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

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend about 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Clinton RCMP seek assistance in Canoe Creek hit and run

A pedestrian was sent to hospital with serious injuries after vehicle failed to stop

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Hungry hawk versus reluctant rattler showdown caught on camera

Not the first time photographer was in right place at right time to document an unusual encounter

BC Ferries losing up to $1.5 million each day as pandemic tanks ridership

The company does not qualify for the wage subsidy

COVID-19: B.C. church services resume with public health limits

Maximum 50 in large spaces, Premier John Horgan says

Chilliwack school board censures trustee Barry Neufeld after controversial Facebook post

Board chair issues statement on censure but little else regarding Facebook post controversy

Twenty-nine of Canada’s 48 national parks to reopen to day-use visitors June 1

All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas have been closed for weeks

JK Rowling publishes first chapters of new story online

Book will be a fairy tale for kids and benefit those particularly affected by the pandemic

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

Most Read