B.C. Chamber of Commerce wraps up AGM in Kelowna

Provincial chamber passes 49 policy resolutions including a call for taxation changes for wineries.

The BC Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting wrapped up in Kelowna May 31.

Business leaders from across B.C. have passed policies calling for a study to collect and analyze citizenship and residency data on all B.C. real estate; support for wineries; taxation on short-term rental stays, such as those through AirbnB, PST reforms and a dialogue toward a value-added tax; mobility pricing to manage congestion and fund transportation; and better employer access to the Canada Job Grant to drive a skilled workforce.

The policies were passed at the three-day B.C .Chamber annual general meeting and conference, that wrapped up in Kelowna, May 31.

This AGM brought  together approximately 200 chamber delegates from across B.C. to vote on new business/economic policies. Th policies adopted now become part of the B.C. chamber’s advocacy agenda.

This year, delegates voted on 55 proposed policies with 49 of them passing.

“Our policy development process canvasses the best and brightest ideas from business leaders right across B.C.” said Maureen Kirkbride, interim CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce. “Once again this year, this unique grassroots process has delivered some excellent policy recommendations to help enhance B.C. as a business jurisdiction,”

On supporting wineries, Kirkbride said  while B.C. wineries are largely agricultural operations, they are currently taxed at a light industry rate, which is higher than the agricultural rate.

“Our network is calling for some tax relief for wineries, to better enable them to invest in their businesses and grow,” she said. “As wineries are key catalysts of the tourism industry, this move would also promote broader regional benefits.”

Another issue addressed was taxation of the sharing economy.

“The sharing economy brings exciting new opportunities for British Columbians, but we need to ensure that appropriate taxes are collected on these new business models. In the case of short-term rentals, we also need to ensure an equal playing field for our existing hotels and other tourism businesses as they try to compete with newcomers who, for now, aren’t paying tax,” said Kirkbride.

The B.C. chamber also wants to see the provinical sales tax reform and what it calls a dialogue towards a value-added-tax:

According to the B.C. chamber every extra day British Columbia operates under the “broken and archaic” PST, a disservice is done to the economy, provincial businesses and residents

“We need to take action on our tax problem now – both by passing measures to mitigate the damage the PST does, and then by launching dialogues towards a new, made-in-B.C. value-added tax that will take our economy and our province forward,” said the chamber in its wrap up news release Wednesday.

Other issues tackled  at the Kelowna AGM included a call for mobility pricing to manage congestion and fund transportation in municipalities, better employer access to the Canada Job Grant to create a more skilled B.C. workforce, equitable hospital capital taxation, a Review of regional district accountability in B.C., small business benefits from simplifying the the Medical Service Plan premium system, protecting old growth rainforest  to help benefit tourism-based communities, the need for a renewed Softwood Lumber Agreement with the U.S. and the what the B.C. chamber says is the real cost of retail crime.