Greg D’Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C. (BCBC/Youtube)

Greg D’Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C. (BCBC/Youtube)

COVID-19: Cut sales tax, boost daycare, B.C. business group urges

Business Council of B.C. wants local government reform

B.C. should extend its deferral of sales taxes collected by struggling businesses to the end of 2020, and cut the seven-per-cent tax rate in half as a first step to converting it to a value added tax.

That’s among the measures recommended by the Business Council of B.C. in their COVID-19 recovery plan. Another is to add new daycare capacity to give parents the ability to return to work and keep private sector employers going.

Business Council CEO Greg D’Avignon said reforming local government is a vital step in getting the private sector economy back to full speed. And the problem gets worse in big metropolitan areas with a patchwork of municipalities.

“It can take as long as six years to get building permits done, which is longer than the Second World War before you can even start building,” D’Avignon said in an interview with Black Press Media.

“Speeding up decision-making varies by municipality, but it’s been well-known that B.C. has one of the most laissez-faire approaches to municipal governance of anywhere in the country. It manifests itself particularly as centres become more urbanized, whether it’s in the Okanagan, on the Island and obviously the Lower Mainland from Chilliwack through to Pemberton.”

The report, called Stronger Tomorrow, Starting Today, makes 24 recommendations, with increasing child care options high among them.

“There is plenty of vacant retail and office space in cities and towns that can be repurposed to increase capacity for child care,” the Business Council says in the report, released July 29. “This could be coupled with a rapid re-skilling initiative led by the province and post-secondary education institutions to launch programs to train more child care providers who can support B.C. families and children in the COVID period and beyond.”

Premier John Horgan’s minority NDP government has made child care a priority for three years, and the opposition has repeatedly accused it of creating more announcements than actual spaces. The latest announcement on July 22 was that 16,800 new spaces have been funded in the past two years, with extra training spaces to deal with chronic staff shortages.

Keeping daycare facilities going during the pandemic has been helped by temporary emergency funding. MLA Katrina Chen, minister of state for child care, says the funding has reached 4,500 facilities around the province with 85 per cent of them operating.

RELATED: Subsidized child care pilot projects extended to 2021

RELATED: B.C. prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery plan

Finance Minister Carole James has reserved a $1.5 billion financial recovery fund from the $5 billion borrowed in spring to provide pandemic relief. After a consultation period, deployment is expected in September.

The Business Council report calls for a broader value-added tax to replace the PST.

“We are not proposing a return to the federal-B.C. harmonized sales tax that voters narrowly rejected in the 2012 referendum,” the report states. Details would be up to government and the public, but the proposal is to broaden the sales tax base and lower the rate, with a low-income credit similar to the federal Goods and Services Tax.

Tax reform is part of the Business Council’s strategy for reviving private sector investment, in the traditional forest and resource industries as well as technology. The report renews the council’s call for reducing top personal income tax brackets, which have risen both federally and provincially to more than 50 per cent of income combined.

“The first thing we’re saying to the NDP is don’t raise those further,” said Jock Finlayson, the Business Council’s chief policy officer, adding that high personal taxes deter investors and entrepreneurs without raising much revenue for the government.

B.C.’s carbon tax is also targeted for reform, recommending it follow the federal carbon tax that allows protection for exporting industries.

“Today, B.C. natural resource companies, agricultural producers, manufacturers and transportation companies are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in carbon taxes every year, while competitors elsewhere do not face the same tax burden,” the report says. “B.C.’s current approach to carbon pricing is undermining the commercial viability of some of the province’s leading export industries and threatens to accelerate ‘carbon leakage’ as industrial production in the natural resource and manufacturing sectors migrates out of B.C. to jurisdictions with no or less burdensome carbon pricing schemes.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read