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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Reminder: Recycling collection changes coming March 1

PQB residents may have to travel to Nanaimo to drop off other recyclables such as glass, Styrofoam

Reporter takes to the skies: Qualicum Beach flight school now up and running

PQB News staffer Cloe Logan tries flying with instructor Mike Andrews

Parksville council members share views on affordable housing

Divergent opinions on responsibility, priorities

Massive early-morning blaze destroys unoccupied Nanoose Bay home

Firefighters from three departments called in to battle fire

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

B.C. Liberals call for assistance on soaring strata insurance rates

NDP’s Carole James says problem is across the country

Most Read