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BC Chamber of Commerce blasts cost, complications of doing business in the province

Business group calls on the provincial government to address the increasing challenges of business survival in BC NDP’s upcoming budget

Entrepreneurs are amping up the volume in their pre-budget call to stem the rising tide of costs and complications of doing business in B.C.

BC Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) executives added their voices to that chorus today (Feb. 15) in Victoria during meetings with the provincial government.

“We need the provincial government to take meaningful steps to reduce the costs on business so they can continue to operate and keep people employed,” Fiona Famulak said in a press release. “Rising and new taxes, high fees and mandatory benefits are impacting the well-being of businesses across the province.”

The BCCC president and CEO added that the BC NDP government also needs to address the numerous and unnecessary delays in permitting decisions that are adversely affecting the province’s natural resource sectors and hobbling investment opportunities in B.C.

Included in the chamber’s inventory of costs that the province has added to businesses in the province over the past few years are:

•five paid sick days; 

•increases to the minimum wage five years in a row; and

•the recent introduction of a new statutory holiday. 

Faced with the current and ongoing challenges caused by high interest rates, inflation and supply chain challenges, the chamber said B.C. businesses need help.  According to a recent BCCC survey, 87 per cent of respondents said the “costs of doing business” have gotten worse over the past year; 78 per cent said “costs of labour” have also gotten worse.     

Famulak said the BCCC, which represents 100 chambers of commerce and boards of trade and more than 36,000 businesses, wants decisive action now from the provincial government to reduce the cost of doing business in B.C. that is eroding competitiveness and discouraging investment in B.C.

“We cannot have healthy communities without healthy businesses,” she said. “If businesses struggle, their communities will too. It is time to address the barriers that are preventing our economy from reaching its full potential.”

The chamber’s comments follow last week’s release of a Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT) report calling on the provincial government for a full review of B.C.’s taxation system

The SBOT’s BC Tax Review – For A Competitive Economy outlined the burden local businesses face from rising costs, red tape proliferation and rapidly eroding marketplace competitiveness.

In releasing the report in the leadup to the scheduled Feb. 28 release of B.C.’s 2023 budget, Anita Huberman, SBOT’s president and CEO, said, “… the No. 1 item that I’m hearing from our members at the Surrey Board of Trade is that they are faced with rising costs that are impacting their ability to invest in their businesses, to make money.” 

She added that the tax code is too confusing and the weight of the provincial sales tax (PST), B.C.’s employer health tax and other levies “are too onerous. For a small business, it’s very challenging to be an entrepreneur.”

The recently released Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Municipal Business Report ranking the overall business friendliness of eight major cities in Western Canada also found significant shortfalls in that friendliness factor for local entrepreneurs.
According to the report, 70 per cent of small-business owners in the West think their municipalities do not understand the cost pressures they now face, and data from the federation’s surveys shows that municipal tax reduction is the top priority for the region’s business owners.
All three of the B.C. cities included in the report (Vancouver, Surrey and Kelowna) were awarded a failing grade of zero in adopting a budget commitment to reduce the tax burden for the businesses in their municipalities.
The CFIB’s list of cost and regulatory reduction recommendations for municipal policymakers includes:
•halting increases in property taxes, utility fees and permit costs for small businesses;
•offering permanent and inter-municipal business licences;
•making target timelines for licensing and permitting processing available to the public; and
•adopting a construction mitigation policy for public projects.

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