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Chamber CEO presents to Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services

June 4, 2020

On Monday, June 1st,  2020, Richmond Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, Matt Pitcairn delivered a presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance & Government Services. This Select Standing Committee is currently in public consultations and set to release its report with recommendations for the next provincial budget in late July or early August.

Transcript of Mr. Pitcairn’s presentation below:

Thank you, everybody. Matt Pitcairn, CEO of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Thank you very much to the committee for this opportunity. I miss our previous meetings in the hotel just down the street from my office, but it’s great to be able to connect in this new virtual, crazy world we’re living in.

I have to echo and support many of the comments from my colleague from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. Those are absolutely some concerning trends that we’re seeing here in Richmond with our members. So I’m not going to mention the same points but definitely echo the concerns and trends that are being seen to our neighbours from the north, and I’m sure my colleague to the south is seeing those same concerning trends in her community as well.

One of our biggest concerns we’re hearing from members is around this rent relief program. We’re pleased to see some progress in the announcements made by the province today, but there’s definitely going to be a need for longer-term financial support to get businesses up and running. It’s going to be crucial to get our economy started.

But for my presentation today I’m going to focus on some key issues that are very important here in Richmond. I’ll get started with my formal remarks. Everyone is talking about the new normal, what it means for us as individuals and for our workplaces. Perhaps this is a prime opportunity to make the kind of bold changes that will improve life and our economy for decades to come.

Here are some key priorities that we would like to see the province consider. No. 1, the George Massey crossing. The George Massey Tunnel replacement crossing is a critical provincial project that must be prioritized and built expeditiously as a means of stimulating economic recovery.

Just last week the B.C. chamber unanimously passed a policy that was submitted by the Vancouver and Surrey boards of trade as well as the Delta and Richmond chambers of commerce. This policy was calling on immediate action. The option chosen for the crossing must deliver the most value for taxpayers’ money. This choice should be based on a rigorous business case demonstrating cost certainty and expediency and have the least impact on the river. We believe a bridge is the most effective option to address these concerns in the timeliest and cost-effective manner possible.

The second area I’d like to focus on is YVR. YVR airport is a crucial gateway and economic engine for the region and our province. Prior to the pandemic, YVR’s operations facilitated $20.2 billion in total economic output, $10.4 billion in total gross domestic product and $1.4 billion in total government revenues here in B.C.

Aging provincial infrastructure such as the Moray swing bridge is urgently in need of replacement. The bridge does not meet seismic safety standards and is unreliable, breaking down and cutting off a vital connection point between YVR and Highways 99 and 91 that accounts for around 25 percent of total vehicle volumes to and from Sea Island.

The third point I’d like to touch is the Richmond Hospital. Richmond urgently needs a new acute care tower, as the number of acute care beds will soon be insufficient to meet the demands of Richmond’s growing and aging population. Unfortunately, this is especially relevant during this current global pandemic.

The original hospital tower is seismically unstable and at risk of collapse, even in a moderate earthquake. While we recognize that the acute care tower project is progressing, I can’t emphasize strongly enough how urgent it is for Richmond to have a new acute care tower.

Our third focus is on retailers. Our retailers need support in the form of direct financial funding or refundable tax credits to meet the new and emerging costs related to COVID-19. Our retail businesses are calling for support to purchase PPE, to offset labour costs associated with lineup control and cleaning, sanitizing supplies, and the new signage costs to help with safety communications. One suggestion we’ve heard from the retail community to offset these costs is for government to more aggressively collect taxes from foreign e-commerce shippers and use these previously lost revenues to fund these additional supports.

Lastly, we’d like to see the province focus on preserving our limited and depleting industrial stock. We’re at an all-time low of 1.4 percent, and we believe that the province needs to focus on protecting and enhancing these lands to grow our economy and our job base.

My last point is that we ask the province to support post-secondary institutions as they accelerate the development of micro-credentials and other high-impact approaches. This supports displaced workers who need retraining to participate in the post-pandemic workforce.

In closing, as we begin to emerge from this initial lockdown period, the world is going to look very different. Businesses from small to large are preparing for the new normal and the challenges ahead. Uncertainty is the adversary of any business, and we are absolutely living in a time of great uncertainty. I hope that the lessons learned in the past few months become firm: move quickly, seek input from key stakeholders, fix problems as you go and put people first. We must all ensure that the new normal is a better version than the old normal. Thank you very much.

Read the full Committee Transcript here >


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