UPDATE: 2:40 p.m.
Chamber and business leaders from across the province are in Kelowna this week for B.C.’s largest business policy forum: the BC Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting and Conference.
The BC Chamber AGM is hosted in a different community every year and is held to bring together about 200 Chamber delegates to vote on new business/economic policies.
Policies are then adopted to become part of the BC Chamber’s advocacy agenda.
This year, at least 55 proposed policies are up for consideration.
“Our policy development process canvasses the best and brightest ideas from business leaders right across B.C. Once again this year, this unique grassroots process has delivered some excellent policy recommendations to help enhance B.C. as a business jurisdiction,” says Maureen Kirkbride, interim chamber CEO.
This year's Kelowna event started Sunday and wraps up Tuesday.
Members have so far passed several policies including those that call for a study to collect and analyze citizenship and residency data on all B.C. real estate.
“We need to bring facts and data to the heated debates that currently surround B.C.’s real estate market,” explains Kirkbride.
“And while the B.C. government’s recent move to require the collection of citizenship and residency data in real estate transactions is a step in the right direction, it won’t deliver sufficient facts with any speed. Given the impact that B.C.’s high real estate costs have on British Columbians and B.C. businesses, we’re pushing for a full study of ownership data so that we’re all working from a basis of facts as we look for solutions to B.C.’s real estate challenges.”
Policies were also instituted to support B.C. wineries.
“B.C. wineries, while largely agricultural operations, are currently taxed at a light industry rate rather than the much-lower farm rate. Our network is calling for some tax relief for wineries, to better enable them to invest in their businesses and grow. As wineries are key catalysts of the tourism industry, this move would also promote broader regional benefits,” says Kirkbride.
And a further policy was voted in that would call for taxation on short-term rental stays, such as those through Airbnb.
“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,” says Kirkbride.
Other policies voted into force so far include:
- Equitable Hospital Capital Taxation for British Columbia
- Reviewing Regional District Accountability
- Customer Produced Power Improving BC Hydro Policy
- Real Estate, Citizenship and Residency Data Collection, Analysis and Reporting
- Small Business Benefits from Simplifying the MSP Tax System
- Taxation of Short Term Residential Rental Units
- Protecting Old Growth Rainforest to the Economic Benefit of Tourism Based Communities
- The Need for a Renewed Softwood Lumber Agreement
- Supporting B.C.’s Land-Based Wineries, Cideries and Distilleries
- Addressing the Housing Crunch Through Increasing Supply
- Affordable Rental Housing and a Fluid Labour Market
- The Costs of Retail Crime
Draft versions of these proposed policies are available online here; they may not be identical to the versions passed, due to amendments made on the policy floor.
The BC Chamber represents more than 125 Chambers of Commerce and 36,000 businesses of every size, sector and region of the province.