Karyn Woodhouse is the vice president of retail with Jones New York Group Canada
How Chamber volunteers shaped government policy in 2011
Last week, the Calgary Chamber held a mixer to celebrate some of the things our volunteer committees have done to improve the business environment in Calgary over the last 12 months.
Working with the Chamber’s government affairs team, these committees meet every month to discuss issues affecting business in our city and come up solutions that can be made to overcome these problems. The Chamber then takes these suggestions and presents them to government advocating for asking them to make the necessary policy changes.
Over the last year, this work has helped to lower taxes, keep government spending in check and change immigration laws to make it easier for workers to move to Alberta to address the province’s labour shortage.
Here’s a highlight of some of the things these volunteer committees have done to make Calgary a great place to do business.
Pushing for a reduction in small business tax
Alberta is at risk of losing its entrepreneurial edge. Cutting Alberta’s small business tax from 3 per cent to 2 percent would help to preserve our competitive advantage by keeping more money in the pockets of entrepreneurs.
Recognizing this, the Chamber’s tax and economic affairs committee developed a policy recommendation to reduce the province’s small business tax. This idea was presented and passed as a resolution at the Alberta Chambers of Commerce Annual General Meeting in May 2012. These resolutions are regularly presented to Alberta politicians and bureaucrats to push for their implementation. This means the voice of Calgary businesses have been given a powerful outlet from which to be heard.
Bringing workers to Alberta to address the labour shortage
Concerns over labour shortages were on the radar in 2011, with the government estimating that Alberta will be short 114,000 workers by 2019. To help fix this problem, the Chamber’s human resources committee met with Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on two occasions to discuss changing Canada’s immigration process to help bring more workers to Alberta.
As a result of these meetings, Kenney announced last year that the number of immigrants allowed under the Economic Class of newcomers program will be increasing from 36,000 to 42,000 in 2012. This will help to alleviate Alberta’s labour shortage in the coming years.
Leading the charge on tax consolidation
A streamlined tax system saves business money and makes it easier for them to operate. Calgary, however, has traditionally levied two types of taxes on the business community: a business tax and a non-residential property tax. Aside from costing business more money in administration, and creating disincentives to develop property and operate a business, this system has hindered Calgary’s ability to attract new business put off by the complexity of dual taxation.
To remedy this, the Chamber’s municipal directions committee led the charge for consolidating these two taxes in 2011. As a result of their advocacy efforts, city council agreed to consolidation starting in 2013. It’s believed that 65 per cent of businesses will now experience a reduction in taxes through this consolidation.
Streamlining the approval of resource projects
Alberta’s oil and gas producers are regulated by a number of provincial and federal departments that are involved in the approval of a natural resource project. These departments often require the same information from an oil and gas producer. This duplication in processes can result in significant time lags that stall the approval of a project and cost businesses money.
To solve this problem, the Chamber’s natural resources and environment Committee believe we need a single regulator, which would consolidate all of the regulatory functions of various agencies. The aim would be to deliver “one project, one review” for all major development projects. To work toward this goal, the Chamber provided a submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act review in November 2011. Since then, the government has adopted the recommendations in the paper and has signaled that they will be moving in the direction we suggested. This is an important first step in streamlining the approval process of resource projects.