Letter to the Editor: It’s a loss for everyone when independent businesses are forced out.

Increasingly, North Shore business owners are speaking out against the crippling tax increases to their properties that are forcing many long-standing small businesses to close their doors.

After over 50 years serving the North Shore, Windsor Plywood has closed its doors citing crippling property taxes, which have made it unfordable to continue. Small businesses are already having a tough time competing with big box stores and online retailers — add in the sky-high property taxes that property owners are passing on to their tenant businesses and we end up in an untenable situation.

Small businesses are the backbone of any community, yet as our urban centres grow, city densification plans are indirectly placing increased pressure on small businesses by causing dramatically higher property taxes. These tax bills are dramatically increasing because they are currently calculated based on the development potential of the empty air above existing businesses.

Many neighbourhoods are seeing their favourite pizza shops, coffee houses or even art galleries make the painful decision to lay off employees or close up shop, forever changing the neighbourhoods we love.

Yet despite the outcry from many small-businesses, John Horgan and the NDP continue to take little action despite clear solutions currently on the table that are being advocated for by stakeholders across the board.

Last year, BC Liberal Housing Critic MLA Todd Stone introduced a bill in the Legislature that would create a new commercial property subclass for affected small businesses and other affected organizations, which would see them taxed at a lower rate. It would also allow maximum flexibility for local governments to set the property tax rate on this new subclass as they see fit.

This bill, supported by a broad range of stakeholders, was ignored by the NDP government. Nothing but silence from a government that continually claims it wants to make life more affordable, but one that is unwilling to take the quick action necessary to keep small businesses from having to shut down due to crippling property taxes.

It’s unfortunate that partisan politics was chosen over this sensible solution that has been endorsed by the small-business community and many local governments. Solutions are there, but John Horgan and the NDP are refusing to act. I just hope something is done before the very fabric of North Shore neighbourhoods is changed for good.

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