THE BC Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) on Tuesday publicly released its Economic Recovery Submission (submitted to the government on July 21), made up of 54 policy recommendations focusing on competitiveness, innovation, and inclusivity. The plan is pan-provincial in scope and aims to guide the Province on stimulating BC’s economy through measures that support small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“We’ve been tracking the economic impact of COVID-19 on BC businesses since early March. Our recommendations are based on what we’ve heard at the community level—from our network of 36,000 businesses of all sizes and from all sectors across BC,” said Dan Baxter, Director of Policy Development and Government and Stakeholder Relations at the BC Chamber of Commerce.
“We have to aim beyond returning BC to the uncompetitive business conditions that existed before COVID-19,” said Baxter. “This strategy encourages entrepreneurship and investment to undo the damage inflicted by the pandemic, and also create a more competitive, resilient, and prosperous future.”
Creating a competitive tax environment to support business growth is key to the submission—the BC Chamber Network is asking the Province to embrace a made-in-BC value-added tax and to mitigate the impacts of the Employers’ Health Tax.
Other recommendations of note include: municipal property tax reform to eradicate the highest and best use designation for property tax; expanding CleanBC benefits for SMEs so they can adopt lower-carbon technologies faster to boost productivity; investments in rural and remote communities such as broadband infrastructure, and funding models that allow rural residents to redirect their investments into local economies; and providing businesses with grants and incentives at a time when cash reserves are low.
Removing PST on machinery and equipment is another recommendation that aims to help small businesses recover and grow.
“Business was down 70% in March and April, and everyone was on CERB. Removing this tax would allow us to increase our staff from 65 to 85, and put more money into research and development, so we could start to recover,” said Shelina Mawani, owner of Your Nana’s Kitchen, a food manufacturer in Surrey.
The submission also asks government to improve access to childcare to help people get back to work.
“Our goal has always been to keep expanding and create more jobs, but we can’t do that without childcare—and there’s a three-year waiting list where we live,” said Kerri Jones, co-owner of Peaked Pies in Whistler.
“Recovery will be a long, multi-year process,” said Baxter. “Our submission isn’t limiting government to its $1.5 billion dollars allocated to support economic recovery. We need to roadmap for growth and prosperity over the long term too.”