Editorial | BC Budget Effects Will Be Clear in the Next Few Years

The BC Budget 2019 was tabled last week in Victoria. It seems to build on the province’s previous budget by redoubling its efforts to tackle affordability in the province. The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce welcomes investments in housing and childcare, including the new Enhanced Child Opportunity Benefit that will replace the existing Early Childhood Tax Benefit. However, we continue to be very concerned that the business community is being left to foot the bill for new spending. The BC Chamber has determined that small and medium enterprises will be facing an additional $5 billion of cumulative costs over the next three years.

That being said, it is important to highlight that affordability has become a business issue too. In our May 2018 Policy Survey, our members identified affordability in the areas of housing and childcare among the top three issues of concern. As such, we support the government’s goals in their housing strategy Homes for BC, which includes much-needed investment in rental, modular, and social housing. It should be noted that Municipal governments have a role to play when it coming to the housing shortage by streamlining the process to get more product on the market sooner. The province will also be investing $1.3 billion over three years to make child care more affordable and accessible, as well as introducing the Enhanced
Child Opportunity Benefit.

The progress on affordability has come at the expense of our members’ other two major concerns: taxes and increasing costs of doing business. The Employer Health Tax, an increasing carbon tax, a rising minimum wage, and climbing corporate tax rates will begin to stifle growth, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Coupling these tax increases with potential changes to the BC Labour Relations Code and Employment Standards Act, businesses are facing mounting costs from a number of areas in 2019. The BC Chamber’s recent 2018-19 Collective Perspective Report revealed 80% of BC businesses feel the cost of doing business in BC has worsened in the last year, and one in two owner-operators report their confidence in BC’s economy has declined in the last 12 months.

Michael Hind
Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce