Published On: Tuesday, 09 October 2018

Esquimalt Chamber: Businesses Need a Voice in Upcoming Election

Esquimalt Chamber: Businesses Need a Voice in Upcoming Election

Municipal elections are coming up, and in Esquimalt there are some great discussions taking shape.

It’s interesting to hear about the things that voters see as priorities, and comparing them to the things that businesses feel are priorities – keeping in mind that businesses don’t vote, yet many of the voter’s priorities directly affect businesses.

Lots of people in Esquimalt are looking for increased economic development, a walkable community with more retail storefronts, a pub… things that increase the feeling of community. This is all good, and they are the makings of a prosperous community!

Sometimes people don’t realize that there is a social cost to increased prosperity. These include things like increased development to “up” the population density – more people that can afford to shop in the community and therefore attract the shops that they want.

There is also the issue of property tax. The majority of a community’s tax burden goes towards the services that residents use more than businesses (sewer, roads, parks, emergency services) yet businesses pay disproportionate property taxes.

While it may be fair to put a larger tax burden on businesses due to the nature of what they do, small businesses that employ locals and provide services often pay way more tax than might be considered fair.

Because the residents vote and the politicians want to keep taxes down, the tax burden often shifts disproportionately to the non-voting businesses. People don’t realize that the very things they want in their community are being repelled like water off a duck’s back, by their desire to keep their taxes low. The high business taxes cause businesses to have a hard look at where they want to operate.

This message is an important one for Chambers of Commerce to deliver. I know many do, but the other day I was presented with a lament from a business owner who felt it was disappointing that the business didn’t have a vote. I said your message can only be heard if you join an organization that is influential, you share your thoughts with that organization, and they then advocate on your behalf. They joined the Chamber the next day.

If you wish your business had a vote, and you feel a little frustrated as you watch the municipal election process, join your Chamber, share your thoughts with them, ask them to talk to the candidates.

It’s critical that our next flock of municipal councils understand the challenges that businesses face as they develop their platforms and engage their communities.

Chris Edly, CD P.Eng is President of the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at chris@edley.ca