Governments, of various stripes and at all levels, are making it hard for small business to stay in business, says George Gates, owner with his wife Evelyn of the Farm Table Restaurant and Bed and Breakfast west of Duncan.
“Governments have a way of putting obstacles in the way of small business,” Gates said in an interview. “The result is the cost of business keeps going up. There is only so much we can raise our prices before our customers complain or stay away.
“As much as anything it is the constant stream of changes in the business environment that governments at all level impose on the small business community that tends to keep us off balance. We’re constantly having to look over our shoulders to see what’s coming.”
Gates said the least government could do is to acknowledge to the public that increasing regulation is increasing the cost of doing business and that small business have to raise prices to cover these increases.
“I’m pretty sure government doesn’t think through the impacts their actions have on the small business sector where about 80 per cent of all job creation takes place,” he said. “If I can’t stay in business there are five or six people who will lose their jobs.”
Gates is also critical of inflexible local land use zoning. Because they run a restaurant the zoning on their 3.5-acre property is commercial. But they also run a farm in which they produce vegetables, eggs and meat products that go into their menu items. They are, after all, called the Farm Table Restaurant.
They also run a bed and breakfast business and live on the property. The kicker is that they don’t think they qualify for farm status, which would lower their property taxes. Commercial taxation rates are higher than residential, or farm rates. B & B is allowed on both residential and agricultural zoned land.
“The property taxes add to our cost of doing business substantially,” Gates said.
Ian Morrison, CVRD director covering Gates’ restaurant, and CVRD chair, responded quickly to an email request for comment on the zoning issue.
“I think George needs to call me – or a planner at the CVRD,” Morrison said. “There seems to be info gaps in what you described below (in email request for response).
“Assessments and taxes are provincial jurisdiction and my understanding is based on use and not necessarily on zoning in electoral areas.”
Morrison said he would need specific details, including provincial regulations for farm status. Then there are the provincial regs on what “farm status” qualifications are.
“These and other aspects are for professional planning staff to answer” Morrison wrote in his email.
Gates said he has followed up on Morrison’s suggestion of a phone call to see if the zoning and taxation issues can be worked on.
Partick Hrushowy is a forty-five year veteran of journalism and the communications field and he is the Editor of the Cowichan Post.