I just submitted my response to a survey sent out to mayoral candidates by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
I don't always agree with the CFIB. In particular I disagree with them on their position on franchise fees (Bill 203) and I said as much when I presented at the Legislature committee hearing a few weeks ago in Edmonton.
Having said that there are areas I can see common ground and I appreciate their efforts to advocate on behalf of their memberships.
Below are the questions CFIB asked and my responses. There are some areas where I've added information for this blog post - they are noted in italics.
If elected as mayor:
1.Will you implement a multi-year plan to reduce the difference between what businesses and residents pay in municipal property tax based on the same assessed value?
Comments: Urban municipalities in Alberta cannot afford to do this. I believe the focus should be on creating a regulatory environment that welcomes new business development. As new properties are built the tax burden will be diffused across more properties. An additional option would be see Linear Property Taxes pooled regionally and distributed on a per capita basis with in the regional catchment area. This would allow urban municipalities to reduce the tax burden on small business. In my opinion, this is a huge inequity that allows some municipalities to keep residential and commercial property taxes artificially low. I'll be doing a full post on it this week.
2.Will you work to limit future growth in operating spending by the municipal government to a sustainable benchmark such as inflation plus population growth?
Comments: I have committed to ensuring that the 2012-2014 budget cycle follows this formula.
3.How do you plan to reduce the amount of municipal red tape that small business owners in your community must deal with?
Explain: The City of Grande Prairie has already implemented the BizPal program which substantially reduces “red tape” by allowing businesses to get information from 3 levels of government at once. In the area of development we are working to revise our development permitting process to make it faster and more efficient for customers – I support this and will continue seek ways to streamline city processes.
4.Do you support new taxation powers for municipalities?
Comments: At this time the best solution to aid in municipal financial sustainability is to secure a legislated share of current tax revenues from other orders of government. Additionally, Linear Tax property revenues should be reexamined. My suggestion would be that they be pooled with in regional catchment areas and distributed within the region on a per capita basis.
5.Do you support the municipal government being subject to external, independent, value-for-money operational and financial audits?
Comments: The current Municipal Government Act already provides the minister with all the tools needed to require audits, of any kind, from every municipality.
6.Tell us about the other ways you plan to make your municipality more small business-friendly?
Comments: I believe our local government can add value for the business community by:
- Televising Budget meetings (and archiving on the web)
- Opening City Data to the public to allow businesses to make use of it
- Helping identify and address the cost barriers to doing business in the north, with particular focus on transportation infrastructure & electricity costs.