Sparks flew as the BC Liberals, Greens and NDP revealed contrasting visions for how to help small business during the October 13 provincial leaders’ debate.
BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau slammed the NDP for calling an early election, thereby delaying the B.C. government’s $300 million recovery-grant program and other relief, creating uncertainty for many businesses.
"There was an emergency relief package that all three parties voted in support of, but this election has blocked it," Wilkinson said in a question to NDP leader, Premier John Horgan. "John, why would you block that package being sent out?"
Horgan did not skip a beat before replying that the package has already been sent out, referring to work from by non-political staff.
"You know that," Horgan said to Wilkinson. "The tax breaks that were part of our package. The relief on GST, or PST rather, for businesses that are investing in machinery and equipment to retain workers is going out the door in the middle of September. The tax credit for those businesses also went the door. The programs for small businesses have criteria. They are in place. The grant applications are in play.
That B.C. government's program that Horgan announced days before he called an election would provide grants for those businesses that could show that revenue had fallen by at least 50%, and that the venture had a viable path forward.
The BC Greens recently came out with its own $300 million program to help small businesses. The Greens’ plan is to provide a 25% subsidy on lease payments, with the goal being to have what Furstenau has called "a simple and straightforward process for determining eligibility."
The B.C. government's plan announced in September included $660 million in business-tax relief, including a 15% credit on payrolls for employers who retain low and middle-income jobs between October and December.
Horgan’s plan also included $50 million to create a new tourism task force to help boost that sector, which is filled with many small businesses. The tourism industry, however, had been seeking $680 million.
The NDP, during its term, cut the small-business tax rate by 20%, and provided other help for entrepreneurs, such as lifting the cap on the amount credit unions can lend.
That, however, was insufficient for the BC Liberals’ leader who lambasted Horgan for stalling needed help. Wilkinson said his party will be "making sure that small businesses can survive, because this is going to be a tough winter."
"Right now is the time for us to be supporting those small businesses, to be getting the grant money out to tourism operators who are wondering if they will make it through the winter," she said.
Wilkinson during the campaign said that his party plans to also eliminate the 2% small-business income tax, as a way to further help entrepreneurs and owners of small enterprises survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those businesses represent about 98% of all enterprises in B.C., and they employ more than one million people.
The tax cut, Wilkinson said, would help create jobs.
The Liberals have supported many of the loosened restrictions that the NDP put in place for the hospitality sector, and have called some of these new rules, such as enabling restaurants to permanently sell liquor when meals are purchased for delivery or pick up, to be put in place permanently.
The Liberals have also promised loan guarantees for those who own restaurants, and to cap at 15% the charges that meal-delivery services, such as DoorDash, can charge restaurants.
More to come...