Massey Tunnel replacement should be expedited for economic recovery: report

Sep 1 2020, 3:34 pm

The provincial government’s plans to replace the aging and capacity constrained George Massey Tunnel should be expedited, according to a new economic recovery plan proposed by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT).

Currently, the eight-lane replacement project is being contemplated as either a new immersed tunnel or long-span suspension bridge.

Economic development and new infrastructure that helps transform the region while also providing the economy with an added boost over the interim is suggested as one of the three pillars of the plan.

Additionally, GVBOT suggests the provincial government should remain committed to near- and medium-term projects, including the SkyTrain extensions from Surrey to Langley and Arbutus to UBC, and the gondola transit line to Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus.

Investments that protect ports, airports, and freight rail infrastructure — enabling the efficient movement of goods and the creation of jobs — are necessary to support Metro Vancouver’s position as a national gateway for trade.

Other initiatives should focus on supporting the construction of the “missing middle” of housing to improve housing affordability for working individuals and families, and create a split property tax assessment for businesses to lower their disproportionate and costly tax burden.

“Bold vision is required to help businesses not only survive but to emerge more resilient and competitive. With the right actions, I am confident that we will not only overcome these economic challenges but also make necessary progress on broader societal issues,” said Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO of GVBOT, in a statement.

“To realize a full and resilient recovery, the government must act now with immediate measures that get people to work and lay the foundation for a strong economic future.”

Another pillar focuses on interim policies that directly help businesses during the economic crisis, such as a working capital and COVID-19 safety training grants for small businesses, support the tourism and travel industry so that this sector does not fall off after summer, support access to childcare, and expand and formalize changes to liquor laws and additional patios

With taxation, the marginal effective tax rate should be lowered either through a value-added sales tax or the cancellation of the PST on capital expenditures and business inputs. As well, the provincial government should consider a payroll tax holiday, longer tax deferral on tax remittances, and a long-term payment plan for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The final pillar of investment focuses on launching a seed funding program for young entrepreneurs and their startups, expanding the work of the Digital Technology Supercluster that grows the local tech ecosystem, working with post-secondary institutions and the private sector to support innovative companies that keep their intellectual property in BC, and expanding training and educational opportunities for the workforce.

It is estimated by Statistics Canada that since February in Metro Vancouver, over 8,000 businesses have permanently closed, and more than 149,000 jobs have beens shed — over 10% of the regional workforce. The unemployment rate in the region is now at 11.6%, up from 4.6% before the onset of the crisis.

Recent surveys by the Mustel Group and BC Business Council show two-thirds of businesses are using some form of government support, and they anticipate a substantial second wave of negative impacts if the assistance ends too quickly.

Only about three-in-10 businesses anticipate to return to normal operations once the assistance ends. But for others, 32% expect to reduce employee hours, 27% expect to layoff or terminate employees, and 24% anticipate taking on debt. About 10% will have to close either temporarily or permanently.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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