The chief executive officer of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce says she has two wishes she will be looking to come true in the upcoming provincial budget.
First, Fiona Famulak wants to see the threshold for employers to pay the health tax from $500,000 to $1.5 million. Effective since Jan. 1, 2019, the employers health tax is an annual tax employers pay on the wages. Businesses who pay less than $500,000 in wages are exempt. Businesses above $500,000 but below $1.5 million get an exemption of $500,000 and businesses above $1.5 million receive no exemption.
Raising the threshold would allow small-t0-medium sized businesses, which account for 98 per cent of B.C.’s economy, to get a break, Famulak said.
“The money that they don’t pay on tax, then they can plow into creating jobs, they can focus on innovation and drive the clean green economy that the government has a vision for.”
During a media availability earlier this month, Famulak also said she’d like to see government speed up permitting.
“Many of our large companies are in the natural resources sector — whether it’s mining, forestry, LNG or others — and there are projects that have been in the pipeline for many years,” Famulak said. “Those need to be given either a green light or a no, one or the other.”
Famulak and chamber’s board chair Dr. Greg Thomas were talking with government leaders last week, calling for “urgent” and “decisive” actions to reduce the cost of doing business leading up to this month’s budget.
“The health of a community is a direct function of the health of its business community and vice versa,” she said.
“It’s not either-or, we need both and if we can convince government today and in future to address the cost of doing business and also the permitting delays, then we are setting ourselves up to succeed and to allow our economy to be the best it can be.”
The B.C. Chamber said in a release that government has made it harder for businesses to succeed by raising costs in recent years. It has raised old taxes and passed new ones, introduced five paid sick days, increased the minimum wage five years in a row and proposed a new statutory holiday.
“Faced with the ongoing challenges caused by high interest rates, inflation, and supply chain challenges, B.C. businesses need help,” it reads.
In addition to raising the EHT threshold and speeding up permitting, Famulak also called for changes to the provincial sales tax that would make it less bureaucratic.
“There is an opportunity to address the five day-paid sick-leave, potentially,” she added.
“We are getting ready to survey our members about how that program has worked for them, so that we are able to discuss that data with the government if and when they decide to either change it up or down.”
Famulak said it’s too early to judge Premier David Eby’s government, adding the chamber needs to see action on reducing the cost of business.
But Famulak also praised the announcement of $1 billion in one-time grants for communities. Many small communities, especially rural ones, do not have the resources to deal with mental health and addiction, she added.
“So that might be one way also to use the surplus in order to support the people, which again helps us to hire (workers), which then helps to keep businesses running and our economy going.”