Since the inception of the Small Business Roundtable, the small business community has consistently identified the following as the key areas for supporting small business success:
- Provide human resource access, development and education.
- Simplify regulatory complexity.
- Ensure a competitive tax environment for business.
This message is being heard. The following are some examples of provincial government programs developed to address these key priorities. However, while progress is being made, more can be done. All levels of government must continue to focus on removing business barriers if we are to achieve the goal of the most small business friendly jurisdiction in Canada.
1 | Human resource access, development and education
Information and tools
The WorkBC website has been upgraded to include refreshed human resource guides and new tools for small business to address HR needs, allowing small business and job seekers more success in navigating B.C.’s labour market. For more information, visit: www.workbc.ca.
Small Business BC
With the support of federal and provincial funding, Small Business BC has expanded access to its small business training programs through a network of video conferencing centres in all regions of the province.
Training for small business employees
Under the SkillsPlus program, $4 million has been invested for work-place-based essential skills training for employees of small and medium-size businesses. For further information, see http://www.aved.gov.bc.ca/skillsplus.
The Workplace Training for Innovation Program provides $15 million to help to assist small businesses in training their employees, thereby enhancing the businesses’ productivity and competitiveness. Businesses can directly apply directly for funding to a maximum of $1,500 per employee or $5,000 per employer. For further information, see http://www.aved.gov.bc.ca/workplace_training_program/welcome.htm.
2 | Regulatory complexity
The Small Business Roundtable strongly supports the government’s regulatory reform program. The roundtable developed the Small Business Lens, which was incorporated into the government’s regulatory checklist in 2007 to ensure the potential impact of new regulations on small business is considered. The roundtable commends the government for its success in achieving a 42 per cent reduction in regulatory requirements since 2001. However, despite this success, many small businesses have yet to feel the effects of this regulatory reduction.
To help the provincial government with its regulatory reform program and ensure it achieves real, on-the-ground results for small business, the roundtable has established a regulatory reform subcommittee. The subcommittee is working collaboratively with government to identify opportunities for improving B.C.’s regulatory environment by streamlining services and reducing red tape. Also, during small business consultations throughout the province, business owners are now being asked to identify particular regulations that create the greatest difficulties. This will help government focus its efforts on regulatory reforms with the greatest potential to help small business owners.
Straightforward forms initiative
The Province has started work to transform government forms and business processes to make them more citizen-centred and to make better use of technology. The goal is to save both time and money for small businesses.
Improved trade and labour mobility
The British Columbia-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), fully implemented in April 2009, removes barriers to doing businesses between the two provinces. This gives businesses greater opportunities to grow and compete outside of British Columbia, and the cost savings from reduced barriers to be reinvested or passed on to consumers. TILMA also benefits investors, businesses, workers and consumers through increased choice and opportunities. The recently signed New West Partnership builds on this work by creating a barrier-free trade and investment market among B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.
3 | Competitive tax environment
A competitive tax system that reduces taxes and improves British Columbia’s profile for trade and investment is imperative for the growth and prosperity of the province. Since 2001, the B.C. government has taken important steps to improve the tax system by reducing personal and corporate income taxes and eliminating corporate capital taxes.
The small business income tax rate has been cut by 44 per cent, resulting in small business savings of more than $400 million a year. By April 2012, the tax will be eliminated entirely. The threshold for small business income tax has also been raised to $500,000, the highest threshold in Canada, saving small business another $20 million each year.
The implementation of the harmonized sales tax (HST) is another measure that reduces cost and complexity for small business and furthers the economic competitiveness of the province.
With the HST, businesses now only have to remit one tax form rather than two, reducing the tax complexity and saving business an estimated $150 million annually in administrative costs. In addition, businesses no longer pay tax on goods and services acquired to run their business, such as vehicles, utilities, and office supplies. Overall, it is estimated that the HST will lower business costs by about $2 billion, savings that can be used to lower selling prices or reinvest in the business. Given that 98 per cent of businesses in the province are small business, much of these savings will be realized by small business owners.
In the 2009 Annual Report to Government, the roundtable stated that although the transition to the HST would pose difficulties to certain industries, there were some encouraging solutions being developed to address concerns. We are pleased that the government has introduced mitigation measures for industries like tourism and home construction that were affected by the HST.
It is unfortunate the government did not provide clear, timely information on the implications of HST at the time it was announced. This generated widespread misinformation and misunderstanding, even among those small business owners who will clearly benefit from HST. Although the HST information available today has improved considerably, it is difficult to counter the misinformation once it is in the public realm. In the future, government should ensure that such major policy shifts are accompanied by clear information so businesses and individuals have the information they need to fully understand the reasons for the change, and the benefits these changes will have for them.