CHAMBER APPLAUDS SOCIAL INVESTMENTS BUT CAUTIONS GROWING COSTS TO BUSINESS IN BC BUDGET
(Tri-Cities) February 20, 2019 – BC Budget 2019 builds 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 voice concern 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.
“It is important to highlight that affordability has become a business issue too. Our May 2018 Policy Survey identified affordability in the areas of housing and childcare among the top three issues of concern for our members,” says Michael Hind, CEO of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce. “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.” 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.
“Yet, progress on affordability has come at the expense of our members’ other two major concerns: taxes and increasing costs of doing business,” continued Hind. A new Employers’ 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. As Hind explains, “among our members there is growing talk of the cumulative burden posed by incremental cost increases in a number of areas.”
A few positives for business are included. A cluster of investment around the new CleanBC initiative is valued at $902 million. It will include $10M in incentives for medium-and heavy-duty vehicle conversion, $6M for light-duty fleets to adopt zero-emission vehicles, and $168M over three years for industrial operations to reduce GHG emissions, which will help make BC’s liquefied natural gas industry the cleanest in the world. Additionally, a number of enhancements to the Small Business Venture Capital Tax Credit Program will help new startups get funding and achieve commercialization faster.
The 2019 budget remains balanced but is fueled by taxes on business that will drag on the economy in the long run. The budget provides investments to tackle affordability issues and offer relief for low and middle-income families. Nevertheless, businesses can rightfully wonder how the province plans to improve BC’s investment and business climate, keep us competitive in the years to come, and cut costs for businesses so that they can help drive our economy forward with strength.
The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce is a proactive network of business-minded individuals that are committed to acting as an accessible, visible, supportive and reciprocal resource to our members and theTri-Cities at large, communicating their collective voice to help shape a prosperous business community.
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