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Oct 6, 2017

Tax Fairness Consultation in Kelowna: Slow the Train Down

Excerpt from the Business Examiner

- Dan Rogers is the Executive Director of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.


KELOWNA - Everyone says September is busy, but September 2017 truly was one for the books. In the midst of summer, when many of us in BC were occupied and pre-occupied with preventing fires, fighting fires, being evacuated due to fires, and this, just after floods of biblical proportions in the spring – the Federal Government dropped proposed new tax legislation on us, with only 75 days to “consult”.

We immediately began researching the issue with some of our professional members in the designated accountancy world, and quickly realized that the new “loophole closing” laws would achieve a far broader impact: devastating many of the country’s small businesses, including agricultural enterprises so critical to our economy here in the Okanagan.

We went to the media, who responded with extensive coverage on the business pages. The story spread like wildfire across the country, fueled by chamber input from every province and territory. Headlines moved from the Business Section to page one – in one mid-September weekend edition alone, the Globe & Mail had front page stories splashed across three sections of the newspaper.

Consultation ends October 2. Our Chamber, along with many others, is calling for a slowdown to the whole process. We’re all for tax fairness. We support everyone paying their fair share. We don’t support draconian changes, imposed on the backbone businesses of our country, slandering small- and medium-sized business as “tax cheats.”

These are companies following 50-year-old tax law. Revision? Fine. Consultation? Great. But: longer than 75 days, and not over the summer months, especially in the midst of fires, floods, and harvest. We’re part of the now 55-member Coalition for Small Business Tax Fairness. We’ve surveyed our membership and overwhelmingly, they say “slow the train down”. Minister Morneau: take note.

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On to less prickly subjects. Statistics Canada released 2016 Income Census results in mid-September. Highlights, collated by the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission tell us that top employment sectors in the Kelowna CMA are Health Care at 25 per cent; Retail Trade at 24 per cent; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services at nearly 8 per cent; and Manufacturing at 7.5 per cent.

Interestingly, medium total income for households and families is up dramatically. Household and family income in the Kelowna CMA is up 41.4 per cent and 48.3 per cent respectively, outpacing the provincial increases of 32.8 per cent and 41.9 per cent.

In 2005, household medium income in the Kelowna CMA was slightly below the provincial average. Ten years later, this figure has risen to slightly more than the provincial median. Kelowna is doing well, and our member businesses are a big part of that ongoing success, supported by our outstanding post-secondary institutions, our international airport, and our solid municipal governance.

Policy. We traveled to Fredericton in the third week of September to take part in the always lively policy debate at the annual Canadian Chamber AGM. Our Chamber policy “Protecting Canada’s Fresh Waters from Zebra and Quagga Mussels” was our showpiece. We co-sponsored and/or supported numerous other policies. Our chamber is fully engaged in the policy process – supporting the BC Chamber’s mandate “Know what’s on BC’s Mind”.

At the AGM, a whopping 40.7 per cent of the total 76 policies were submitted from British Columbia chambers – this when BC chambers make up only 13 per cent of the Canadian network. We’re also hosting a Member Policy Forum October 25, at which we will solicit input from our members – asking them ‘what on their minds’ when it comes to advocacy, cutting red tape, what will make their businesses better, stronger, more nimble, more sustainable.

Bottom line: we’re engaged, and so are our members. It’s an interesting time to work in “Chamber World.”

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We take pleasure in welcoming our new members who’ve joined since late August. They include: Driving Force Vehicle Rentals; Canadian Wholesale Lighting; K-Town Lock & Key; KMJ Projects Inc.; Wiener’s Plumbing & Irrigation Ltd.; International Yacht Training Worldwide; Sony Real Estate Inc.; K-Town House Sitters; Storyline Experience Consulting and Martinson Eco Landscaping & Irrigation.