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

39 caught speeding through Cowichan school zones

On June 1, North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP conducted speed enforcement in several school zones

Lake Cowichan firefighters douse blaze at Mayo Road

Sahtlam called in for mutual aid in abandoned shop and motorhome

Caps send Luciano Wilson to Penticton Vees

Hometown hero led Cowichan in scoring last season

Considerations made to keep Crofton drive-by birthday celebrations going

Trucks will tone it down or not use horns at all to bring some joy to kids and older folks

$10,000 stolen bikes recovered after Maple Bay break-in

Police track high-end bikes to storage locker

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Friendly Cove and Kyuquot will remain closed until further notice

Transition of other B.C. communities will be monitored before a decision to ease restrictions

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Most Read