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12 Island communities cut red tape

Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, front left, and Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business Naomi Yamamoto, front right, lead a group of municipal politicians who ceremoniously tore up old business licences on Thursday in Parksville. Politicians and business leaders gathered to announce the lunch of a Mid-Island Inter-community Business Licence. - John Harding Black Press
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, front left, and Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business Naomi Yamamoto, front right, lead a group of municipal politicians who ceremoniously tore up old business licences on Thursday in Parksville. Politicians and business leaders gathered to announce the lunch of a Mid-Island Inter-community Business Licence.
— image credit: John Harding Black Press

Business leaders and politicians say they have eliminated some red tape for local entrepreneurs with the launch of the Mid-Island Inter-Community Business Licence.

Starting today, businesses can purchase a licence that allows them to legally operate in 12 communities from Duncan to Campbell River.

“Up until now, there has been a lot of red tape for businesses,” Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said during a news conference at a construction site in her constituency. “This is a helping hand for them.”

Contractors and others who find themselves doing work in, say, Parksville one day and Comox or Port Alberni the next, can now purchase a business licence in their home community and add this new licence for a fee. To comply with the current bylaws of most communities, businesses must have a licence to operate in each separate community. The price of this supplementary licence has not been released.

“Initiatives like this allow businesses to grow,” said Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business Naomi Yamamoto, a small business owner herself for 20 years. “These businesses can now continue to grow our economy and fill jobs instead of filling out paperwork.”

Colleen Evans, president and chief executive officer of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce said, “Mobile licencing will give businesses access to a larger market, across all the participating communities. It will also give consumers a greater choice of service providers. All of this means greater opportunity for businesses to grow their client base, regardless of the client location.”

Rob McGorman, the owner of Bayshore Construction in Parksville, took to the podium to explain what the changes mean for his business.

“We have projects scattered throughout Central Vancouver Island so we are thrilled about (the new licence),” said McGorman. “It will save us time and money and support the future success of our business.”

There are a few wrinkles, questions without current answers from the politicians and business leaders gathered recently, regarding the new licences. There are no requirements, for example, for the many small businesses of regional district communities like Errington or Coombs to purchase any kind of business licence.

There were other concerns raised by town and city politicians and others about how cash-strapped municipalities would find the staff and resources to do any enforcement related to non-complying businesses. There were also concerns raised by individual communities about losing business-licence revenue from the new program, money that many communities roll over to chambers of commerce to run tourist information booths and other programs.

Kim Burden, the executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce and one of the leading figures in the push to get municipalities to back this new licence, said data from other places in the province (the Okanagan, for example) that have this type of mobile licence shows towns and cities don’t lose revenue.

Burden tried to paint a picture of how this would help businesses in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area

“We are within spitting spitting distance of four or five communities that all have business licences,” said Burden. “It’s great for our members to move freely between those jurisdictions without having to go through the process of getting a business licence in every jurisdiction they work in. And it brings other businesses into our jurisdiction that might not normally come here, to perhaps fill a void. And it opens up that cooperation between municipalities.”

Port Alberni Mayor John Douglas said he agreed with that bigger-picture view.

“I think it makes a lot of sense and will promote economic growth in the entire region,” said Douglas. “We can’t be insular. I believe in shopping local but I also believe in being competitive. It’s sort of like tourism – we shouldn’t fight each other to get tourists just to one town. We want them (tourists) all on Vancouver Island and share them.”

Burden was asked if he saw this licence program expanding to include all the Island communities from Victoria to Port Hardy?

“How about Victoria to Chetwynd?” said Burden.

The 12 participating municipalities in the Mid-Island program are: Campbell River, Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland, Duncan, Lake Cowichan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, North Cowichan, Parksville, Port Alberni, and Qualicum Beach. They have all adopted a common bylaw.

According to a provincial government new release, there are now 10 mobile business licence agreements throughout the province, involving 69 communities.

The 10 agreements include: Metro West, Tri-Cities, Fraser Valley, Okanagan-Similkameen, Trail, Courtenay-Comox, North-West Vancouver, Cowichan Valley, the Capital Region and, now, Central Vancouver Island.

The provincial government says B.C. is one of the first provinces in Canada to have such a program.

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