Roadwork ahead is more than a sign of imminent commuter inconvenience. For businesses along or near the roads set to undergo that work, it is an ominous promise of bottom-line pain approaching with no compensation for the ensuing disruption of revenue flow that might never return to what it was before municipal infrastructure work began.
Applause, then, is warranted for a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) initiative aimed at persuading municipal governments to shoulder some accountability for how their infrastructure projects affect businesses in their communities.
A measure of that accountability is badly needed, because currently there is next to none, and that unfairly saddles business with significant long-term costs and inconvenience resulting from poorly planned and executed municipal infrastructure projects. The CFIB’s challenge to the country’s municipalities is also aimed at establishing construction disruption compensation measures and better planning and communication.
As the CFIB’s report on the effects of construction on small businesses determined, 65,000 Canadian businesses have been seriously disrupted by infrastructure projects since 2012.
The Canada Line project, for example, was devastating for many Cambie Street merchants during its 2005-09 construction.
Paving a Smoother Road: Helping Small Businesses Survive Infrastructure Work estimates that sales losses for businesses along the Cambie corridor averaged around $111,928. Some had to move; others withered and died.
Montreal has now become the first Canadian municipality to announce that it will compensate businesses affected by infrastructure construction projects. Businesses in other major urban centres need to lobby their city halls to make a similar commitment.
In Vancouver, the municipal tax burden and the challenges of finding staff that can afford to live and work in the city are already major barriers to success. Business, therefore, needs all the help it can get to survive, because if it doesn’t, there won’t be much of a city left to maintain or disrupt.