 13:11
The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce announced today that Tony Stewart has been named 2016 Business Leader. The award recognizes and celebrates Tony for his outstanding contribution to the business community in the Central Okanagan. 

Tony Stewart grew up in the Okanagan fruit industry but has made a career in the Okanagan wine industry for the last 25 years. He has been CEO of the Stewart Family's winery, Quails' Gate, since 2005 where he has focused his efforts on the development of Quails' Gate as one of Canada's top wine brands and a leader in the Okanagan culinary scene. 

"Our goal at Quails' Gate is to be one of Canada's foremost estate wine properties. We are committed to ensuring excellence in the experience at the winery, our restaurant and through our wines. We feel very privileged to be considered one of the world's top 20 winery culinary destinations and truly appreciate our dedicated team members that make the experience at the winery so special. Our family is honoured to be leaders in the wine industry and are committed to helping establish the Okanagan Valley as North America's leading wine and culinary region" 

In industry, Tony is the current Chairman of the Canadian Vintners Association which represents the interests of wineries across the country; a Director of the Beverage Alcohol Containers Management Council of BC; and a past chair of the BC Wine Institute. This year, Tony was honoured by the BC Wine Industry with the Award of Distinction for outstanding contributions to the industry. 

Tony has also been very active in the community serving a variety of organizations. He is currently serving as a Director of Tourism Kelowna and the Kelowna Airport Advisory Board. He has also served as a Past Director and Past President of the Central Okanagan Foundation as well as a Director of the Canada West Foundation based in Calgary. 

Tony Stewart will receive his award at this year's ceremony at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort on Thursday, October 13th. The awards mark the Kelowna Chamber's 29th annual Business Excellence Awards, one of many events they are hosting this Small Business Month. 
 
-KCC
 

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Top 40 Program Grows Up...

by Admin 22. September 2016 13:11
Yesterday was the launch of our third-edition of the Top 40 Program presented by BDO, however new this year -  the program will feature Over 40s! That's right, for all of you amazing people that didn't qualify for the Top 40 Under 40 program - this one's for you! Nominate an amazing individual today! 

Last weekend, our Executive Vice President attended the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM in Regina and voted on many successful resolutions to help benefit business conditions. Both BC-made policies were passed, and each were aimed at boosting Canada's access to major economies. We're calling on government to lower taxes and fees and improve air access in order to make the domestic airline industry more competitive in the global arena; and to advance two international agreements that are pivotal to growing BC's economy. The Canadian Chamber will take those policies forward and be our voice in parliament.

We also attended three ribbon cuttings this past week at Oxygen Yoga & Fitness in Spall Plaza; Hazmasters in McCurdy Plaza; and the new Trades Complex at OC. Join us at the grand opening of Houle Electric's new location on Lougheed Road on September 29th from 1-5pm - we will cut the ribbon at 3pm! 

Next Thurdsay is also when we see off our thirty-six Iceland travellers for their eight-day adventure. Stay tuned for photos!
 
-KCC 

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2016 Finalists Announced - Business Excellence Awards

by Admin 13. September 2016 10:18
The judges have narrowed down the sixty-two semi-finalists -  and determined that thirty finalists will be honoured at this year's Business Excellence Awards, presented by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP.  

The annual gala, in its 29th year and emceed by Kelowna's own Andy & TJ, will be held on October 13th at the Delta Grand Okanagan. This year's theme is Fire & Ice, and the community is invited to attend and support these businesses that have gone through the demanding eight-month process.  One business or individual in each of the ten categories will receive the prestigious crystal award, in addition to the 2017 Business Leader of the Year.
 
The Business Excellence Finalists for 2016:
 
RISING STAR AWARD

BNA Eatery & Brewery
Intraline Canada Inc.
Stikshen Inc.
 
Sponsored by: Urban Systems Ltd.
 
SMALL BUSINESS AWARD (1-15 employees)
 
Ecoscape Environmental Consultants Ltd.
Highstreet Ventures
i-sight Optometry
Touchstone Law Group LLP
 
Sponsored by: Prospera Credit Union
 
MID-SIZE BUSINESS AWARD (16-50 employees)
 
Associated Property Management
Diversified Rehabilitation Group
Venture Academy
 
Sponsored by: BDO Canada LLP
 
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AWARD

Two Hat/Community Sift 
Mamas for Mamas
Urban Matters CCC
 
Sponsored by:  Interior Savings Credit Union
 
YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR

Rachel Clarida, Hatch Interior Design 
William Walczak, Hiilite
Ariele Parker, martketer inc.

Sponsored by: Kelowna International Airport

SUSTAINABILITY AWARD
 
Ogo Car Share 
Evergreen Building Maintenance
Sponsored by: Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board
 
DISTINCTION IN HOSPITALITY & TOURISM AWARD

Gray Monk Estate Winery
Let's Go Transportation
The Harvest Golf Club
 
Sponsored by: Tourism Kelowna
 
MARKETER OF THE YEAR AWARD

Csek Creative + Pulse
Fortune Marketing Inc.
Hiilite
 
Sponsored by: Pushor Mitchell LLP
 
TECHNOLOGY/INNOVATION AWARD
 
AAA Internet Publishing Inc. (WTFast)
Cape Communications
Lighthouse Chiropractic
 
Sponsored by: UBC Okanagan
 
LARGE BUSINESS AWARD (51+ employees)
 
Natures Formulae Health Products Ltd.
Northside Industries
Sun-Rype Products Ltd.
 
Sponsored by: Grant Thornton LLP
 
2016 BUSINESS LEADER
 
Tony Stewart, Quail's Gate Winery
 
Sponsored by MNP LLP 
 
Ticket Prices: $125 plus GST.  Discounts available on table purchases. All ticket sales will close at 4 pm Oct. 7.  Click here to reserve your seats for this popular event!

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Falling for the Economy: A compilation of the experts' forecasts

by Admin 6. September 2016 08:40
As September opens, it’s timely to look at the economic predictors for the fall and winter for BC and Kelowna, and for Canada. Much of the data is encouraging for our province. With thanks to our sources, we'll synopsize here what we’ve found most engaging in our economic reading over the past few weeks.

First of all, the Bank of Canada’s July 13 announcement of maintaining its target overnight rate of 0.5 per cent, its Bank Rate of 0.75 per cent and its deposit rate of 0.25 per cent. Stable. The next rate will be announced within a few days on September 7. The Bank calls our economy “complex” – inflation still below 2 per cent but likely to go back up in 2017. 

The next number we always look for is GDP (gross domestic product): globally, the projections are down slightly (2.9 per cent in 2016; 3.3 per cent in 2017 and 3.5 per cent in 2018). Causes: a slightly weaker US economy the first half of this year, plus Brexit, equal a bit of re-pricing. Again, the changes are slight, and mostly stable.

In Canada real GDP grew a bit in the first quarter, and dipped a bit in the second quarter. Drilling down to BC and Alberta GDP, the Alberta wildfires mean negative GDP throughout 2016 for our neighbour, but with an outlook for greater than usual growth in 2017 when the rebuilding efforts really kick in. In BC, again, the forecast is that we will lead the country in 2016 and 2017 in GDP, with our booming domestic economy and our red-hot housing market. Annual gains? In the 3 per cent range.

Federal infrastructure spending and other March federal budget measures continue to contribute to growth in the last half of 2016 for us here in the Okanagan.

Oil prices are always worth a monthly scan. Early 2016 predictions included a global rise: however, crude eased to about $45/barrel in August as global supply grew and demand weakened. Continuing slowing in prices is now forecast, according to the International Energy Agency. Weak demand and low prices for natural gas, and uncertainties surrounding major liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects will continue to dampen capital investment.

Much of the focus in the media this summer has been on housing: new rules, inventory, a seller’s market – we’ve all seen the headlines. At this point, predictions are that “the good times will continue.”  Sales prices continue to rise, and in Kelowna, “Buyers from the Okanagan continue to be the largest purchasing group – 55 to 60 per cent of total buyers average over six years of tracking” according to the President of the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board (OMREB) earlier in August. 

This comment was of course, in response to the quickly passed legislation taxing offshore buyers purchasing real estate in the lower mainland (15 per cent). The tax has hit immigrating families from the US and Europe, as well as from Asia and has been a headline-grabber nationally throughout August. 

Chinese demand for all things Canadian remains strong, with new opportunities in agribusiness and tourism. Beijing has boosted the Canadian tourism industry, especially in the last two years. Canadian hospitality and its natural beauty are key draws for Chinese tourists.

Canada’s multicultural makeup facilitates greater tourism from China: Chinese Canadians are 4.5 per cent of the population (2011 Census) compared to 1.2 per cent for the U.S. This simplifies language and cultural issues, builds on existing connections, decreases prejudice, and facilitates a greater understanding of the spending habits of Chinese tourists.

Canada even has – despite being further away – a higher proportion of Chinese residents than Australia (4 per cent) – a testament to Canadian openness and cosmopolitanism. This number will be markedly higher for the 2016 census, and these ethno-cultural links, combined with a low Canadian dollar, provide many opportunities to strengthen tourism links. (from Global Risks Insights)

Could the new 15 per cent tax come to Kelowna and damp down our housing market? It’s possible, says OMREB. More interesting to our local business people are the changing demographics of home buyers: local buyers who will go on to purchase renovation services, appliances, furniture and other home-related products from local businesses.

Fully 24 per cent of buyers are now single females or single males; another quarter is two-parent families with children; couples (24 per cent) and empty nesters/retirees at 20 per cent.  All good information as local businesses plan their product inventory buying for 2017.

Finally, there is the labour market, and the export market. Certainly, our staff at the Chamber have been kept busy this summer helping members with their Certificates of Origin for offshore shipments of lumber, produce and wine, particularly fresh cherries. This activity peaks in July and August, and is a service provided free of charge to Chamber members in good standing.  (Certificates cost $75 per document for non-members.)

As to the labour market, while BC’s labour market continued to generate jobs – again leading Canada in job creation and economic growth – most of that employment growth was in the lower mainland, and in part-time employment.

Numbers are high, but would be even higher, if it weren’t for the continuing in-migration from other parts of Canada into BC as job seekers seek higher ground.  The Alberta economy continues to impact employment growth in the Okanagan where we were steady/negative at -2.8 per cent.

As an aside, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission completed its “professional” business walks in July (they conduct business walks with Chamber participation throughout the year).  Not surprisingly, given our economy this summer, every one of the 57 professional services firms surveyed were happy with their business.

“Usually with our Business Walk interviews, 80 to 90 per cent of the companies are positive about current conditions and the future,” said Corie Griffiths of the COEDC, which runs the Business Walk program.

In the third week of August, Manufacturing was the focus of the "Business Walk".  The in-person survey is examining the human resources needs of about 50 manufacturing companies in our region. 

We’ll close with four highlights from a new forecast from Central 1 Credit Union for BC for the next three years:

  • Strong economic growth will continue through 2018
  • Unemployment rate will decline from the current six per cent to below five per cent by 2018
  • Provincial population will grow as more people move to the West Coast from other provinces
  • International tourism is up due to the low dollar and will continue to grow

Welcome to fall everyone!
 
-KCC 

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Kelowna Businesses Stay Busy in the Summer

by Admin 19. August 2016 13:23
 It’s been a busier summer so far than we anticipated – it must be human nature to believe that because school is out and the sun is shining – weakly at times, through the summer rains – that business takes a breather.

On behalf of all our business members, and we have 1300+ of them: we are delighted that the economy is buzzing. Certainly Kelowna streets and highways and beaches reflect good visitor numbers, and locals are getting out and about, too, which means good retail and good news for the service industry.

Speaking of the service industry, we hosted the Chief Economist of Central 1 Credit Union – Helmut Pastrick – at our last Chamber luncheon before taking a summertime break.  Central 1 is the financial trade association for the BC credit union system.

Helmut gave us a very lively and informative commentary on the national and local economic recovery prospects. A few days after he spoke to 120 of our members and non-members here in Kelowna, he presented at the annual Bay Area Economic Summit, in Burlington, Ontario.  He has the national view.

Helmut highlighted Kelowna numbers for our crowd, which was really useful, as so often much of our information is skewed to Vancouver and Toronto. I’ll just touch on a few highlights here, thank you in advance to Helmut:

Employment Trends – recent gains higher in Kelowna than Vancouver or all of BC. Overall, employment remains an issue, as the numbers could be more robust.
Population growth: Kelowna remains the leading CMA (Census Metropolitan Area) in population growth in Canada for three years in a row.
The three top CMA industries in Kelowna over the past year showed up as Construction; Accommodation and Food; and Information, Culture, and Recreation. That aligns perfectly with our key business areas.
Business building and support is a growing business concentration in the Kelowna CMA.
And Helmut said that everyone always wants to hear about housing: where are we, where is it going, will it continue to expand? Certainly there is a cyclical upturn in residential sales in the Kelowna CMA – numbers are up in 2015, and median sales price is up. And the market continues to rise, according to the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board: MLS residential sales up, and the average sales price, up. This is accompanied by a shrinking inventory of product for sale; just ask any Kelowna-based Realtor, and you’ll hear the same story. Lots of buyers; not a lot of product.

A final note from Helmut’s presentation, and that is on the economic and housing forecast for the Kelowna area:  Helmut showed us a forecast through 2018:

Employment up 1.5% to 2%
Unemployment dropping from today’s 7.0% to 5.5%
Population, up by 4%
Housing sales up by 5%, a healthier percentage than this year’s 15.8%
Housing starts up by 20%
We were all delighted that Helmut could take the time to bring us the Kelowna Economic snapshot at our luncheon.

On other topics: We were pleased to be invited to present local issues at the Federal Liberal Party of Canada’s Pacific Caucus western meeting at the end of July – a solid opportunity to make our voices and our issues known to the federal governing party; issues of importance to Kelowna, and the Okanagan.

Topics we covered included Kelowna Airport Funding; Invasive Mussels; Credit Card Merchant Fees; Convention Centre; Temporary Foreign Worker Policy; and the Organized Crime Tax Force.  We also revisited the Inter-provincial Sales of 100% Canadian Wine; and Addressing the Doctor Shortage.  (It was a very full agenda!)

Later this month, the Kelowna Chamber is hosting delegates from Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.  In April, our Chamber visited Kasugai, along with six other cities across central and southern Japan as part of a partnership/tourism/business trip co-sponsored by the Kelowna-Kasugai Sister City Association.

This reciprocal trip only lasts three days, but the 17 delegates are all “home-staying” with local families, to get a true flavor of life here in the Okanagan. (Our 40 delegates all home-stayed for three days in Kasugai in April.)

Many of the delegates are associated with Chubu University, and our Chamber Day will feature a tour of one of our two post-secondary institutions here, the University of British Columbia Okanagan.  Dr Phil Barker, Associate Vice President Research at UBC Okanagan will host the afternoon tour.

Morning will see some golf at The Harvest Golf Club, a walking tour of Kasugai Gardens and the downtown cultural district and waterfront.  We’ll have business presentations over a lunch at the Chamber. After our afternoon tour of UBC, we’ll tour the BC Fruit Packinghouse, and have a taste of their new Broken Ladder cider (John Shreiner says “they hit it out of the park with taste and aroma”).  Finally, an outdoor BBQ in the sunshine back at The Harvest Golf Club.

There is a lot more going on, but that’s probably enough about us, for now.  We remain busy with event planning for fall, continuing membership growth, and our always great back-and-forth conversations with our many members.  We’re also encouraging staff to take a bit of time off while things are “quieter.” 
 
-KCC 

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Global Backlash: Is it Time to Rethink Our Approach to Trade?

by Admin 28. July 2016 06:29

The overarching theme at last week’s Republican convention was one of anger—fury at government and “a rigged system” and rage at an economy that is supposedly “not working.” But, Donald Trump’s biggest applause came when he slammed trade and immigration (“Build the wall! Build the wall!”).

And yet this is not just an American phenomenon. These themes would have been familiar to the British who voted to exit the European Union or in France, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden where extreme-right parties are leading in the polls. So why are voters so angry? Have trade and globalization gone too far?

Or maybe not far enough! The graph below shows how incomes have grown over 20 years for people at different levels of the global income distribution. We can see that the bottom 10% saw incomes rise almost 40%, so the world’s poorest are better off. The really big winners came from Asia where China’s urban median income grew by almost 300% while in Indonesia and Thailand, it roughly doubled. The top 1%, of course, did well.

Those who gained the least were in the 80th and 90th percentiles—people in rich countries who are in the lower halves of national income distributions. In the mighty German economy, those folks gained just 7% in real terms over 20 years while the U.S. was essentially flat, and Japan saw incomes decline.

Should we blame trade? Research shows that some workers in the rich world struggled with the rise of China’s exports. Trade creates lots of jobs, but when losses are concentrated in certain sectors or regions, it’s difficult for workers to find other employment.

However, a recent paper by the IMF shows that almost all of the world’s income inequality and working class wage stagnation is driven by technology. This is because the automation of routine work by robotics and computing has increased the demand and price premium on higher skills while reducing opportunities in relatively lower skill sectors. From robot greeters and automated checkouts to self-driving vehicles, this transformation is accelerating.

No one can build a wall that will stop technology from coming, so it’s easier for populist leaders to blame trade and immigration.This is not surprising. In 1824, Thomas MacAulay said, “Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular.” We’ve been arguing about immigration for just as long even though all the evidence shows that immigration actually raises incomes of native workers.

Protectionism is always bad news for Canada. We have to press ahead with CETA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership while doing a better job explaining the benefits from trade. Building walls is a dead end.

 

-Hendrik Brakel, CCC

Senior Director, Economic, Financial & Tax Policy 613.238.4000 (284) | hbrakel@chamber.ca

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