Mayoral incumbents fall short: CFIB

Leaders of the region's two biggest cities could be doing more, VP argues.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts are being criticized by the CFIB for soft economic platforms.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts are being criticized by the CFIB for soft economic platforms.

This is an opinion column by Laura Jones, Senior. Vice-President, Research, Economics and Western Canada with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

With the municipal election looming, I decided to roll up my sleeves and dig into the mayoral platforms of B.C.’s two largest cities.

Vancouver and Surrey often set the tone for Metro Vancouver and both have incumbents that are leading in the polls. With many people worried generally about the economy and more specifically about their own job, what plans do Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey’s Mayor Dianne Watts have to support the economy?

The platforms made for surprisingly light reading. Hunkered down with my Starbucks latte, I barely had a few sips before I was finished.

Watts’ party, Surrey First, has a section promisingly titled “job creation and investment.” It has 13 bullet points. Eleven of the 13 points relate to new facilities. I love swimming but “new 50-metre pools” for Guildford and South Surrey isn’t what I expected to read under the job-creation part of the platform.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Vancouver doesn’t fare much better. Under the “creativity, jobs and finances” section of Robertson’s Vision Vancouver campaign, there are five highlighted commitments. Only two of the five relate directly to business concerns. I think “funding local artists” belongs in another section. The commitment to keep Vancouver’s business taxes globally competitive scores some points, although the next commitment suggests a very narrow focus on “green” jobs, many of which are subsidized.

Neither candidate chose to sign the Canadian Federation of Better Business taxpayer-fairness pledge, with its three simple commitments to keep spending increases in line with the growth in people’s ability to pay, to keep property taxes fair for small business and to support the creation of a municipal auditor-generals. Apparently, committing to things most important to small businesses (also known as community job creators) is not as important as building new swimming pools and funding local artists.

A few other commitments that would have been good for business include keeping municipal wages in line with the private sector, doing a review of pension liabilities, and introducing a single business licence for businesses such as landscapers and contractors who work in many different municipalities.

The sad reality is that municipal councils face little incentive to care about the local economy and their municipal election platforms reflect that. Businesses are overtaxed for the simple reason that they don’t have much voting power.

In Vancouver, small businesses pay four-and-a-half times more than equivalently valued residential properties. Surrey small businesses pay three times more.

That’s not to say nothing has gone right.  Robertson deserves credit for reducing the tax gap between business and residents. Unfortunately he isn’t planning on extending this past 2012. He should do more.

Watts initiated what could be a groundbreaking mayor’s task force to cut red tape earlier this year. The task force has done some good work but the heavy lifting on permanent red tape control has yet to be done. She should do more. Small businesses deserve better than the light reading in their platforms and so do our communities.

Laura Jones is Senior Vice-President, Research, Economics and Western Canada with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

rcmp
South Surrey neighbours’ calls to police lead to break-and-enter arrest

‘Prime example’ of RCMP and public working together, constable says

Members of the Wheeling 8’s dance group go on a roll at Surrey’s Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in 2018, during the club’s 45th-anniversary event. If not for the pandemic, such activities could be socially prescribed as part of a new program involving Fraser Health and DiverseCity Community Resources Society. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
‘Social prescriptions’ connect Surrey seniors to activities and other services they need

Fraser Health-backed program involves GP referrals to a Seniors’ Community Connector with DiverseCity

Linda Annis, Aug. 12, 2020. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Annis wants independent auditor general for Surrey

‘Surrey taxpayers deserve the best possible oversight of the tax dollars they send to city hall,’ Surrey councillor says

SkyTrain’s end of the line, for now, in Whalley. (File photo)
Provincial budget watchers lament no mention of Surrey SkyTrain expansion

But $1.66 billion is earmarked for a second hospital for Surrey, in Cloverdale

Artist Jim Adams pictured in 2017 in the “cockpit” of his home studio in White Rock. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
‘Vancouver Special’ show a home for art by one Surrey Civic Treasure starting May 22

White Rock’s Jim Adams welcomes the ‘major exposure’ at Vancouver Art Gallery

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Playland at the PNE is set to reopen this May, with COVID-19 health and safety measures approved by the province. (Website/Playland)
VIDEO: Playland at PNE scheduled to reopen this May to masked customers

British Columbians are discouraged from travelling outside of their local health authority to visit the theme park

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Most Read