The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade is calling on the province to speed up the Massey Tunnel replacement, support child care spaces and create a new small business grant program as part of the COVID-19 economic recovery.
The board released its 38-page plan on Tuesday. The B.C. government is expected to present a $2.5-billion economic recovery plan in a few weeks.
Statistics Canada estimates that in Metro Vancouver alone, more than 8,000 businesses have been lost since February. The Greater Vancouver region has lost 149,100 jobs since February, representing more than 10 per cent of the workforce. The unemployment rate has climbed to 11.6 per cent from 4.6 per cent before the pandemic.
“Bold vision is required to help businesses not only survive but to emerge more resilient and competitive. With the right actions, I am confident that we will not only overcome these economic challenges but also make necessary progress on broader societal issues,” president and CEO Bridgitte Anderson said.
“To realize a full and resilient recovery, the government must act now with immediate measures that get people to work and lay the foundation for a strong economic future.”
According to the board’s latest survey, done in collaboration with the BC Chamber of Commerce, the BC Business Council and the Mustel Group from July 6 to 13, two-thirds of businesses surveyed are using some form of government support amid the pandemic.
Businesses expect a substantial “second wave” of negative impacts should these programs expire too quickly.
The board is calling on the province to create a Working Capital Grant for small businesses to help restart or retool, alongside a COVID-19 Training and Retraining Grant to help with increased training costs.
The board’s plan includes support for access to child care, including increasing flexibility and maintaining financial aid to maintain spaces and avoid closures. It also calls for the province to provide support to sectors that have broad economic impacts, such as tourism and travel, to ensure that safe travel does not fall off entirely once the summer has ended.
The board is also focused on pushing the province to spend on capital projects, including the expansion of SkyTrain in Surrey and to Langley, the Broadway Millennium Line extension to the University of British Columbia and the urban transit gondola to Simon Fraser University.
Hurrying up the work on the once-cancelled replacement for the George Massey Tunnel, a major commuter route, is also a priority.
“We must approach economic recovery efforts with the same determination as the public health emergency,” Anderson said.
“As we deal with the challenges of today, we must also plan for the future so that we can emerge from this crisis as a more resilient and competitive region.”
Other suggestions from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade include:
- Improve investment climate by lowering the marginal effective tax rate, either through a made-in-B.C. value-added sales tax, or removing the PST on capital expenditures and/or on business inputs;
- Provide longer tax deferrals on tax remittances and/or a long-term payment plan for businesses impacted by COVID-19;
- Consider an employee withholding (i.e. payroll) tax holiday;
- Improve broadband access with additional funds while working with internet service providers and different levels of government to support connectivity;
- Support the transition to a low carbon future focused on COVID-19 recovery projects that advance renewable energy, demonstrate technologies, increase the resiliency of the energy system, and grow it to serve new markets with low-carbon fuels;
- Helping urban and Main Street businesses survive by creating a new commercial property “sub-class” to enable split-assessments and working with stakeholders to explore options to bring about greater fairness and certainty to the property tax system;
- Reduce internal trade barriers so that doing business across provinces and municipalities is easier; and
- Support initiatives that recognize the value of diverse workforces and that promote reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.