CFIB report urges cities to act on small-business concerns

Spending, red tape and small-business friendliness cited as areas of contention

The City of Vancouver's spending per capita in 2021 was higher than the other seven Western Canadian cities in CFIB's report | Chung Chow

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) today released a report urging municipal governments across Western Canada to act on small-business concerns.

The report focused on three areas:
• revenue and spending;
• red-tape reduction; and
• small-business friendliness policies.

Small-business owners have been railing at municipal governments for years to better understand their concerns.

As such, it may be a surprise that only 70 per cent of the small business owners that CFIB surveyed thought that municipal government representatives do not understand the cost pressures they face.

“Small businesses are struggling with a challenging economic climate that is exacerbated by increasing property taxes, rising inflation, ongoing labour shortages, and pandemic-related debt,” said CFIB’s B.C. policy analyst Emily Boston.

“They are unable to shoulder additional costs from their municipal governments at this time.”

CFIB’s Municipal Business Report noted data from a June 2022 survey of 2,533 business owners across Western Canada that showed that those in B.C. said that they felt municipal government representatives “really misunderstand” their cost pressures by a larger margin than did counterparts in other provinces.

In B.C., 49 per cent of those business owners said that they thought municipal government representatives “really misunderstand” the cost pressures that they face. That compares with 46 per cent of business owners surveyed in each of Alberta and Saskatchewan, while 38 per cent of those surveyed in Manitoba felt that way, according to that survey.

The report also focused on eight urban municipalities across Western Canada, including three B.C. cities: Vancouver, Surrey and Kelowna.

The 47-page report includes dozens of charts, with the big-picture message being that:
• city governments spend too much, and are increasing spending through tax hikes and cost increases that hurt small business;
• bureaucracy sometimes runs rampant leading to unnecessary red tape that should be cut through initiatives such as having permanent business licences and inter-municipal business licences; and
• cities could be more welcoming to entrepreneurs by having better communication, more consultation when drafting budgets and a “construction mitigation” policy for public projects.

That last recommendation is particularly pertinent in Vancouver, where countless people who own small businesses in the Broadway corridor have seen their operations disrupted because of subway construction – a situation that resembles the chaos that happened on Cambie Street during Canada Line construction between 2005 and 2009.