Blog

  • 18 Dec 2018 by LOCO BC

    Today (December 18th) the City of Vancouver's new City Council will vote on the 2019 budget. Most Councilors are new and have not been involved in the development of the budget. Many of them also attended our October 2018 event and promised to help overcome their biggest challenges, including the unfair property tax burden - businesses pay about 5 times the property taxes that residents do. They also shoulder 45% of the property tax burden while receiving only 23% of the services, essentially subsidizing the residential tax base. Businesses tell us that rapidly increasing property taxes is one of their biggest challenges. The tax burden is putting many commercial businesses under severe financial pressure. Many have already closed due to rising taxes.

    Before the election Mayor Kennedy Stewart promised to address the issues faced by small businesses, including taxation.The budget vote is the first opportunity for mayor and council to show their support for small and local businesses. On December 11 LOCO BC and many of the City of Vancouver's Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) and representatives from BIA BC attended the City Council meeting to request a 2% shift in property taxes from commercial to residential properties. Many businesses are struggling under the burden of property tax increases, especially in areas where neighbourhood plans or zoning allow for increased density. Even the province of B.C. is starting to acknowledge that when commercial properties are taxed at their "highest and best use" rather than their current use, it impacts businesses and employment. Our blog post on the government's amendment to the B.C. Assessment Act has more information on the issue. Although the amendment will only apply to Class 4 businesses (heavy industry), the province has begun some consultation on how it and local governments might address the issue for Class 5 and 6 properties (light industrial, commercial)3. 

    If the City of Vancouver accepts a 2% shift, it would be re-implementing a shift that occurred from 2008-2012, at the rate of 1% per year. At the time that shift was brought in to reduce commercial tax rates to bring them closer to what is found in other jurisdictions across Canada. It has been estimated that a 2% shift would be approximately $80 per year on a residential property assessed at $1.5M. Today we call on the City of Vancouver to implement a property tax shift to show a gesture of goodwill towards small and local businesses, and keep an election promise to support small business made by both mayor and many Councilors ahead of the election. 

    *Thanks to Vancouver's BIA Partnership for some of the statistics reported here. 

  • 29 Nov 2018 by LOCO BC

    BCBUYLOCALWEEKLOGO.2016.png

    7th Annual BC Buy Local week highlights affordability challenges faced by local businesses, encourages shoppers to spend money in their communities

    (December 3, 2018 – Vancouver, BC) The seventh annual Buy Local Week in BC kicks off today to encourage consumers to do their holiday shopping in locally owned businesses, highlighting the affordability challenges faced by local business in finding staff and affording space and taxes.

    “The growing lack of affordability has had a big impact on local businesses, so it’s more important than ever that shoppers think about buying locally as the holiday shopping season ramps up,” says Amy Robinson, founder and executive director of LOCO BC, which coordinates Buy Local Week in the province. “With high housing costs, local businesses are finding it harder to find and keep staff. They’re also hit with rising property taxes. Buy Local Week encourages BC consumers to shop locally, because every dollar spent locally keeps 45 cents in the community, creating 2.6 times the economic impact.”

    BC Buy Local Week 2018 runs from December 3rd to 9th and is a partnership of leading BC municipalities, business groups and businesses across the province. Buy Local Week has been proclaimed by the Province of BC and is being celebrated in communities across BC, including the Township of Langley, Newton, Surrey, Burnaby, Port Moody, Vancouver, North Vancouver, Bowen Island, Squamish, Pemberton, Sidney, Comox Valley, Kelowna, Northern BC, and the District of Wells.

    “Local businesses are the core of our communities, and we are working hard to help them thrive,” said George Chow, Minister of State for Trade. “Celebrating B.C. Buy Local Week is important because it recognizes the achievements of local business owners who are creating thousands of jobs for people throughout B.C. and contributing significantly to our economy.”

    “In an era of increasing challenges to small businesses, we got involved in Buy Local Week to show solidarity on the challenges they are facing, and highlight their importance to our economy and community,” says Charles Gauthier, President & CEO, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Area (DVBIA).  “Despite the challenges facing small businesses, we are still seeing new and innovative enterprises throughout the city. The Downtown Vancouver BIA is committed to making downtown a place where local businesses can thrive.”

    LOCO BC also today released the results of its annual survey of independent businesses, highlighting the increasing challenges of affordability.

    “Six of the top eight challenges for independent businesses are related to the high cost of running a business-labour, property taxes, supplier pricing, and payment processing are among them,” says Robinson. “The challenge - availability of labour - is related to the lack of affordable housing in many areas. Consumers should understand that businesses need their support more than ever, and governments need to act quickly to lower taxes and eliminate red tape.”

    As part of the Buy Local campaign, participating local BC businesses will be promoting their local owned businesses, local grown and local made products with bright pink stickers online and in-store to make them easy for consumers to identify, and using the hashtag #BCBuyLocal on social media. Consumers are encouraged to share photos of their favourite local products and businesses on social media, and look to bcbuylocal.com as a resource for BC products and businesses and holiday shopping events.

    For more information about BC Buy Local, visit www.bcbuylocal.com.  

    About LOCO BC

    LOCO BC is a non-profit organization building stronger communities with applied research of the policies and practices of a fair and just economy, contributing to a world where resilient communities are based on shared economic prosperity. They engage businesses and educate consumers on the importance of supporting independent businesses, research the challenges faced by independent businesses, advocate for reducing these barriers, and work to build bridges between businesses and policymakers.   
     

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    Media contact:

    Carla Shore
    C-Shore Communications Inc.
    P: 604-329-0975
    carla@cshore.ca

  • 19 Oct 2018 by Amy Robinson

    It's Small Business Week across the country. In B.C,  small businesses represent 98% of businesses (<50 employees), 84% with less than 5 employees. Barely a day goes by without the closures of longstanding small retail businesses in cities across B.C. Many are blamed on the shake up in the retail sector. However many businesses cite strong sales, but blame their demise on drastic increases in property taxes as a result of increased assessments and neighbourhood planning. When neighbourhood plans allow for increased density, existing properties are no longer taxed based on the current use of the property, but at their 'highest and best' use. Many stores, restaurants and service providers are currently located in a small commercial spaces with little residential development above. If the area is rezoned to allow development for several more floors of development in the area, the building is then taxed as if the building were already built. Those taxes are most often passed down to commercial tenants in 'triple net' leases that include rent, maintenance fees and property taxes. To add to the burden of taxes, cities like Vancouver tax businesses at approximately 5 times the rate for residential properties, and yet, until the buildings are redeveloped and there is clarity on whether the unbuilt space will be developed as residential or commercial units, the unbuilt space is taxed at the much higher commercial rate. The burden of business taxes and the system of assessment has forced many small business closures in recent years, as their property taxes double, triple and quadruple overnight.

    There is no data on the number of commercial businesses that have closed in recent years. However, judging by the number of media stories, and the closure of Dover Arms Pub, Wonderbucks, Just Cruisin', Chocolate Mousse, just to name a few, it is dozens of businesses representing hundreds of lost jobs in the City of Vancouver alone. There has been no government action on the closure of small retail, restaurant and service businesses. However, the B.C. Government has recently proposed an amendment to the B.C. Assessment Act that would alleviate the burden of taxes on affected heavy industrial businesses. The proposed amendment would allow them to continue to be taxed at the current form of development rather than their highest and best use. Selena Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing proposed Bill 42 Assessment Amendment Act (media release October 15, 2018) to "authorize B.C. Assessment to continue assessing qualifying properties based on their current industrial use rather than their future highest and best use for a period of two years with the option for extension" with the goal of providing "significant property tax savings prior to re-development and support the continued operation of the facility." The legislation would only apply to class 4 businesses - properties like saw mills, mines, smelters, large manufacturers, etc. The Ministry states that it is aware of "at least one facility that employs dozens of personnel that is facing a several-fold increase in property taxes as result of the discrepancy between valuation and classification — an increase that would put these very important jobs at risk." 

    It seems odd that the B.C. government is not proposing to include class 5 (light industrial) and class 6 (commercial) businesses in this amendment. It claims to be basing the amendment on the potential threat to a single business while ignoring many others in class 4 and 5 that have closed or are threatened. And the argument that these business closures have far-reaching impacts on communities beyond them doesn't hold water when you consider how many local jobs and suppliers are impacted when commercial or light industrial businesses close. All their inventory and service suppliers are heavily impacted - from the growers and ranchers they buy from, to the local artists, crafters and manufacturers they stock, to the banks/credit unions, accounting firms, insurance companies, office supply and other service providers they use. LOCO BC has been measuring the economic impact of local businesses for many years and publishing these impacts here (studies) and here (business impact measurement). If the government is going to provide this benefit to heavy industries in the province, it should also extend the benefit to include class 5 and 6 businesses. The government's own data shows that there are about 50 000 jobs in the forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas sector, but 300 000 in retail and another 200 000 in accommodation and food services. It is unreasonable that the government would extend this amendment to class 4 businesses but not other classes of business who have been severely affected by drastic property tax increases in recent years. 

  • 13 Feb 2018 by Amy Robinson

    Each year LOCO BC conducts a survey of independent business in B.C. We measure the impact of buy local campaigns (ours and other community-focused campaigns), and the impact of B.C. Buy Local Week in the Province. We also survey businesses on their biggest challenges and concerns.

    2017 BC Buy Local Campaign Survey Results

      In 2017 businesses reported that buy local campaigns continued to raise public awareness, positively impacted customer attraction, retention and foot traffic, and that B.C. Buy Local Week had a direct, positive impact on sales. 

    2016 Holiday Sales Compared to 2015

    Many businesses (about half) also reported that holiday sales for the 2016 season (November-December) were up from the previous holiday season.

     

    Businesses reported that some of their top challenges are:

    1. Struggling Customer Base: The customer base served by businesses is struggling financially.
    2. Labour: A shortage of qualified employees, increasing wages and high costs associated with employee benefits programs.
    3. Rise of Online Shopping: Competition from internet retailers, competition from large brick and mortar chains, and that competitors receive better pricing and terms.
    4. Marketing: Can’t afford effective marketing, and unclear of effective marketing strategy.
    5. Shortage of Affordable Commercial Space: Rising property taxes increased lease costs, and leasing agents sometimes prefer to lease to Multinational Corporations (chain stores), leaving less space available to independent businesses.

    We've just launched our 2018 survey. If you're an independent business in B.C., please participate now.

  • 09 Feb 2018 by LOCO BC

    Will Alberta's move to restrict the sale of B.C. wine increase awareness of the need to support local wineries? 

    Alberta premiere Rachel Notley recently moved to restrict the sale of B.C. wines in response to B.C. premier John Horgan's order of additional reviews that will likely delay construction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

    In response, a viral campaign to support B.C. wineries has started, using the hashtags #ToastTheCoast #PinotNotPipelines #BCWinePledge and #BuyBCWine. 

    In what's shaping up to be the best protest ever, the CBC recently reported consumers including Andrew Weaver purchasing B.C. wine to support local producers in the face of decreased sales from Alberta. People across the country are jumping in to show their support, with consumers in Ontario and Quebec are emptying the shelves of B.C. wine. 

    Let's all support B.C. wineries and #ToastTheCoast!

  • 09 Jan 2018 by LOCO BC

    Three great jobs from LOCO members to start the new year!

    Modo is hiring a Call Centre Manager

    Lunapads is hiring a Bookeeping & Office Coordinator.

    Fairware is hiring an Sales Account Manager