The construction industry is a significant driver for the B.C. economy. Without the industry’s impact on the province’s GDP, the government would not be balancing the budget, said B.C. Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing and Deputy Premier Rich Coleman.
“Without the construction industry and the activities it brings and the ensuing work and opportunities it brings, it would really affect the government’s bottom line,” said the minister.
Coleman was the guest speaker at the 20th annual CEO breakfast hosted by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. at Buildex Vancouver 2017.
“We are the only place in North America that has balanced the budget five consecutive years,” said Coleman. When that happens, he said, “the surplus allows you do some creative things,” citing for example the initiative to help first-time buyers across the province.
With the launch of the BC Home Program in January, which gives no interest, no down payment five year loans for new home buyers, “people are getting the opportunity to buy their first home with a little help from government.”
The program will allow the next generation of British Columbians to own their first home – a first step towards stability and building equity and an economic future, he said, sharing his own story of buying his first home (a mobile home) in Alberta.
The program also means people will be vacating rentals and making rental product available to stabilize the marketplace. “It’s a big win,” said Coleman.
Another topic Coleman addressed was the harmonization of the building code in B.C. where municipalities will no longer be able to write their own bylaws or building codes anymore.
This will support innovation, productivity and address issues around delays and costs, he said, noting the exception will be the City of Vancouver.
The other big change coming into effect this year is around the competency of building officials working in municipalities. “Currently there is no qualification for local government building officials – that’s changed. They have four years – from January 1 – to professionalize themselves and build a professional organization,” said Coleman, noting building officials are supportive of the change and are working with government closely to make sure this happens.
He stressed these changes are important to keep the construction industry competitive and open to opportunities for innovation.
“We’re already ahead of the pack in climate leadership and energy efficiency in B.C. and we’re going to continue to build innovative buildings and look for innovative ideas,” he said. “The goal though is not to take too long to get those innovative ideas to the marketplace.”