When Alper Tasdurmaz opened his Turkish-style bakery in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood in 2018, business was good. So good, in fact, he was able to open another location along Broadway.
But a series of unfortunate events followed: the COVID-19 pandemic, rapidly rising costs associated with running a business, and the construction in front of his second shop have created significant challenges.
That’s why he and many other small business owners were disappointed when B.C.’s budget came out on Tuesday.
“All the budget goes to some other places but not any part of it to the small and medium business,” he said. “It was really frustrating.”
Chris Jones, who owns and operates two restaurants in Victoria, B.C., says he, like Tasdurmaz, would have liked to see something in the budget offering relief to businesses that are still recovering from pandemic losses while simultaneously experiencing increased costs.
He said food prices are up 11.4 per cent and passing that cost on to customers wouldn’t work.
“There’s going to be a threshold of sticker shock for our consumer where 11.4 per cent on a $17 plate of food is $2,” he told On The Island host Gregor Craigie. “Increasing our menu prices $2 per year is not sustainable.”
The budget focused heavily on rebates and tax credits to address affordability for individuals and families.
But, Tasmaduraz says, he pays taxes too, and his business is his livelihood.
“We are helping the economy too in B.C., but we cannot get any supports from the local government.”
Increased carbon tax a particular concern
Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce CEO Cory Redekop says the chamber had previously asked the province for help lowering the costs associated with doing business in B.C.
“The rising costs we are all seeing in our personal lives are also hitting our small businesses, and making it harder and harder to for them to succeed,” Redekop said in a press release.
“This budget missed an opportunity to underpin B.C. small businesses as they head into a time of economic headwinds.”
Of particular concern, according to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, was the increased carbon tax.
Beginning April 1, the carbon tax will increase by $15 per tonne annually, until it hits $170 in 2030. This applies to the purchase and use of fossil fuels — which Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Fiona Famulak said will hit small businesses hard.
“This is going to impact our supply chains and raise costs of producing goods in British Columbia,” she said in a statement.
The province did promise to address the labour shortage, announcing $480 million over three years for the Future Ready plan, which aims to get more people trained for in-demand jobs.
This also includes new funding to help small and medium-sized businesses access technology and find practical solutions to current labour market challenges.
It’s unclear exactly how that money will be allocated, according to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Jones said he needs staff — now.
“We’ve been implementing a foreign-worker program within our company and it took us over three years to get three people into the province and working,” he said, adding that it has cost his businesses tens of thousands of dollars.
“A lot of businesses just aren’t going to survive that long without employees.”