The Nakusp & District Chamber of Commerce is supporting a B.C. Chamber of Commerce initiative that proposes giving an extra municipal vote to registered business owners.
The proposal by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce would be a return to a similar system in place prior to 1993.
The provincial chamber argues that without a business vote, local governments are tempted to heap an unfair tax burden on commercial property owners, amounting to a form of taxation without representation.
The B.C. chamber hopes the idea will gain traction during the provincial government’s ongoing local government reform initiative. They hope to narrow the disparity between residential property tax rates and commercial property tax rates.
“Without a vote, [businesses] are the easiest group on which to increase taxes,” states a B.C. Chamber of Commerce letter circulated in October. “Many business owners live outside their jurisdiction and cannot be part of the election process or vote in a referendum which may impact their business directly. This means that, while they are the most highly taxed taxpayers in a jurisdiction, they have no voice.”
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce is urging business owners to sign and send the letter to Coralee Oakes, provincial Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
Nakusp & District Chamber of Commerce president Dawn Devlin was unavailable for comment, but chamber office manager Cedra Eichenauer said exploring the idea could lead to positive outcomes.
“I think it would be a very useful discussion for the province to have. In terms of whether this particular initiative is going to have a huge impact or actually create a change in the legislation, I don’t know,” Eichenauer said. “I would certainly hope it would be reason for the issue to be discussed.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business tracks municipal tax ratios. According to their 2013 ‘tax gap’ report, Nakusp is doing pretty well in the eyes of the small business lobby group.
In a ranking based on tax ratios where the lowest number is the worst, Nakusp finished 113 out of 159 municipalities. The 2012 tax ratio in the Village of Nakusp was 1:2.73.
Although the exact system has not been detailed, Eichenauer said the proposal is to base the vote on business numbers. Any one individual would only be allowed one business vote, and steps would be taken to prevent people from setting up fake companies in order to gain an extra vote.