Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce wants to see change in police, loan forgiveness and residential tenancy act

Chamber wants changes

The Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce has shared their votes on recent policies they'll be bringing forward to the provincial government and hoping to see changes.

Representatives from the commerce said in a news release Friday that they have returned from Whistler, which was 2023’s host city for the B.C. Chamber’s Annual Chamber Meeting and policy sessions.

The meeting each year gathers Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade across the province meet to debate and vote on which policies they would like to see adopted by the Provincial or Federal Governments, either with legislation, funding, or both.

The Penticton Chamber said they authored a policy asking to amend the B.C. Police Act.

This act would allow local governments like the Municipality of Penticton the ability to grant Bylaw Officers Special Constable status after standardized government-approved training and certification.

“We know that the cost of each additional RCMP Member to the City of Penticton is around $300,000 a year, and that’s if there are enough Members available within the RCMP to fill those vacancies,” Michael Magnusson, Executive Director for the Chamber said in a press release.

“Why not adopt best practices from other provinces like those in the prairies who use Bylaw Enforcement Officers in a tiered-response model that frees up the RCMP to focus on more serious and higher impact needs in our community?”

The Chamber caucus voted 86 per cent in favour of this initiative.

The Penticton Chamber believes Special Constable status would build on the recent decision that recognizes Bylaw Enforcement as Peace Officers.

Another policy supported by the Penticton Chamber was asking the federal government to extend, on an application basis, the loan forgiveness deadline for the Canadian Emergency Benefit Account (CEBA) and related COVID loan programs until Dec. 31st, 2024, a year after it's initial due date.

“Only 13 per cent of businesses throughout Canada have repaid the loan so far,” President Nicole Clark said. “And it’s clear in the business world that recovery has not been as robust as originally projected.”

The chamber said BC saw close to 123,000 businesses take out a COVID loan when it was offered.

The concern from the chamber is that if the deadline is not pushed back, businesses who are unable to pay the loan in full by Dec. 31, 2023, will be required to start paying $2,632 each month beginning in January if they borrowed the full $60,000.

“Businesses, like many people, are still struggling financially, so we hope that Ottawa will wait one more year in order to allow more time for the economy to recover from the impact of COVID-19. This will give businesses time to rebuild their operations and revenue streams, and avoid defaulting on their obligations," Clark added.

The caucus voted 94 per cent in favour of this request for an extension.

Penticton and the B.C. Chamber caucus also showed support for an important reform in the residential tenancy act aimed at achieving a better balance between the rights of tenants and landlords.

One key aspect of this reform is advocating for a maximum waiting period of two months for a Residential Tenancy Branch hearing after an application for dispute resolution has been submitted. Additionally, the proposal suggests linking annual rent increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) instead of the current fixed rate of two percent.

This adjustment, the chamber said, would help landlords cope with rising costs and prevent the unfortunate scenario of losing more rental housing due to the financial burden of maintenance becoming too high.

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