TUESDAY’S federal budget fell short of addressing the fundamental issues affecting BC business, says the BC Chamber of Commerce. And, while there were some small wins in the budget, it failed to address key issues like global tax competitiveness, reduced business confidence, and a slumping investment in BC businesses.
“Our 2018 Collective Perspective Survey showed that confidence in the BC economy is declining in 50% of BC businesses. The primary reason cited (79%) is that the cost of doing business has worsened,” said Val Litwin, CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “Current tax rates are hurting our ability to compete globally. This budget didn’t adequately address productivity or competitiveness in a way that will grow our economy, create meaningful employment, and generate the revenues we need to sustain a healthy prosperous province and country,” Litwin says.
The budget did deliver in a few key areas that are significant to BC businesses:
- Multiple funding mechanisms to ensure that high-speed internet access is Canada-wide by 2030, with $1.7 billion specifically earmarked for rural, remote and Northern communities.
- $631.2 million to expand Work-Integrated-Learning (WIL) programs, with a view to create up to 20,000 new WIL opportunities outside of STEM-related fields.
- $150 million to create new partnerships between government and industry to create up to 20,000 new WIL opportunities.
- Multiple funding mechanisms to enhance apprentice programs in skilled trades.
- $3 billion in tax incentives through the SR&ED tax incentive to support business research and development (R&D) in Canada. The program provides a 35-per-cent refundable tax credit to eligible small and medium-sized businesses.
However, the budget did not address the key issues identified by businesses:
- A commitment to a comprehensive review of the taxation system to make it fair and less cumbersome for businesses.
- A broad-based commitment to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses.
- A renewed commitment to eliminating inter-provincial trade barriers and mobility.
- Support for SMEs to find new export opportunities and expand Canada’s ability to diversify its trade.
- A clear strategy to move the Trans Mountain pipeline forward, given the significant investment made by Canadian taxpayers.
Some Budget 2019 proposals require more consideration and details before determining the impact on businesses:
- The budget identified funding programs to develop “regulatory roadmaps” to address stakeholder issues and irritants. While these efforts align with the BC Chamber’s interest in reducing the regulatory burden on Canadian businesses, the Budget proposals unfortunately maintain a lackluster, made-by-government solution to a made-by-government problem.
- The new Canadian Training Credit and EI Training Support Benefits to support the up-skilling and re-skilling of Canadians align with the BC Chamber’s recommendations. However, the potential impact on small businesses remains unclear. The BC Chamber needs more information and wants to see a commitment that business is consulted.
- The budget offered little new information regarding the national pharmacare plan. The BC Chamber supports focusing on the 10% of Canadians that are uninsured or underinsured, and also supports the value of bulk drug purchasing to help British Columbians manage costs.
- The BC Chamber supports the Global Talent Stream program but would like to see a commitment from the program to bring skilled immigrants to rural communities, where they are often most needed.
The BC Chamber network will continue to engage with federal representatives to prioritize restoring a competitive tax structure, reducing regulatory burdens, and increasing access to skilled labour as critical priorities to maintain prosperity for all British Columbians, the BC Chamber of Commerce said.