Local businesses have a gloomy view of how municipal taxes, the carbon levy, government red tape and other issues will affect them.
Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce says 90 per cent of businesses reported a negative or very negative impact from a host of issues. Other issues facing businesses include, minimum wage increases, employment standard changes, proposed Canada Pension Plan changes, regulatory and permitting costs and delays, the reducing of the small business tax to two per cent from three per cent, and the impact of local crime and over-capacity at Red Deer’s hospital.
“What this survey says is that businesses in Red Deer and Central Alberta are resilient, but are absolutely feeling the pressure of our regulatory environment,”says Robin Bobocel, Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer, in comments accompanying the survey results.
“It’s unfortunate when government policy hinders the economic success of our business community and the ability of those businesses to be able to provide their employees with greater benefits and higher wages.”
The carbon levy, Canada Pension Plan changes, employment standard changes and municipal taxes were pegged as having the most negative impact. Of those polled, 75 per cent said those issues had a negative or somewhat negative impact.
Reducing the small business tax had a positive or or very positive impact, according to 46 per cent of those surveyed. Forty-six per cent said it would have no or negligible impact.
When asked what changes businesses are making in response to the challenges, 56 per cent they are cutting staff hours or benefits, 50 per cent are raising their prices, 65 per cent expect lower profits, 33 per cent are laying off staff and 26 per cent are investing in innovative or efficient equipment or doing staff training.
Over the next year, 63 per cent of businesses expected to stay about the same with rest split between growing or contracting their businesses.
Bobocel says taxpayers are overwhelmed.
“We would call on our political leaders to take an active role in working to mitigate the cumulative effects of decisions that are made with respect to the business environment and any future tax changes.”
Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller defended her government’s record.
When the price of oil tanked, the government did not “recklessly” cut services and fire thousands which would have made a bad situation worse, she says in an email after being asked to respond to the survey. Instead, the government has invested in much-needed infrastructure, such as schools, seniors’ lodges and continuing care facilities.
Miller points out the cut by a third to the small business tax and the introduction of targeted tax credits to spur investment.
“And we actually grew Alberta’s tax advantage to $11.2 billion. This means that businesses and Albertans pay $11.2 billion less in taxes than BC, the next lowest tax jurisdiction.”