As we wind down Small Business Week 2023, I want to thank New Brunswickers for their continued support of our local retailers, restaurants and bars, service providers, and so much more. Your decision to choose a small business has a big impact, and is a direct reflection of our organizational vision – stronger community through business prosperity.
Small businesses support communities in many ways. 98% of businesses in the province have fewer than 100 employees and account for a little more than 88% of employment. In our own organization we see an even more acute impact with about 70% of our members having fewer than 20 employees.
The vast majority of small business owners also live in the local area – invested not only in the success of their business, but also in our community. They sponsor youth activities, sports teams, the arts and so much more that enhance quality of life. They also commit their limited time to engaging in countless acts of service to the community through service clubs, coaching, environmental work, etc.
That’s reason enough to #SupportFredLocal, but the impact of small business is much broader and indeed, is the primary driver of the local economy and owners support the community in many – sometimes invisible – ways. Consider that all levels of government depend on the private sector to generate economic activity and growth to provide 100% of their revenue. No level of government would have a single dollar to spend without business and small businesses provide a significant chunk of that revenue.
That means that every paved road, every hospital, every doctor, every school, every social service, is there because of business and business growth.
This is also why we fight for balanced policy implementation from governments. We understand the important role that government plays – we of course all want effective health care, education, and social supports – but overreaching legislation, regulations, taxes and other burdens to businesses have diminishing returns. Governments cannot create jobs or grow the economy – only the decision of thousands of brave entrepreneurs and businesspeople do that – but they can certainly affect the environment that those businesses operate in – positively or negatively.
The current housing issue is a great example of this impact and where increasing costs to businesses to generate revenue is actually getting us further away from our goals. The lack of available housing is first and foremost a human issue that has to be resolved, but it also does have a material impact on businesses and is holding back growth. This will ultimately affect government’s ability to deliver those services that our communities need. We’re long past the point where levels of government are debating who is responsible for addressing the crisis – they are all now looking for ways to help and developing strategies.
Property tax on non-owner-occupied residential properties has been a hot topic in the province for many years – the so-called “double tax”. This term – and the endless arguing about it has been a major distraction preventing effective policy debate. First – it does not really matter that residents that live in their home technically get a rebate and those that don’t do not – that’s just semantics. Second – it’s true that the tax isn’t actually twice as much – however, the burden in New Brunswick is unquestionably higher than even our closest neighbours, let’s look closer at the numbers.
The data shows that the property tax burden in New Brunswick is 1.4 times relative to the rest of Atlantic Canada and 2.19 times relative to the rest of Canada. Whether you call it a double tax or not – that is a policy choice and a choice that has a real-world impact on the decision-making process of developers. It’s an unnecessary burden to increasing the housing stock in New Brunswick, which we desperately need. When the federal government announced they were removing GST from new multi-unit residential buildings, several provinces quickly followed suit by removing the provincial portion of the HST – including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. If New Brunswick does not do the same, the tax burden disparity will get worse. Housing is just one example of the intersection between small business, our communities and governments. All three are materially affected by a lack of housing and all have a role to play in the solutions.
Small business is a direct reflection of the community as a whole – the issues are largely the same – and when small businesses succeed, so does society. Being an entrepreneur or a small business owner is not an easy life – I have the utmost respect for those that choose to take that risk, employ people, and provide services. Supporting those individuals is well worthwhile – whether it’s a chamber of commerce, a level of government or a community member. That’s what I celebrate during small business week – not just the businesses themselves, but their place in our community, their role in making us all more prosperous and our reciprocal job of supporting their efforts.
Krista Ross is CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, a nationally accredited organization with more than 1,000 members, is an active business organization engaged in policy development and advocacy that affects the competitiveness of our members and the Canadian business environment. The Chamber’s vision is ‘Stronger Community Through Business Prosperity’.