While we’ll all feel the burn of residential property taxes increasing, local businesses – like restaurants the whole country is raving about, and the go-to shops and pubs that we all miss when we’re away from the city too long – simply mightn’t survive the business tax spike of 14.3%.
Targeting small business in tough times is not the “fiscally responsible” decision council is touting it as. It’s actually reckless, misguided, and poorly considered: small business is big business in NL. In our province, more than 17,000 businesses employ people, and guess what? 98.5% of them are small businesses with less than 100 employees. 71% of jobs created in the private sector over the past 10 years can be attributed to small business. The smart move is to support and invest in small business. Not harm it.
As Bob Hallett, owner of Tavola Restaurant, says “No business in this city is in a position right now to raise its prices and have any hope of survival, nor do I know of any enterprise that has that kind of profit upon which it can draw. There was no need for this, the mayor and his cabal are leading us off a cliff.”
And this is why YOU, the citizens of St. John’s, should be revolted by tax hikes to the places you buy your clothes and coffee, or take your dates and children – if we increase taxes on local businesses, they can only make up for that by jacking up their prices, in a town where most people already complain about the prices in shops and restaurants.
Alternatively, these businesses will have to let staff go, and burn themselves out working 80 hour weeks. And since when is unemployment good for the economy? Worse still, the sacked staffers will be seeing their rent/mortgage go up thanks to the also-increased residential property taxes.
And the tourists? The cruise ship visitors the mayor loves so much? They’ll come looking for our raved-about restaurants and charming local boutiques, only to be greeted by boarded-up storefronts and a derelict downtown entirely devoid of what once made us a vibrant and unique capital city to visit.
Greg Hewlett, co-owner of Fixed Coffee and Baking, wrote the following on Facebook, “We really can’t be loud enough here, because what’s at stake is the fundamental quality of our lives and livelihoods. This budget has life in this city as we like to live it looking unfeasible.
“Councillors, how do you think of the city you’ve been elected to represent? How do you describe it to people not from here? What gives you pride in it? I want those questions answered, because I’m at a loss as to what they’d say without drawing on the utterly unique and rich culture and history and character of the place – all the things their budget castrates. Would you cite the faceless urban sprawl? The cookie-cutter suburbia? The multinational corporate wastelands like tumors growing off the outskirts? Could you even cite these things when they are so completely indistinguishable from any other city’s equivalent spaces in North America?
“As a small business owner attempting to make a go of it downtown, I refuse to believe you aren’t aware of the fact that the vast majority of businesses down here live and die on the thinnest of margins … I dream of the day when I can pay myself more than $12 an hour.”
To that last line, the owner and head chef of the most popular restaurant in St. John’s joked, “You make $12/hr!? Lucky you. That’s $3 an hour more than me!” This all begs the question of why hasn’t there been a public protest about this, as there was for the Arts cuts, but the answer is simple: we’re all too busy and overworked as is to plan it.
What we need now is a council brave and compassionate enough to acknowledge they made a mistake. What we need right now is a council wise enough to tactfully get our city through a recession, responsibly, not a council reckless enough to kill off our culture, and industries like small business and The Arts, which have only proven to be profitable and economy-diversifying sources of employment for a lot of people.
There’s a hurricane of hurt about to roll through this city, but there’s still time to steer it off course. That our fate is left in the hands of ten men and a mayor who might not care is very disconcerting. (It should be noted councillors Dave Lane, Art Puddister, and Sandy Hickman voted against this budget.)