Chamber should take a closer look before condemning provincial budget

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
February 27, 2018 - 5:00am
Image Credit: CFJC Today

KAMLOOPS — The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce decried the new BC budget of last week with an eye popping, over the top comment suggesting, “...businesses of all sizes — from dry cleaners to family logging companies — are facing the cumulative effect of crippling tax increases that will challenge their ability to invest and grow."

Now I don’t personally know of a local dry cleaner or other small business who operates with a payroll in excess of the half a million dollars a year. However, that is the minimum annual payroll required before the dreaded employer 1.95% MSP health tax you are against, kicks in. And from there it is scaled until you reach $1.5 million in payroll costs.

That is not exactly going to challenge small businesses here, so despite the wringing of hands and predictions of calamitous consequences, many local small businesses will not have to pay anything.

However, most families will feel the positive impact of this budget as once MSP premiums are eliminated, they will save upwards of $1800 a year. Should they decide to spend that extra money here in town, businesses will benefit through increased sales while not having to pay the payroll-based Health Tax.

The chamber’s logic seems flawed as this could benefit their members, not harm them. It could be a financial windfall and I have trouble understanding why this business organization condemns a socially responsible initiative that gives money back to families — especially when that money will be spent locally instead of being taken by the government. Unless, of course, they see the chamber and its business members opposing the $1800 households will recover.

Then there is the improved childcare benefit that will allow more working parents to return to work. Affordable childcare means two family incomes again make sense with more of the money earned staying in the household as opposed to the daycare.

This helps local businesses as employees on maternity leave can now afford to come back to work. It’s a head scratcher and hard for me to understand why an organization dedicated to representing Kamloops businesses and businesspeople see this as a bad idea? More disposable income to spend locally and trained and experienced employees returning to work after mat leave.

Businesses will also benefit from the new pharmacare program with nearly 250,000 families paying less or in some cases nothing for prescription drugs. This benefits chamber members as money once spent on medically prescribed drugs will now be spent locally on essentials such as food and clothing.

The budget also signals a return to spending on education, both public and post secondary. Does this not benefit the business community by providing a more educated and skilled workforce?

The budget then proposed a capital-spending program of $15.8 billion over 3 years. Neglected infrastructure as well as schools and hospitals will finally be upgraded and in the process employ thousands of workers. What part of that will be a crippling blow to local businesses that will challenge their ability to prosper and grow?

Not investing in local infrastructure would mean our long awaited hospital construction would be cancelled. Jobs will not happen and our local healthcare will continue to deteriorate, leaving me wondering just what the chamber really wants for Kamloops.

I sometimes see our local chamber as an organization guided more by partisan politics than an independent body charged with making local business thrive. Can they not distance themselves from their political friends long enough to consider the community as a whole?

Most chamber members are not in the millionaire category and are just normal small business owners struggling like the rest of us. They help the economy by creating jobs and will feel little or no negative impact from this budget. They will also, as individuals, receive the same savings you and I will get from this budget.

So, Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, maybe it’s time to dial it back on the partisan rhetoric and step up to the plate with an impartial analysis. Political boosterism and wild-eyed declarations of pending doom are not a healthy organizational sign or the way to gain the respect and trust of the entire community.