Prince George, BC – September 19, 2018 – On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, the Prince George Chamber of Commerce participated in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services Budget 2019 Consultation, a Committee represented by all sides of BC’s political spectrum. As the first presenter of the day, we were represented by our President, Lorna Wendling, Vice President of Finance, Bill Quinn and myself.
To provide context for the Committee, a brief overview of the Chamber, our membership and the areas of business our members predominantly enhance were outlined.
Through initial engagement and discussion with our members and member organizations, it was determined that the Employers Health Tax (EHT) and our forests were top of mind. With that in mind, we provided the following information to assist the Committee in making informed decisions for the 2019 Provincial Budget:
Employer Health Tax
-The EHT is a primary concern for our members;
-Impacts to the average business may be upwards of $150,000 per annum – or $300,000 during the “double-dip” years of 2018/2019;
-The City of Prince George expects a budget impact of nearly $1.5M over the two years, an impact which can likely only be recouped through taxation;
-Our members were genuinely concerned with the fact that the MSP Committee, struck to determine solutions for a broken system, were not allowed to provide a final report for the Government prior to implementation of the new EHT;
-We are pleased that the threshold was raised and not-for-profits and micro-business will not be impacted. However, the window remains open for the Government to adjust this philosophy, creating unnecessary impacts to small business and new entrepreneurs;
-We are calling on the Government to step back from the process of adding additional taxes and fees on British Columbians.
Forest Management & Emergency Response
-Our forestry industry is the economic driver for all of BC, representing a disproportionate number of jobs, exports and revenue for the Province;
-Agencies tasked with fire suppression and mitigation in BC remain severely underfunded, creating greater opportunities for long-term and damaging fires and invasive species throughout our region;
-The Mountain Pine Beetle, Spruce Beetle and other invasive species continue to do long-term damage to our forests, negatively impacting the forest services industry and creating enhanced fire hazards;
-As noted by the Prime Minister during his brief visit to Prince George this summer, our forest fires must be considered the new norm and, therefore, proper systems, plans and mitigation activities must be undertaken.
While the Prince George Chamber of Commerce was asked what solutions we were proposing, we feel this is the job of Government to develop options, engage the electorate and develop costing strategies that enhance the economy for all British Columbians.
Through the BC Chamber of Commerce AGM in May 2018, the Prince George Chamber of Commerce, along with the majority of BC Chambers, voted on a resolution to have the Government step back from the EHT implementation, receive the MSP Committee report, and develop sound solutions that do not hinder our business community. We remain resolved to continue this discussion, as the EHT impacts us all, whether directly or indirectly.
We will be working with our Advocacy Committee to develop sound resolutions and advocacy efforts on behalf of our forest services members, including enhancements to provincial emergency response.
The Prince George Chamber of Commerce remains committed to fighting for the rights of all business in our community. We encourage you to contact us with your concerns so we can best align our efforts with the needs of business.
Thank you for your continued support and dedication to growing a vibrant and sustainable business community here in Prince George and throughout BC.
Todd Corrigall, CEO, Prince George Chamber of Commerce
P: 250-562-2454, E: firstname.lastname@example.org