Thursday, February 21, 2019

B.C. budget: Businesses see ‘storm clouds’ as their costs increase

Tuesday’s provincial budget offered little in the way of comfort or protection for B.C.’s business community, a B.C. Chamber of Commerce official says.

Val Litwin, chief executive of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said B.C. small and medium enterprises are watching their optimism and confidence wane as they stare down more than $5 billion in added costs over the next three years.
Litwin said 80 per cent of businesses surveyed report the cost of doing business has increased, and one out of every two businesses say their confidence has dropped.

Little in Tuesday’s budget would turn that around.
“There are not enough offsets to keep away the storm clouds,” said Litwin, noting his constituents are wondering where the consideration is for them, given they are the ones employing people, paying increased health-care costs and looking at a rising minimum wage.

Jock Finlayson, vice-president of the B.C. Business Council, said “it’s more of a social budget, to be candid, which is fair enough. It’s an NDP government.
“We don’t think there’s enough around building a competitive, productive economy — nothing really that will increase productivity at B.C. companies, which is really the only sustainable way to raise wages in the long run.”
The budget includes $10 million over three years to support forest-sector revitalization on the coast. That investment is to speed along diversification of forest tenures and manufacturing, boost domestic timber processing and improve the working relationship with First Nations.
The budget also made permanent the mining flow-through share tax credit and the B.C. mining exploration tax credit, and included $20 million to improve permitting and increase industry safety by establishing a new independent oversight unit.
There is also $39 million over three years for the Resort Municipality Initiative to fund projects that create jobs and support tourism, and another $3 million added to Destination B.C.’s budget to expand tourism promotion.

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