Long-term business recovery strategies like improved broadband internet and transit extensions can only work for businesses that are still around to use them, a B.C. business group has reminded the provincial government.
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s recommendations come as the B.C. government prepares to deploy a $1.5 billion recovery fund that was borrowed this spring as part of the province’s $5 billion COVID-19 response. The report includes a province-wide survey of businesses this summer that found, of those that have survived the pandemic, 65 per cent are using some form of government support to keep operating.
Most of the federal and provincial spending in the pandemic has been direct support for individuals, while business has seen tax deferrals and limited wage subsidy programs.
“Helping businesses survive is critical, as we’ve seen a 12 per cent decline,” GVBOT president Bridgitte Anderson said in releasing the report Sept. 1. “Nearly 8,000 businesses have disappeared in Metro Vancouver alone. And once those businesses are gone, so are the jobs. It’s a ripple effect across the economy.”
To prevent a “second wave” of business closures as existing support programs wind down, the report urges the establishment of a working capital grant for small businesses to help them restart or retool, as well as training and child care support to get people back to the workforce. Statistics Canada estimates that the Greater Vancouver region has lost nearly 150,000 jobs since February.
GVBOT also recommends the province waive provincial sales tax on hotels and flights for B.C. residents to get in-province and in-country travel going again. For rural parts of B.C., it recommends expanded and better coordinated broadband development from internet service providers, the federal and provincial governments.
The business group says the recovery plan is also a chance to remove burdens on business that have multiplied since the NDP government took office.
“Before the pandemic, various taxes were layered onto businesses, making it difficult for them to thrive,” the report says. “Over the past two years, employers have seen costs increase with the new employer health payroll tax, in addition to an increasing carbon tax, general corporate tax, personal income tax and property tax among others.”