The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is concerned B.C.’s budget 2022 does little to address affordability for citizens nor provide meaningful assistance for businesses still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19.
Finance Minister Selina Robinson presented the provincial budget in the Legislature Feb. 22.
“There is very little in the budget that encourages entrepreneurship or recognizes what small business owners have endured over the last two years. Ideally, we would have welcomed tax relief, particularly as the financial burden has been increased in recent years through the employer health tax, higher minimum wage and paid sick leave,” chamber president Robin Cardew said.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our community and economy as they create employment, pay taxes for civic services, support local sports teams and donate to our local charities. It is difficult for them to remain competitive when government-imposed costs continue to climb.”
The budget includes $25 million to support the tourism sector’s recovery from the pandemic.
“This investment is welcome but it is hardly sufficient for a sector that has experienced significant losses because of COVID-19 and is extremely important to the overall financial health of the North Okanagan and B.C.,” said Cardew.
In terms of affordability, the chamber believes the budget contained very little for British Columbians struggling with inflation, whether it’s the cost of fuel, groceries or housing.
“The budget references $100 million for non-profit housing providers to construct mixed-income housing. While that is positive, what’s actually required is an easing of the financial and regulatory burdens on private sector developers so they can focus on building homes for all income levels. Government needs to work with the private and non-profit sectors to respond to the housing crisis in B.C.,” said Cardew.
Fees for full-day infant and toddler care will be reduced to about $20 a day by the end of 2022.
“One of the hurdles employers face when it comes to attracting and retaining staff is access to child care and how long is it going to take the government to reach its promise of $10 a day child care? More needs to be done to make child care affordable or the labour crunch in B.C. will continue to worsen,” said Cardew.
Positive components of the budget included connecting rural communities to high-speed Internet, supporting forest-based products in Indigenous communities and shifting the B.C. Wildfire Service to a year-round operation to proactively minimize the impact of wildfire to communities and the economy.
The chamber hosts Finance Minister Selina Robinson March 7 during a virtual town hall from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our members to gain an understanding of the financial challenges facing the province as well as the opportunities that exist as we move out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” chamber general manager Dan Proulx said.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.