5 Questions: How the Business Council of British Columbia’s Laura Jones is looking out for prosperity in the province

The president and CEO talks about why she joined the BCBC and her hopes for the organization

1. Can you offer a sense of what the BCBC does and how it’s different from the various boards of trade and chambers of commerce in the province?

BCBC was founded to promote the prosperity of the province and its people. In terms of what we actually do and how we do it, the boards of trade are great at the bigger events. BCBC tends to have smaller events where we convene business leaders with thought leaders, politicians and others to talk about ideas. We do a lot of economic analysis—we have a great team of economists who focus on the conditions here and we make policy recommendations to the province. We make the [economic analysis] available to our members and to the broader public, though I think we can do a better job of that.

2. How else can you level up the organization?

I come from two decades of advocating for small businesses into a job where the members are some of the largest companies in the province, as well as some mid-sized companies. And I think one of the things that small businesses do well is that they have a voice in the public policy decisions that affect them, and they’re not afraid to use that voice. For big businesses, one of my early observations is that it’s the opposite challenge: they’re pretty quiet and careful. I certainly want to maintain the respectfulness with which we engage. But we fall down on giving the public a real sense of where business is at in terms of policy.

3. If we have this conversation again a year or two from now, what concrete goals do you hope you’ll have accomplished by then?

I’d like to see BCBC a little more in the media. And that’s about giving businesses a voice and giving the public a sense of where business stands on important issues. The second thing for me, being new on the job, is that I’m excited to get to know the 220 or so members of the organization. I don’t know exactly where that will take us in terms of priorities, but it’s important. And of course we have some events I want to see succeed. If I’m really dreaming, I’d like to start an intern program here. I think we could do a better job of bringing younger people on the policy journey.

4. You were with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses for over 20 years. How hard was it to make this change and move on?

It wasn’t easy. I loved the mission of CFIB. I love small businesses; they’re so committed to their communities. In many ways it was a great job. But in most interviews there comes an inflection point where you’re asked if you have any questions for the hiring committee. Once I asked my first question and heard the response, I was sold on the job. It’s funny—none of the details had been talked about yet, but I could feel in my gut that this was the next thing I had to do. I asked them a simple question: Why are you members of BCBC? Every one of the eight people that were interviewing me leaned in and talked about how important the prosperity of the province was to them, how much they care about B.C. and its people and the communities they work in. I’m excited to be champion in chief for the prosperity of B.C.—that’s what this job is.

5. Economists have been predicting tough times for B.C. for a while now. What’s the outlook for businesses in the province over the next several months?

The government’s own forecast is that incomes are starting to fall in the province. Just look around the supermarket at the distressed faces—inflation is taking a big bite and wages aren’t keeping up. I’d count myself among those who are quite worried about where we’re going. However, I’d also say that those forecasts aren’t set in stone. B.C. and Canada have a lot of advantages, whether you’re talking about critical minerals, low-carbon energy—we have many things the world wants. We also have opportunities to make sure we’re maintaining and improving our prosperity. I’ll be looking to do everything possible to have a prosperous province going forward.