You have been in business during four major recessions. What advice do you have for others?
When it comes to advice, David has lots of it and is generous in sharing it. In tough times, whether it is a recession or pandemic, David encourages business leaders not to overreact. Instead, they should read the landscape, make tough decisions such as stopping projects if necessary, and prepare to respond quickly when market conditions improve. “Don’t concede defeat,” he says. “There are always opportunities out there. If you search enough there is something you can do differently than is being done today that may actually help.”
What has been most important to you during your career?
Relationships. David has always worked hard to develop strong business relationships and maintain them. Those relationships can be found anywhere – clients, lenders, contractors, decision makers and beyond – and each can bring value. Sometimes, those business connections turn into lifelong friendships, like his bonds with Nat Bosa or the late Jack Poole.
Nat has taught David many things, especially the importance of intuition. Nat is able to make quick but thoughtful decisions, knowing just when to stop a project and prepare for a change.
Jack Poole was another great leader, mentor and friend who he met following Expo ‘86. David says Jack was always open to new ideas but he was no pushover. At some point during a discussion, Jack would always cut things off. “Ok, let’s not discuss it anymore,” Jack would say, suggesting they sleep on it. “Let’s see if it survives the night. And many times, we would come into the office and we would intuitively know that it didn’t survive the night.”
What is the biggest impediment to progress in British Columbia?
Not surprisingly, David points to unnecessary regulation as the biggest impediment facing the economy, pointing to protracted approval delays in everything from forestry to mining to homebuilding. “We are finding the regulatory environment just suffocating. We have one project, a very large one which could produce 3,000-plus homes in relatively short order, and we’ve been six years trying to get through approvals,” he says. “We’ve seen the length of time it takes to get through an approval process continually extended. The demands have reached a point where it’s unsustainable.”
What advice would he offer to government decision makers, whether municipal, provincial or federal?
David encourages all levels of government to focus on the priorities. Obviously, the management of COVID-19 is the most important thing right now, ensuring the health and safety of citizens. But after that, he believes we will all be stronger if we focus on core priorities: Rebuilding the economy, creating jobs, skills training for those who will have to transition to new careers and encouraging immigration.
“They really have to focus on this and we have to get it right. We have to move forward with initiatives that will improve our economy, that will create jobs, that will encourage immigration.”