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

COLUMN: Are B.C. communities in boom?

CFIB’s Richard Truscott on how B.C. municipalities fared on annual report on small business sentiment

There are certain communities in B.C. where it’s easier than in others to grow a healthy garden or colourful flowers each spring.

Similarly, there are communities in B.C. where it’s easier to start and grow a small business. Perhaps there are local advantages, like proximity to markets or pools of displaced workers looking to get on a new path by starting their own business. Or perhaps the municipal government has a particularly strong focus on supporting local businesses through bylaws and regulations.

READ MORE: Smaller companies worry they can’t pass carbon tax costs to customers, poll says

Whatever the reason, it’s important to look at how municipalities across B.C. are faring when it comes to creating the conditions in which local business can be successful.

Of course, there is no one single factor that makes a community more entrepreneurial than another; and no doubt, the influences can ebb and flow over time. But one starting point for looking at these factors and how they interact is the annual Entrepreneurial Communities report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The report assesses Canada’s 125 largest communities and compares them on 13 metrics of self-employment demographics, small business sentiment, and local tax and regulatory policy. The top cities this year are Winkler, Man., Grande Prairie, Alta., and Victoriaville, Que. The top B.C. location was Squamish in 10th spot.

A relatively strong economy in British Columbia, as reflected in healthy business incomes growth, along with expansion plans and optimism levels, pushed many of the province’s municipalities into the upper echelons of the list.

In the rankings of the 125 cities across Canada, B.C.’s 20 municipalities landed as follows: Squamish (10), Salmon Arm (12), Fort St. John (15), Kelowna (16), Penticton (26), Chilliwack (34), Kamloops (38), Campbell River (44), Parksville and Vernon (tied at 51), Vancouver (56), Victoria (66), Duncan (72), Nanaimo (74), Port Alberni (81), Prince George (82), Abbotsford-Mission (84), Cranbrook (91), Quesnel (100), and Courtenay (123).

Overall, the big cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal did not fare well. A big reason is the tax disparity between what residents pay to support municipal services versus what local businesses pay.

As municipalities grow, it has been the path of least resistance to stick more and more of the property tax bill onto the backs of local entrepreneurs to pay for the rising cost of local governments. This has put many small businesses in a big squeeze.

Of course, municipal governments do not control the economy. But they do have control over local tax policy as well as bylaws and regulations. Rising property taxes are a particularly serious problem for many smaller firms. Since local businesses typically operate in competitive markets, and survive on razor-thin profit margins, they genuinely struggle to pay rapidly rising property taxes.

If local businesses consumed more municipal services than residents, then maybe this tax imbalance could be justified.

But they don’t. Research shows that residents typically receive more than two dollars in municipal services for every dollar of property tax they pay. For local businesses, it’s the exact opposite: They often receive one dollar of service for every two dollars (or more) in property tax paid. And in many cases, they have to pay extra for things like garbage collection and recycling.

B.C.’s economy is doing relatively well, but still faces major challenges, from low productivity growth and lagging capital investment to stagnant wage growth and downsizing by big businesses. It is unfortunate more focus has not been put on how local governments can better support local business and keep our country strong. Those municipal governments that do focus on better policies to support local small businesses will not only help contribute to the success of the local economy, but also create communities that boom.

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

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Kitimat’s BC Hydro substation receives a massive upgrade

It will cost $82 million to ensure that LNG Canada has enough… Continue reading

Haisla Nation Council appoints Stewart, Renwick

Two recently elected Haisla Nation councillors, Kevin Stewart and Arthur Renwick, have… Continue reading

Relief in sight from open burn pollution

New regulations should cut down on air pollution

Unrelated incidents caused Kitimat’s power failure

BC Hydro, Rio Tinto BC Works respond

Terrace Minor Softball closes season with wins

Teams with be competing in nationals in Saskatoon

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Most Read