Businesses that operate throughout the mid-Island may soon be able to buy a licence that will keep them in the good books of bylaw officers from Duncan to Campbell River.
Chambers of commerce and municipalities are looking at a mobile business licence proposal that would ensure firms are compliant and can legally operate no matter which community they are drywalling, selling perogies from a truck or styling the hair of a senior citizen.
Currently, a business must have a licence to operate in each individual community it performs work. That means a construction firm licenced in, say, Parksville, can face a stop-work order from a bylaw officer if it is found to be working on a house in Qualicum Beach or Nanaimo if it doesn't also have a business licence from that community.
"We live in a mobile world," said Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce. "And we live in a community that provides service to a number of other communities."
The model being pitched to municipal councils is based on similar policies in Greater Victoria and the Okanagan. Here, explained the City of Parksville's chief administrative officer, the plan that could be in front of council for a vote in April would involve a business purchasing a licence (approximately $150) in one of the communities it performs work, then purchasing another licence (likely the same price) that would make them legally able to perform work in communities all over the mid-Island.
"They (businesses) do it now without these licences," said Fred Manson, explaining that a bylaw officer who comes across a firm doing business in a community without a licence could face a stop-work order.
The current set-up — having to get a business licence in multiple communities — can be costly and inconvenient for businesses.
"What ends up happening is a lot of people don't bother to get a business licence, period," said Burden.
Municipalities may be concerned about losing revenue under the new plan, but Manson said the Okanagan model has shown that's not the case.
"There's virtually no difference in revenues to the communities that participated," he said.
The Qualicum Beach Chambers of Commerce has made representation to their municipal councils about the mobile licence proposal and Burden said he expects other chambers on the Island to do the same soon.
"Our council seems prepared to do it," said Manson, who has been in contact regarding the issue with his colleagues in other communities.
"There are not a lot of reasons why it shouldn't go forward," said Burden. "We would like to see it enacted."