Employers Health Tax impacting business competitiveness on Saanich Peninsula

Employers Health Tax impacting business competitiveness on Saanich Peninsula


Mr. Speaker: Member Saanich North and the Islands. Yes. Thank you Mr. Speaker. Since becoming an MLA, I’ve heard from businesses
in my riding that they’re having substantial challenges handling increasing costs — affordability. The Saanich Peninsula is one the largest industrial
land bases in the region. It is home to most of the established manufacturers
in the CRD. As a result, we benefit from having many medium-sized
businesses in manufacturing, retail, food and tourism. Businesses like Butchart Gardens, Viking Air,
Epicure, Schneider Electric and Mornwood — all have reached out to me expressing legitimate
concerns. With skyrocketing housing costs, transportation
problems getting to the peninsula, businesses are facing challenges in keeping their operations
sustainable, and they don’t feel that government is helping. There is inadequate workforce housing or public
transportation in the region. Government’s decision to implement a new payroll
tax substantially adds to their operational costs. My question is to the Minister of Finance. What is the government doing to help businesses
like these remain viable and keep jobs here, in light of the accumulated challenges they’re
facing? Mr. Speaker: Minister of Finance. C. James:
Thank you to the member for the question. As we know on this side of the House, it is
important to remain competitive. B.C.’s economy is strong, and we are going
to keep it that way while investing in the people of this province to help build a strong
economy. I’m very proud that in fact many of the items
that have been raised by the member are areas that we have set as a priority for the budget. Business after business after business talks
about the challenge they have when it comes to affordable housing. We have a crisis, because it was ignored by
the other side. We are addressing the housing crisis not simply
for tenants and families who need to work and live in their communities; we are also
addressing it for businesses — for exactly the competitive issue that the member raised. Investments in housing. Investments in child care. Investments in remaining competitive. I’m happy to listen to the member talk about
businesses and raise those issues with me. I’ve had many conversations with businesses. We’re going to continue our good work to remain
competitive and keep our economy strong. Mr. Speaker:
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental. Thank you to the members on the other side for paying attention to the questions. Thank you to the minister for the response. Many businesses in my riding are feeling real
impacts on their bottom line from this new tax. Business leaders are worried about whether
they can continue to do business on the Saanich Peninsula. Some are unlikely to leave. Take Butchart Gardens, for example. It’s not particularly mobile, but we shouldn’t
tempt them. For others, we compete for their business. Viking Air has manufacturing centres here
and in Alberta. If they left for Calgary, it would be devastating. Schneider Electric employs 280 people in Central
Saanich. They have a payroll of $20 million. In 2017, they paid $42,000 for their employees’
medical services premiums, and in 2020, they will pay $390,000 for the employers health
tax. Schneider’s local management will have to
defend to head office… Interjections. Mr. Speaker:
Members, we shall hear the question. Thank you. …why they should stay on the Saanich Peninsula or even in British Columbia. My question to the Minister of Finance is
this. What are you doing to ensure that B.C. businesses
remain competitive in the years ahead and that the employers health taxes you have proposed
won’t be the final straw, having the effect of driving business off the Saanich Peninsula? Mr. Speaker: Minister of Finance. In fact, right now we have the lowest unemployment rate in the country right here in British
Columbia. We are finally, after years of stagnation,
seeing wage increases in British Columbia, helping families in our province. In order to help the very businesses that
that member talks about, we are investing in post-secondary education to make sure that
members are trained for the businesses, to work in this province. And as of 2020, British Columbia, the last
province with medical service premiums, will eliminate them so individuals can save $900
a year, and families will save $1,800. We’re investing in health care and keeping
our businesses competitive.

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