Wayne Stetski hosted a small business forum at the Senior’s Drop-In Centre in Fernie on Oct. 12.
“I said during the election that I was really interested in meeting with small businesses around the riding to find out how all three levels of government can help small businesses be successful,” said Stetski in an interview with The Free Press. “I wanted to have the opportunity to chat with them and in order to make it efficient for their time…. I wanted to give them an opportunity to talk with all three levels of government at the same time.”
In attendance was Fernie Mayor, Mary Giuliano. MLA Bill Bennett could not attend so Nicholas Simons, NDP MLA for the Sunshine Coast was invited to attend. Simons is involved in the economics from the NDP party’s perspective and although his riding is coastal, Stetski believes that it has sort of a rural feel to it and rural issues very similar to what we find in this part of the province.
From a federal perspective, Stetski relayed that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) needs to be fixed.
“In terms of our riding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is of particular concern in Golden, Invermere and Fernie because of a labour shortage,” said Stetski. “And in Fernie you have the added challenge of the lack of affordable housing. That was brought up several times by people around the table.”
According to Stetski payroll tax was another issue for people, as well as credit card cost – Canada is one of the few countries around the world that doesn’t have a legislated limit to what credit card companies can charge businesses.
“That is something that the Federal Government needs to look at,” he said.
“Provincially, one of the things that people find really frustrating is all of the paperwork around sales taxes. It can take hours to figure out what you actually owe so there was a real interest to see this system improved and streamlined.
“At the local level, some of the concerns brought to Mayor Giuliano were the lack of industrial land to expand in Fernie,” said Stetski. “There were also concerns expressed around commercial retail space. One of the individuals there has been actively looking to expand his business for 18 months now, trying to find appropriate space and couldn’t find anything so far to allow him to expand his business even though he feels the opportunity is there.”
There are three provincial MLA ridings within Stetski’s federal riding. His intent is to hold a forum in each riding. Fernie was the first.
The information gathered at these forums will be put into a letter and given to the relevant minister in Ottawa. Stetski said that the business owner will also receive a copy so they know it is actually being looked at.
“I really appreciate the businesses taking the time to come and meet with us because they are very busy already,” said Stetski. “It was great to have them there.”
“Just in terms of the importance of small business, I will give you a couple of statistics that I think are important federally – as of Dec. 2015 the Canadian economy had 1.17 million businesses and out of that 97.9 per cent of the businesses in Canada were small businesses, said Stetski. “Stats from 2015 show that small businesses employed over 8.2 million individuals in Canada and that’s 70.5 per cent of the total private labour force in Canada.”
“In B.C. in 2014 there were approximately 382,600 small businesses, which is about 98 per cent of all businesses in the province. And four out of five (80 per cent) of those businesses had fewer than five employees.”