Is it hard to get motivated in the summer? You might think so, but the pace of business here in Kelowna, and especially, here at the Chamber, doesn’t seem to offer many “summer corners” where we can curl up under a beach umbrella with the newest summer thriller.
In early July, we hosted a well-attended business roundtable featuring Dan Albas, MP, Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola in our Chamber boardroom. Dan gave us a quick update on everything on the Conservative Party’s table during summer break. The portfolios aren’t taking much of a break there, either. MP Albas is Small Business Critic with the official opposition.
The province’s Small Business Roundtable, which was touring the province, visited Kelowna the week before. Chair was the very capable Michael Hwang. The session was well attended, and the subjects of affordable housing, the new Employer Health Tax, and employment and skills training dominated the agenda. The net effect of the session was to underline the impact of the layering effect of the multiple new provincial taxes, and resultant negative impact on small businesses. We’re confident the independent Small Business Task Force will take our views to government.
As July wore on, the Chamber hosted federal Parliamentary Secretary Andrew Leslie at a small business roundtable. Mr Leslie (MP, Orléans) sits on both the Standing Committee on International Trade, and on Foreign Affairs and International Development. He’s the chief negotiator on the NAFTA talks for Chrystia Freeland. Hearing his insights, and thoughts straight from the negotiating tables of Mexico City, Washington and Ottawa really was fascinating.
Interestingly, that Roundtable took place on the same day as the July federal Cabinet shuffle. We were heartened by the creation of a Ministerial position for Internal Trade, headed by Dominic Leblanc. BC and all of Canada have enormous cross-border interprovincial trade issues: wine, oil, agricultural products, more. Our Chamber has combined forces with Timmins and London Chambers to blend and present our policy on the issue at the September Canadian Chamber AGM in Thunder Bay.
Meanwhile, we continue the local fight against the proposed Speculation Tax. The specter of this tax being applied to second homes, vacation properties and vacant properties here in Kelowna continues to have a depressing effect on real estate and development. While we still don’t have many of the details of the tax’s application, we also are still waiting for the province to make its economic case for the tax. Will it improve affordability and access to new housing?
As August unfolds, we are planning several member-related initiatives. First, we will convene a panel to help educate and enlighten our local members and non-members around the fall referendum on electoral reform. We want everyone’s voice to be heard, and to ensure that all voters fully understand the options that are being presented to them, in this third referendum on the subject in a decade.
We are planning to convene a panel discussion, as well, on local transportation issues, and the impact that a lack of efficient transportation for business goods and service people has on the local business climate. And, as transportation is never truly 100 per cent “local”, we are looking for ways to include hard facts about transportation blocks into and out of our city boundaries, and what needs to be done from a city planning perspective.
Several of our board members are stakeholder members in the City of Kelowna’s newly adopted Imagine Kelowna process, which includes updating our OCP and creating a new 20-year transportation plan. Our population is scheduled to grow by 50,000 over the next 20 years. Not huge, but enough to require 25,000 new homes and innovative, effective transportation solutions.
In October, we’ll host a Policy Development Forum for our members. Getting input from our business members will allow us to focus in on a short-list of hot topics from which we’ll develop new policies to take forward to the BC Chamber’s 2019 policy forum and to the Canadian Chamber policy table later on in the year. This integrated development process, in which we work alongside our member businesses to determine what’s keeping them up at night, is complex but rewarding.
On a happy note, our Chamber more than doubled its intake of Business Excellence nominations when they closed at the end of June. Packages are now being completed by our 323 nominees across 11 categories, in a run-up to our October awards ceremony. Lots of great new businesses, and a ton of young entrepreneurs on the list. I’m looking forward to seeing the shortlists which our independent judging committee comes up with.
Let me close by welcoming our newest members to the Kelowna Chamber at time of writing: Ian Cook, Corporate Board Member CPA, CA; ParkBay Refrigeration Heating and Air Conditioning Ltd.; Pizza Studio; Super Harvest Trading Ltd.; PHOENIX Stretch Ceilings; Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Kelowna East; Your Driver; Kanata Kelowna Hotel & Conference Centre; Encore Pharmacy dba Pharmasave Mission Park; Home Instead Senior Care; Mission Hill Family Estate (Upgrade). Welcome all!
Dan Rogers is Executive Director at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.