The 2020-21 provincial budget was tabled Tuesday, with Greater Vernon Chamber general manager Dione Chambers saying there is nothing in it to ease burdens faced by businesses.
“There was absolutely nothing meaningful in the budget for entrepreneurs, and particularly for the small and medium-sized businesses who are the backbone of the North Okanagan’s economy,” Chambers said.
She said business owners are struggling to pay bills and keep staff employed while the corporate tax rate has held steadily at 12 per cent since 2017. The carbon tax increased $5 per tonne per year—on its way to $50 per tonne by 2021, while the Employers’ Health Tax will increase by more than $2 billion by 2022-23.
Businesses must pay taxes, Chambers acknowledged, but the province could be doing more to stimulate growth.
“The government has business unfairly footing the bill and that means business owners may not be able to invest in equipment upgrades, facility expansions or hiring additional staff,” Chambers said.
The forest sector may see a bit of a reprieve from the new budget with the $13 million in place to develop opportunities within the bio-economy and revitalize the industry.
“Greater Vernon, like many other communities, has been negatively impacted by the downturn in the forest sector and what forest companies need is a reduction in financial and regulatory pressures that permit them to operate and get our family members and neighbours back to work,” Chambers said.
The province also calls for $71 million to go toward enhancing public safety and support services for those affected by crime, including a $13-million Crime Victims Assistance Program to help victims and families cope.
“Ensuring the victims of violent crime can overcome trauma is fundamental, but we hope some of this funding will allow communities to be more resilient and to provide local government, law enforcement and businesses with the resources needed to reduce crime and unacceptable behaviour,” Chambers said.
The chamber has advocated for additional investment in primary mental health and residential addiction treatment services, the general manager said.
“And that must remain a priority if we are to create safe environments for business owners, their staff and their customers.”