John Winter

John Winter

Winter calls for innovation

B.C. chamber president Winter proposes an initiative he refers to as the B.C. agenda for shared prosperity

Times are a changing and B.C. Chamber of Commerce president John Winter is urging the business community to keep up.

As the guest speaker at last week’s Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce AGM, Winter addressed the crowd at the Best Western Vernon Lodge on the economic, social and political shifts that are happening across the province.

He pointed to an aging demographic that is heading towards some hard economic realities, and highlighted the need for better education, health care and infrastructure to preserve British Columbians’ quality of life.

“There are some common issues and trends emerging, and clearly we are struggling to deal with them, as are our governments,” said Winter.

“We have a culture of debate and decision-making here in British Columbia that is increasingly out of step with global realities.”

However, Winter doesn’t believe taxation is the solution to declining social needs and services.

“Raising taxes while expecting economic growth is not only realistic, it’s just plain dumb. You can’t tax your way to prosperity.”

Instead, Winter proposed an initiative he refers to as the B.C. agenda for shared prosperity, something the B.C. chamber and the Business Council of B.C. are currently launching.

Through the agenda, Winter hopes to create an open dialogue among the business community,  governments and other stakeholders to create a “competitive, innovative, knowledge-driven economy.”

He said B.C.’s institutions and political culture tend to focus on differences of opinion, which results in a divisive atmosphere. He wants to swap that attitude for a more collaborative one.

Winter discussed the agenda’s five steps, the first being an understanding of the connections between economic and personal prosperity. It also calls for the formation of an advisory council to communicate ideas from agenda; a link between community health and well being and the corporate and economic success; generation of actionable ideas to enhance B.C.’s economic strength; and a challenge to the current way of thinking that results in more positive decisions and policies.

“We need to change the way we make decisions around here. We need to create a welcoming and enthusiastic ‘Yes we can’ culture,” said Winter.

Before concluding, Winter unleashed a few parting shots at B.C.’s carbon tax. With rising electricity costs, a high Canadian dollar and a “thickening of Canada-U.S. border,” he said B.C. industry already faces considerable competitive challenges.

“While it’s appropriate that B.C. do its part (for greenhouse gas emissions)…it doesn’t make any sense to institute  policies that impose excessive or needless costs on our citizens or disadvantage our entrepreneurs in a competitive contest.”