Richard Truscott is the Vice-President, B.C. and Alberta, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (Submitted).

COLUMN: Business owners hand B.C. government another dismal grade, CFIB says

CFIB wants policy makers to take three simple steps in order to improve their grade

School may be out, but it’s time for the BC Government to get its mid-term report card from the province’s entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, the performance by policy makers warrants another dismal grade.

Last year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) surveyed business owners after the government’s first year in office, and when asked to evaluate the government’s performance, BC’s entrepreneurs gave the government a D grade.

That prompted CFIB to call for the government to create a remedial plan to help improve their grade. However, the government’s failure to that important work done has led to another disappointing result. When asked earlier this summer to issue a grade for the government’s second year in office, the local business community gave the government another ‘D’.

Although the government has failed to improve its’ performance in the eyes of BC’s local business owners, there is still time. There’s (likely) two years left for the coalition government. Here are three simple steps for policy makers to take in order to improve their grade.

Step 1: Give municipalities the tools they need to lower sky high property taxes.

This July, business groups across Metro Vancouver stood with the City of Vancouver to support an innovative proposal that would give municipalities the ability to put small businesses in a commercial “sub-class” for property tax assessments. If adopted, this proposal would be a “made-in-BC” solution to the huge problem of escalating property taxes faced by business owners across the province. The adoption of this proposal would lift a huge burden off the shoulders of small business owners.

When CFIB surveyed entrepreneurs earlier this summer, we heard how many have been forced to relocate their businesses, work 16 hours a day, or put off plans to hire because of the astronomical cost of their property taxes. This first step is a critical one to ensuring BC’s small businesses are given a fighting chance.

Step 2: Fix the EHT.

In June, business owners had to start paying the Employers Health Tax (EHT) which, as currently designed, is deeply flawed. In announcing the tax, the government asserted it would only impact a limited number of small business owners. However, this is clearly not the case. According to CFIB estimates, 44 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses will have to pay the tax. Additionally, 84 per cent of business owners assert that the EHT will be more costly for their business than Medical Service Plan (MSP) premiums that the EHT replaced.

These facts fly in the face of the government’s assertion that the EHT will only affect a small percentage of BC businesses.

Step 3: Don’t use the surplus in the WorkSafe BC system to go on a spending spree.

On June 3r, the government announced a review of the Worker’s Compensation Act (WCA) led by former labour lawyer Janet Patterson. The results of her review are expected to be delivered to the Labour Minister by the end of September.

For years, CFIB has criticized the growing WorkSafe BC surplus, which reached a whopping $6.4 billion at the end of 2018. Clearly, the system is massively over-funded. However, the surplus does not mean WorkSafe BC should start spending. In moving forward with any proposals arising from the review, the government must uphold the principal of sustainability, which is paramount for a properly functioning workers’ compensation system.

These three remedial steps represent a clear path for the provincial government to improve their grade with business owners. Failure to do so will no doubt mean a third consecutive year of dismal grades from BC’s entrepreneurs.

Richard Truscott is the B.C. and Alberta vice-president at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

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