Despite praising specific points in the province’s recently announced 2021 budget, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce said some key pieces are still missing.
Dan Rogers, the executive director of the Kelowna Chamber, said that businesses and residents in the Okanagan need a stronger commitment to improving the transportation corridor.
“While billions are being spent in the lower mainland, plans for highway improvements in the Okanagan remain on the shelf and now would have been a good time to invest in job-creating infrastructure projects,” said Rogers.
He added talks to reduce inter-provincial trade barriers were also lacking in the budget and that transportation constraints at certain areas in the Okanagan prohibit local businesses from growing despite increased costs associated with moving goods throughout the region.
“Fixing this is something the Kelowna Chamber will continue to champion, and we will be looking for local government leaders in the valley to also show leadership in this area,” he said.
While the finance ministry has included pandemic and recovery contingency funds of $3.25 billion in 2021-22, Rogers said the chamber was hoping that targeted funding or a significant tax relief would be announced to assist small businesses that are struggling amid the pandemic’s third wave.
“We believe in being prudent,” he said. “But, we also were hoping for a powerful vision and bold action that would set the tone for a strong economic recovery in BC.”
He criticized the introduction of a foreign owner’s speculation tax, which he said unfairly targets both foreign owners and out-of-province Canadians.
“This tax has been good for generating money for the government, but it has not moved the needle at all in stimulating more affordable housing,” he said. “The chamber certainly looks to the provincial government to either scrap the ‘spec tax’ or at least remove fellow Canadians from the target list.”
The chamber also noted a number of wins from the budget including:
- Investment in further developing the hydrogen economy
- Transportation infrastructure investment along Highway 1
- Confirmation of wholesale pricing for liquor to support the hospitality licensees
- Commitment to continue the provincial sales tax exemption on select machinery and equipment
- Increased funding to help the tourism sector
- Increased training space for early childhood educators and funding for more spaces
Rogers also praised the funding of the temporary foreign worker program, as well as investment into mental health services.