B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has added to his tax incentive program with a vow to provide bridge financing to fading small businesses and permanently eliminate their business income tax.
The extra relief is urgently needed for tourism and hospitality-related businesses who are saying they will decide by Christmas whether they can carry on in 2021, Wilkinson said at an independent clothing retailer in Delta Oct. 8. He promised a loan guarantee program to help small tourism and hospitality firms keep bank financing going as they struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Timing of the loan guarantees depends on the Oct. 24 election being resolved and a new government being in place once a record number of mail-in ballots are counted, Wilkinson said.
“We have to be able to tell them, let’s plan for a vaccine,” he said. “Let’s plan for a return of international tourism. Let’s plan for the U.S. border opening again, so that those hotels in Victoria can have customers, so those tourism operators in the Georgia Strait can do whale watching again, so that people in the Interior can reopen the fishing camps.”
The small business income tax is currently set at two per cent, a reduction from 2.5 per cent that both the B.C. Liberals and NDP promised in the 2017 election. Former finance minister Carole James made good on that promise, retroactive to April 2017, and raised the large corporate income tax rate from 11 to 12 per cent to make up revenue to the province.
Wilkinson noted that Manitoba eliminated its small business income tax a decade ago. He said the current tax takes in about $220 million in a pre-pandemic B.C. economy, and while greatly diminished this year and likely in 2021, forgoing the provincial income is worth it to “turbocharge” the recovery.
The B.C. Liberal promise continues an election theme where the NDP offers direct payment to individuals and their main opponents offer assistance through the tax system. NDP leader John Horgan said this week his plan to send another round of $1,000 pandemic assistance payments to families earning under $125,000 was a direct response to Wilkinson’s offer of a year-long elimination of the provincial sales tax.