Feb 21, 2013

First-ever Local Economy Summit a big success

VANCOUVER—If British Columbians all shifted their household spending by ten percent toward “local first,” BC would see 31,000 net new jobs and $940 million in new wages.

That’s the most significant finding announced at last week’s Local Economy Summit, presented by CUPE BC’s Ten Percent Shift campaign. The findings are included in “Independent BC,” an analysis of BC’s retail economy prepared by renowned local economy researchers Civic Economics.

The Summit’s opening evening saw an entertaining and thought-provoking keynote address from the “godfather” of local economic development, Michael Shuman. Shuman reminded delegates that it’s taken decades for North American local economies to put themselves in the challenging place they’re in, but that with concerted effort from citizens, elected officials and business, communities can re-energize their economies.

Shuman’s well-received speech was followed by a reception for delegates hosted by CUPE National. President Paul Moist and Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury joined more than 200 attendees at the reception, which, like all the Summit events, featured local food and beverages.

The next day kicked off with a lively presentation on the current state of BC politics by Summit host Vaughn Palmer. The Vancouver Sun’s political columnist in Victoria for nearly 30 years, Palmer entertained and amused delegates with anecdotes and observations on the always colourful world of BC politics.

CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill followed Palmer with his Ten Percent Shift video and presentation. O’Neill has taken the Shift campaign to more than 40 communities across BC in the past two years—and across the country to four other provinces.

Later that morning Daniel Houston and Matt Cunningham from Civic Economics presented “Independent BC,” their comprehensive study of BC’s retail economy and the potential benefits of a ten percent shift to local businesses and services. The study, commissioned by the Ten Percent Shift campaign, showed that BC lags behind most other provinces in terms of the strength of its independent locally owned business sector. The study found that if citizens shifted ten percent of their household spending to local 31,000 new jobs would be created, along with $940 million in new wages. That impressive result would put BC into the middle of the provinces, and return BC’s retail economy to where it was a decade ago.

Toronto Star columnist and author Linda McQuaig delivered the luncheon keynote address, bringing her trademark sense of humour and irony to bear on Canada’s national economy and the de facto barriers to increased localization.

Following McQuaig’s lunch speech, delegates participated in an interactive panel discussion featuring a wide range of economic development professionals and academics.

Barry O’Neill closed the Summit with a call to action, encouraging delegates to take what they’d learned in Vancouver and put it to work in their communities. “It took us decades to get us where we are now,” he said. “Fixing these problems isn’t going to happen overnight, but if we all work together, if we all talk to our friends, families and neighbours about this issue and how important it is to our communities, we can all make the shift.”

Summit materials, including presentations, will be available on as soon as possible.

View photos.

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