B.C. budget: Kelowna Chamber of Commerce says lack of relief for small business

Click to play video: 'Struggling small business sector disappointed with provincial budget'
Struggling small business sector disappointed with provincial budget
Concern tonight over the lack of financial relief in the provincial budget for the small business sector. The budget was unveiled yesterday and there was little in it to help struggling businesses. The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce calling it a missed opportunity, one that in the end impacts us all. Klaudia Van Emmerik reports. – Mar 2, 2023

Andre Thomas has been a small business owner for 25 years, something he says has become increasingly challenging.

“I think it’s the worst that it’s probably ever been,” Thomas said.

The Memphis Blues Barbeque House restaurant owner says COVID was a big blow to his Kelowna business. And since then, there’s been a series of other hits.

“Just so many things,” Thomas told Global News. “Labour shortages, cost of goods, and minimum wage increases and health benefits.”

The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, along with its B.C. counterparts, has been calling on tax breaks for small businesses, including the health employers tax, ahead of the budget — but the budget failed to answer those calls.

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“There’s nothing in this budget that will get small business excited,” said Dan Rogers, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Click to play video: 'B.C. budget doesn’t offer support for small business'
B.C. budget doesn’t offer support for small business

“At least it would have been a signal, and a signal that we understand the pain and the challenges that you’re facing and that’s what we were looking for,” Rogers said.

“Some adjustment in tax rates to help small businesses would have been nice, some tax relief, but there’s nothing within the document that would have sent that signal. So we think it was really a missed opportunity.”

Rogers added that the ‘missed opportunity’  has widespread implications.

“If we don’t address that, it’s going to slow our economic recovery and that’s going to affect everyone,” Rogers said.

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There was some relief announced in the budget for small businesses.

It entails about half a billion dollars over the next three years for skills and training development, but exactly who will be eligible and when it will be rolled out remains unclear.

“They say the plan won’t be done until the end of 2023, so we don’t know how that’s going to roll out, how much money will help small businesses in the Okanagan,” Rogers said. “Some of the details are yet to come and that’s a bit of a concern.”

At Memphis Blues, Thomas is doing what he can to survive and thrive. That includes recently adding a bourbon bar to his eatery to try and boost the bottom line.

“It sounds counterintuitive that we did spend a little bit more money last fall and did a major bar renovation with the goal of increasing revenue,” said Thomas, “so that we are more financially viable and (able) to get through this recession and deal with the challenges that small businesses are facing.”

Click to play video: 'Municipal governments urged to better support small businesses'
Municipal governments urged to better support small businesses

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