A new year should be filled with hope and optimism, and while there are many reasons for hope, my optimism is tempered by the economic impact of COVID-19.
Let me start by congratulating everyone elected to B.C.’s Legislative Assembly and offering thanks to all who agreed to serve in Premier John Horgan’s cabinet. You have accepted the enormous task of leading British Columbians through the pandemic intact.
Elections, by their nature, are divisive with political leaders putting forward competing visions to win votes. Once elected, the challenge is to unify voters and govern in the best interest of all residents.
The challenge is no more acute than in the United States where President-elect Joe Biden is demonstrating his eagerness to bridge the divide between Democrats and Republicans. In his acceptance speech last November, he pledged to be a president who unifies rather than divides; one who doesn’t see Democratic states or Republican states, only the United States.
B.C.’s political divide is not as extreme, however, the desire to appeal to a political base is just as prevalent in our political parties. It’s why we see large policy swings every time there’s a change in governing party.
Now that Premier Horgan has a majority government, he has a choice to make: pursue policies that appeal to his party’s supporters at the expense of the business community, or seek to balance his party’s agenda with policies that will aid in strengthening the business community and provincial economy.
B.C.’s economy is in a prec-arious state. Whole segments have been devastated by COVID-19 restrictions and other sectors are now feeling the longer-term effects. Although deemed an essential service, the construction industry is seeing fewer projects tendered these days as private investment pauses until the economy is stronger.
The mandate letters Horgan gave his cabinet ministers when they were sworn in suggest the traditional BC NDP agenda items are a high priority. However, I respectfully believe the premier has the opportunity to take a cue from the president-elect and aim to govern in the middle by striking a balance between left-leaning policies and right-leaning business-friendly initiatives.
This is not to suggest the premier shelve the entirety of his party’s left-leaning policies in favour of economic investment. Rather, our government must find a balance between supporting British Columbians so they can go to work safely and ensuring businesses stay in business. Anything less puts the future success of our business community at risk, jobs on the line and B.C.’s economic recovery in jeopardy.
We therefore look forward to working with Premier Horgan and his government to find that middle ground where a social agenda and business initiatives can co-exist and build a provincial economy that is good for all British Columbians. •
Fiona Famulak is president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, which represents the general and trade contractors, manufacturers, suppliers and professional service providers that operate as both union and open-shop employers in the industrial, commercial, institutional and high-rise residential construction industry.