Women helping OK grow

Keeping the Okanagan on the federal radar

We have had the opportunity to welcome several cabinet ministers, and both Pacific and National caucus to the Okanagan.

That's a clear demonstration of the commitment by our government to listen and work with us to support and grow our local and regional economy.

I want to thank MP Alaina Lockhart, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Small Business and Tourism, for spending a week in the Okanagan and getting to know the people and the issues in our riding.

Alaina and I attended the Canadian Accelerator Summit and the BC Tourism Industry Conference, where we met with a number of great local businesses, and stopped by Okanagan College to speak with some of the folks auditioning for Dragons' Den. 

We also celebrated International Women’s Day by sitting down and talking with local women entrepreneurs from our community.

The number of private businesses majority-owned by women in the small- and medium-sized enterprise landscape has grown in Canada. Women in Canada are more involved in business start-ups than in most OECD countries, yet they are less likely than male entrepreneurs to seek to grow their businesses and to export.

Alaina’s visit provided an opportunity to discuss the barriers preventing growth, and to highlight the proposals in Budget 2018 that will help women entrepreneurs access talent, networks, expertise, and $1.4 billion in financing through the new Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.

Our community also welcomed Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan back to the Okanagan.

While here, the minister announced the launch of the Full-Time Summer Employment program for CAF Reservists, supporting our commitment to employing new and recently enrolled members of the Reserves.

He also participated in a roundtable with our Okanagan orchardists to discuss issues surrounding the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). 

According to the Canadian Horticulture Council, Canadian farmers feed 36 million Canadians and people around the world, employ 2.3 million Canadians, and contribute $108 billion to Canada’s GDP.

Additionally, last year’s federal budget committed to growing agri-food exports to $75 billion by 2025. 

Both Minister Sajjan and I recognize that in order to maintain growth and expand exports, our growers must be able to count on programs like SAWP to fill their labour needs in time for their growing and harvest seasons. We are working to improve current delays and ensuring our growers are supported.   

Minister Sajjan also visited the UBC Okanagan campus for a discussion of innovation in advanced manufacturing and composite materials and a tour of STAR research labs. 

As the minister observed, cutting-edge equipment for our CAF women and men often starts in the lab through collaboration between academia and industry. 

That is why Budget 2018 is providing historic funding for research and innovation through collaboration, support UBCO researchers and encouraging innovative approaches like UNCO’s Learning Factory.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to make these visits worthwhile. You have once again demonstrated that the Okanagan is a driving force in Canadian entrepreneurship and innovation and making an essential contribution to economic growth for the benefit of the whole country.


Budget tackles pharmacare

Budget 2018: Building on economic growth and confidence

Canada’s economy is firing on all cylinders.  Our conscious choice to invest in Canadians is working.

We lead the G7 in economic growth and have a low and declining debt to GDP ratio. Deficit spending is trending down while we focus on economic stimulus for more Canadians.

Canada has posted the best job numbers in almost 40 years with Canadians creating almost 600,000 new jobs, dropping the unemployment rate from 7.1 per cent to 5.9, and proving that when people are working, the economy is working.

With the Canadian economy outpacing projected growth and driving higher levels of Canadian consumer and business confidence, it would be foolish to take our foot off the gas.

Budget 2018 builds on this progress by staying focused on investments that will support long-term growth.

We are committed to supporting small business by lowering the small business tax — the lowest in the G7 — and ensuring the sector has improved access to essential business innovation programs.

We recognize that investing in our next big innovations will advance Canadian business and our long-term competitiveness. As a result, Budget 2018 represents the single largest investment in investigator-led fundamental research in Canadian history.

Forward-thinking institutions, like our own University of British Columbia Okanagan, will have access to more money for researchers, labs and post-secondary partnerships to support these goals.

We are encouraging more workforce participation by women.The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by taking steps to advance greater gender equality — such as employing more women in technology and boosting participation — Canada could add $150 billion to its economy by 2026.

Budget 2018 will make significant progress toward equality of opportunity by addressing the gender wage gap, supporting equal parenting, providing greater access to capital for women entrepreneurs, and targeting support for women in the trades.

We are expanding on the former Working Income Tax Benefit with the new Canada Workers Benefit, which will help low-income workers by allowing them to take home more money while they work — encouraging more to join and stay in the workforce.

And movement on a National Pharmacare strategy will lead to better outcomes for seniors and others who far too often must choose between paying for necessary medication and putting food on the table.

Closer to home, our communities are facing challenges with affordable housing and the opioid crisis.

Budget 2018 addresses affordable housing by building on our recently announced National Housing Strategy with the Rental Construction Financing Initiative, which will provide more opportunity to build more rental units across the country.

To help communities like our own that have been severely affected by the opioid crisis, Budget 2018 invests an additional $230 million in funding so people can access treatment and get the help they need. 

Challenges such as an aging population, climate change, the expanding digital economy, and automation make it even more important that we stay the course; one that has demonstrated it is not only working, but exceeding many experts’ expectations.

The path Canadians voted for in the last election, prudent investments that reinforce our strengths, is the path we will continue to take. 

Budget 2018 supports our aim of equal opportunity and ensuring no one is left behind, so that every Canadian has a real and fair chance to work, to contribute and to succeed.  

We will all be better off as a result.

Of pipelines and politics

Canada's Constitution gives jurisdiction over interprovincial trade, including interprovincial pipelines, to the federal Parliament.

It is under this authority that the Trans Mountain Expansion Project was approved in 2016 at the federal level of government, followed by approval by the B.C. government in January 2017.

Whether B.C. Premier John Horgan will try to impose new barriers on the Trans Mountain Pipeline remains to be seen. 

Until that time, efforts are being undertaken to quell an escalating trade war between B.C. and Alberta to reverse the damage that is already being done to the BC wine industry.

This past week, I have been in contact with the Canadian Vintners’ Association, the British Columbia Wine Institute and the Mark Anthony Group to discuss the economic impact of a B.C. wine ban in Alberta. 

I also took the opportunity to raise this issue in both Pacific and National Cause to ensure my colleagues clearly understood what was at stake.

I would like to assure stakeholders that the Prime Minster is working with both provinces to diffuse the confrontation and move towards a resolution.

Our wine industry counts on the consumers of Alberta for $160 million in retail wine sales, the second largest market outside of B.C., and there is absolutely no fairness or gain in using the industry as a scapegoat.

When it comes to pipelines, most British Columbians and Canadians are legitimately concerned about the energy sector’s environmental impact on our coastal waters. 

But many constituents in Kelowna-Lake Country have expressed the necessity of a balanced approach in determining whether pipelines should go ahead, recognizing that the natural resource sector remains an important source for jobs and the revenues that support local and regional economies.

As a result of our government’s commitment to balancing the environment with the economy, we now have in place an Oceans Protection Plan to safeguard our coasts and ensure the health of our marine environment, including protecting the Southern Resident Killer Whale population.

We have placed a formal tanker moratorium along British Columbia’s north coast, and the Canadian Coast Guard now has more people, more authority, and more equipment to do its vital and necessary work.

This past week, our government brought forward new legislation that would put in place better rules for environmental and regulatory reviews in Canada.

With these better rules, Indigenous peoples, companies, investors, and all Canadians can be confident that good projects will be built in a way that protects our environment while creating jobs and growing our economy.

The decision we took on the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline was based on facts and evidence and what is in the national interest of Canadians, and we stand by this decision.

In a free and open society, the threat of protectionism is a zero sum game, especially when people’s livelihoods hang in the balance. 

Calmer heads must prevail, in all aspects of this discussion, for the good of the people of B.C. and for the good of the nation.


Columnist's rant unfair

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Even if it’s a political one.

I take issue with Brett Millard's column that appeared in The Daily Courier on Jan. 24. 

The article was a hyper-partisan political opinion piece and it had no place being on the front page of the business section, giving the impression it had credibility, which it did not deserve.

In short, Mr. Millard feels Canada is merely “along for the ride.”

In fact, Canada has the fastest growing economy in the G7, with the World Economic Forum reporting that Canada is considered to have the most positive global influence on world affairs.

On the trade front, Canada recently signed the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) giving Canadian agricultural, advanced manufacturing, and forestry market access to the world’s fastest-growing region.   

With tariffs set to fall, economists predict Canadians will realize an estimated $600 million in tax cuts as a result of the CPTPP.

In terms of NAFTA, Mr. Millard contends that negotiations are being handled by “inexperienced people.”

But Canada has full confidence in Steven Verheul, Canada’s chief negotiator, who has many years of experience working on trade negotiations, including the first NAFTA negotiations, World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, and the Canada-EU trade deal.

Finally, Mr. Millard takes aim at taxes, first quoting a Fraser Institute report that makes the assertion that 90 per cent of families are today paying more in taxes. 

As several economists have noted, the report not only fails to take into consideration the transfers from government that offset tax changes, including the Canada Child Benefit, but includes both employee and employer contributions to an enhanced CPP, which won’t be fully implemented until 2023.

CPP contributions are not a tax. Full stop.

Mr. Millard also points to a new carbon tax. B.C. residents have had a carbon tax since 2008, which has successfully reduced emissions in the province and has had negligible effects on economic performance.

Furthermore, polling data shows that the public, which initially opposed the tax, now generally supports it.

Like them or not, taxes support the quality of life we enjoy in Canada, including access to universal healthcare.  And while taxes might be considered too high by some, according to the OECD, Canadians remain among the lowest of the low when it comes to the total tax burden. 

This includes low payroll taxes and social security contributions.

Mr. Millard’s cynicism aside, Canada’s economic outlook is positive, Not only has the International Monetary Fund raised its estimate for economic growth in Canada, the chief economist of the Business Development Bank of Canada says the outlook is great news for entrepreneurs and is generating confidence in all sectors of the economy, contributing to an increase in exports, business investment, and a thriving labour market.

This positive outlook is also being reflected locally; according to the just released fourth quarter report of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, economic indicators reveal a thriving local economy.

Yes, there will be challenges. As we move forward in 2018, our government knows it will need to work harder than ever to deliver on our commitments and build a better Canada for the middle class.   

We have lowered income and business taxes; provided greater support to families, seniors, and Veterans; invested in transit, infrastructure, post-secondary education and affordable housing; supported innovation and sustainability both in industry and for the environment; and demonstrated a commitment to gender equality, diversity and fairness.

These investments fortify a stable society. 

As we head into the second half of our mandate, you can be assured our government will continue to do all it can to sustain Canadians confidence in the economy for that is what underpins job creation, growth and opportunity, and makes our communities better, safer places to live. 

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About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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