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Greater Vernon Chamber responds to provincial budget

VERNON – The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce welcomes the provincial budget’s focus on affordability for average British Columbians, but there’s a concern about the growing financial burden facing business.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are facing $5 billion in cumulative cost increases over the next three years.
“The layers of tax eat into the bottom line and increasingly make it challenging for businesses in the North Okanagan and across the province to be competitive,” said Dione Chambers, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce general manager.
“At the same time that the government is trying to make life affordable for individuals and families through housing and child care, affordability is a real issue for businesses who provide employment opportunities for individuals in our community.”
Since the Budget 2017 update, the corporate tax rate has gone from 11 to 12 per cent while the carbon tax is climbing by another $5 per tonne in April, on its way to $50 per tonne by 2021. The first full year of the Employers Health Tax will see $1.9 billion raised in 2019/20 at the same time that MSP premiums are still collected over this fiscal year, creating a double-dip scenario for business.
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce’s recent 2018/19 Collective Perspective Report indicated that  80 per cent of B.C. businesses feel the cost of doing business in the province has worsened in the last year, and one in two owner-operators report their confidence in B.C.’s economy has declined in the last 12 months.
“The provincial government is keying in on many of the right issues regarding housing and childcare—but we need to remember it’s a thriving business community that funds these investments— and domestically, our businesses are facing increasing cost pressures. We need to ask ourselves, are these investments sustainable in an increasingly uncertain global economy?” said Val Litwin, B.C. Chamber president and CEO.
Among the business friendly components of the budget are $3 million over three years for the Industry Training Authority to increase hands-on support for apprentices and employers and $3 million to
Destination BC to support marketing to global markets.  The government has also made the B.C. Mining Flow-Through Share Tax Credit and the Mining Exploration Tax credit permanent.
“We appreciate the steps taken by the provincial government to assist business, but more needs to be done. There needs to be a concentrated effort on reducing the overall financial burden on businesses so they can thrive, not only benefitting their communities but the entire province,” said Chambers.