Published On: Friday, 01 September 2017

September Marks Shift Into High(er) Gear for Kelowna Chamber

September Marks Shift Into High(er) Gear for Kelowna Chamber

- Dan Rogers is the Executive Director of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. To find out more information about the organization please visit www.kelownachamber.org.

KELOWNA - The smoke across the province continues to linger and people are still seeking ways to enjoy the remaining days of summer, so it must be the perfect time to talk about corporate tax policy.

Okay, it isn’t likely to be top of mind, but it is getting a lot of attention in Kelowna, and with other Chambers across the country, following the recent release of a federal government consultation paper that proposes significant tax policy changes. 

The Department of Finance Canada is considering major changes as to how corporations are taxed. The proposed rules could have a significant impact on many Canadian businesses: potentially raising taxes, increasing the administrative burden on SMEs and heightening the impact on family-run businesses. 

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau released a consultation paper that outlines the proposed changes and initiated a 75-day consultation process during which Finance Canada will accept submissions on these proposals.

The Kelowna Chamber, along with the Canadian Chamber and other business organizations are raising the red flag and expressing major concern over the proposed changes which could have a significantly negative impact on small businesses.

The Kelowna Chamber is hoping the federal government listens to the concerns being expressed, and re-examines the proposed changes; or at the very least, extends the consultation period so the full impact of the significant alterations could be better understood.

For the general public this is being framed as going after “those rich people” and closing “loop holes”, but to the small business owners who are the backbone of the Canadian economy and have risked quite a bit to start up and run their businesses, this could punish them and become a disincentive for others to take risks in running their own businesses. That could have a major impact on job growth and on our economy.

"We believe in the principle of having a fair tax system, but are concerned some of the proposed changes could have a negative impact on entrepreneurs and family owned small businesses," says Tom Dyas, Kelowna Chamber President.

"We are pleased that Stephen Fuhr, our local MP, has at least reached out to us and other business leaders in Kelowna to hear our concerns, and we will work with our national partners to do the same across the country."

The Kelowna Chamber understands and supports the federal government's desire to ensure tax fairness for Canada's middle class, but wants to ensure the impact of any proposed changes are fully understood prior to implementation so as to avoid unintended consequences that could negatively impact the economy.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its Taxation Committee are currently studying how the proposed changes will affect members in different industries, in family businesses and those with different ownership structures. They are submitting recommendations to Finance Canada. 

The issue of tax policy will no doubt be centre stage at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM that is slated for late September in Fredericton, New Brunswick, but it won’t be the only issue.

The Kelowna Chamber will be represented at the national conference and will be tabling a policy resolution that calls on the Federal Government to reinvigorate its efforts to prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels. This invasive species has devastated many lakes across the continent but has yet to enter BC’s freshwaters.

If it does, its impact on marine life and ultimately on the tourism sector, would be massive. The Kelowna Chamber has been leading the charge on this important issue and will once again raise it at the Canadian Chamber AGM in Fredericton.

Among other recommendations, the policy calls on the feds to introduce mandatory inspections of all watercraft entering Canada from the US, match provincial spending on inter-provincial inspection stations already in operation, and establish full-time seasonal inspections at provincial crossings in Banff and Jasper National Parks.

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The Kelowna Chamber was not surprised by the provincial government’s recent announcement that they will be increasing the minimum wage as they had campaigned on it. The short term increase was also announced previously by the Liberal government.

On the issue of minimum wage, our members had previously indicated that they were opposed to an immediate jump to $15/hour but they also identified the more important need to have clarity and certainty around labour costs.

The reality is that any increase in labour costs has a significant impact on small businesses and many times those costs are passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices; or, there is a reduction in hours being worked, so there can be a ripple effect on the economy.

Many of our members are currently paying above minimum wage in order to attract and retain a skilled workforce (the current average hourly wage in Kelowna is approximately $24/hour). Addressing the broader labour force needs is a bigger issue for many of our members and that is where government policy on affordable housing, skills training, the use of foreign workers has the potential to have a bigger impact than a small increase to the minimum wage.

Most of our members are of the opinion that any future increase in the minimum wage should be tied to increases in the consumer price index, so hopefully that is an outcome of the work of the proposed Fair Wage Commission.

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The Kelowna Chamber is gearing up for its Annual Business Excellence Awards. The Annual Dinner Celebration is slated for October 12th at the Delta Grand Okanagan. It is shaping up to be another fabulous evening. The Chamber received 162 nominations for nine different awards, and the judges are poised to make their decisions in September.

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Finally, we wish to welcome our newest Chamber Members this month: Canadian Rooter Plumbers; Famoso Pizzeria & Bar; Globally Fair; Fraser Financial Group/Gronsdahl Wealth Management; Kaizen Institute Canada (BC) Ltd.; Elemental Structural Engineers, Ltd. and Hergott Law.