Business Needs People, People Need Business – My 1st Chamber Report.

February 25, 2014

Prior to me speaking I had said that waiting for this meeting felt like waiting for Christmas and then with it snowing last night it was all just a little much to take in.  It was perfect.

I really wanted to be your liaison, for the last year and a half I bothered Mayor Daykin to allow me to allow me this position so frequently and it finally paid off. I hope to make you proud now that I am here.  I feel responsible and connected to our business community.  Not only did I have my own for the last 8 years, when I was working the Hst campaign, I got to know a lot of the businesses and I’ve kept a relationship with them and I check in and to see how they feel growth is being managed. Many of them call me on a regular basis and we discuss topics such as the need for a larger voter turn out which is something I have been very vocal and passionate about.   I believe the Chamber could play a large role in this as well.

Through my position on council I have been able to build even more relationships and still I keep hearing the same themes around unacceptable tax rates, legitimate transit concerns, traffic and parking issues, concerns about carbon tax, homelessness, and safety.  However, I continue to hear the complete opposite from Mr. Rule (Maple Ridge’s Chief Administration Officer and Council’s 1 employee). He say’s everything is fine, business is thriving.  So, which is it? What exactly are the issues? I am here because I want to listen and I would like communication from the Municipality to the chamber to improve so we can get these issues and other orders of business addressed and together be even more successful.

Reading over the chamber goals, locally and provincially I see there is a lot of advocacy work to be done, and I believe the timing is just perfect for me to be here to assist with this as that is one of the main ways I would define myself as an elected official, an advocate for progress, success and quality of life.

It seems the Chambers goal is to get government to work harder and smarter to relieve our businesses tax burden and I support this.  Business pays more tax for less service and I really like the approach of making government work harder to bring in revenue not just to simply ask for a decrease in taxes. I want to do everything possible to help advocate for this and educate the public as to why this is important.  The Chamber is offering a solution. Let me know what I can do.

One thing I heard loudly in the summit report is that government needs to successfully get the province to advocate to the US to implement a carbon tax or cap and trade system with the priority being to Washington State.  The Chamber needs the support of local governments to make this happen.  Being on the board at LMLGA (Lower Mainland Local Government Association) I can bring this directly to that table as well, this is a big discussion. With a goal of reducing emissions 33% by 2020 across the province this is definitely a conversation we should be actively having locally.  Prior to my Chamber responsibilities I have been looking to my fellow Councillors for support on asking staff for an update on how we’re measuring this target, how we’ve been working to achieve this policy since it was implemented and I would like to start discussions about what the plan is from here in order to achieve our lofty goal.  This is not a discussion Council has had. With a letter to Council from the Chamber about how important this is to the business community, I believe it would provide weight to the need for the conversation to happen sooner than later.

The current reality of many industries is unacceptable.  Reading about the loss of 67 Million due to our Carbon tax in the cement industry is only one example and I believe government can do better. I am wondering if Chair Moore of Metro is aware of these Chamber concerns?

(((If not definitely write him a letter, even better if it came from the BC Chamber with a list of all the 125 chambers that support this dialogue.)))

I agree that local government should be working to create profit for fair and equitable taxation practices for all tax payers.  And I support the discussions around class four, six and one. Unfortunately, this isn’t yet currently a philosophy well accepted in the Maple Ridge Corporate culture however, it is Council’s responsibility to direct staff and in my opinion this is something that critically needs to change as soon as possible.  Some Municipalities have started their own property management companies, Councillor Hogarth needs support to look into having our own energy company, it didn’t make it to a discussion or awarded a place on the Matrix this term at all.  Through Councillor Morden’s dedication we are now looking into owning our own cell tower sites.  There are certain things happening but we need to put all these topics into one discussion with a focus on generating revenue.  I believe the Chamber can help support making that happen.

I am on the Finance committee and I would like to know if the Chamber would like to be added on the agenda at our next Finance meeting?  If so I will let Chair Morden know and confirm with you once I have done so.  Having a presence at our meetings in general will be important.  Developers do it and it works.  The public does it and it works.  When decisions are being made that affect the business community come present to Council and let us know, if there isn’t time then a letter goes a long way.
GENERAL UPDATES

-Deadline for Council to get resolutions to LMLGA is March 21st.  http://www.lmlga.ca/pages/events.php  I don’t know if you are ready with your resolution recommendations to send to Council really soon or if you need time to put them together.   Maybe this is something Terry can call me about later once you have had time to discuss.

-We will find out in May if there will be a change from a three year to a four year term.  However, the feeling is that changes won’t be until the next election, not in 2014. With that being said, this morning I received a Tweet from Surrey Councillor Barinder Rasode, “Good news @christyclarkbc announces 4 year term @PHeintzman @jasonlum @CorisaBell @bsteelesurrey @LMLGA #bcpoli @UBCM @LindaHepner

I  have found the announcement: www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/02/local-elections-reform-to-include-four-year-terms.html

There is rumoured to be big changes coming to the ALC in the very new future.  The Province is looking to do a core review. This is being discussed at UBCM (Union of British Columbian Municipalities) but most information is confidential at this table for now.

-2014 Homeless Count will take place on March 11th and the shelter count on March 12th.  People will be asked to participate in a short survey and they will be given cigarettes and candy for their participation.
“Housing First” will focus on moving people who are chronically and episodically homeless as rapidly as possible from the street or emergency shelters into a permanent housing with supports that vary.”Chronically homeless refers to individuals, often with disabling conditions, who have been homeless for six months or more in the past year. (i.e: have spent more than 180 nights in a shelter or place not fit for human habitation.)” – From a District report provided to Council.

Overall I am not sure I agree with the solutions or in my opinion, “bandaids” to dealing with homelessness and mental illness in our communities.   Councillor Masse and I haven’t given up on the discussion with the Province about reopening a new model of care facility at River View. I have confirmed with LMLGA that Maple Ridge Council can write a letter requesting LMLGA to lobby on behalf of our Resolution that passed 99.9% in favor last UBCM convention but was almost immediately dismissed by our current government.

I would like to know if the Chamber would publicly support this and if you would consider taking it to your Provincial Board?  We are running out of time, if something was to be done it has to be this year. Maybe you can talk about this and get back to me.

A few things around town

Building permits in the Town Centre. Between Jan 2011 and October 2013 there was a total of just over $89 Million in building applications.

This includes:

-7568 square meters of new commercial space

– 495 residential units and 366 more to come.

Some of the larger numbers are: 6.8 M from the Gaming Centre and almost 9M from Target.

The commercial component of the TCIP has been extended to Dec 2014 but the residential has been discontinued.

(((The tax exemption is equivalent to 100% of property tax payable on the non-market change of the project.  For either a total of 3 years or if is a Green project (LEED) then 6 years.  Non-market is not due to real estate fluctuations but is determined by BC Assessment.)))

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the great interactive mapping tool provided online definitely do.

www.mapleridge.ca/DocumentCenter/View/2150 town centre map

– Callaghan Hotel 125 rooms, 3000m2 commercial space, 575m2 restaurant and it has completed third reading.

– Albion Water Front Development is being discussed at the table more than ever before and is in the concept phase.  Staff is currently working with land owners.

Business licenses so far for 2014 there has been 20 Commercial, 31 home based, and 24 non-resident for a total of 75. The online business directory is updated on a quarterly basis.

Last thing – Business vote

I want you to know I support the Business vote.  A data base built under provincial responsibility would definitely be ideal, this is something I see Elections BC could be responsible for as to me its no different than the way the voters list is handled now.  If before it was believed qualifying voters was too challenging, with the technology of today that should be now achievable. The conversation about tracking voters should, in my opinion, be moot at this point.

I understand Business is a stakeholder in the community and the down loading in government has reached our business community, having a say in your community is more important than at anytime, ever before. If the facts are communicated to the public openly, and always, I believe they will understand the position as I have.  It has been recommended that under such a system a business such as RBC would not get multiple votes as each separate branch is not an independent business but every Subway in a municipality would get a vote as these are franchised and therefore independent businesses. It is very important to communicate to the public about concerns of giving even more power to corporations. We are talking about supporting business in our local communities and finality of it is yet to be written.  I believe it is very positive that London has set a Precedent, that we can work with, I believe this is achievable.

I really like how the BC Chamber puts it.  Business is the Silent tax payer – taxation without representation.  You pay a higher rate of tax but you don’t use school or recreational facilities. And what is the reason business can’t have garage pick up included?  Is there a history here?  If not, I can look into this.  That right there seems like a good campaign topic for the Chamber to address.

I know there is a lot for me to learn, I am excited to be a part of this years work and thank you for allowing me the latitude while I grow into this role.  Know that I will work hard to represent the Chamber and its members and that I am open to contributing more than my position requires but I understand process and I will leave it up to the board to give me direction but know that I am open to having direct communication at anytime.

Since Mrs. Blue will be meeting with the board, providing a complete update in April, I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss the things you want to accomplish and how I can help as well as recognize our symmetries , allow you to understand who I am and where I am coming from and start off with an open conversation.

The topics you can prepare for Mrs. Blue (Manager of Strategic Economic Initiatives) to discuss are:

Town Centre Initiative results, Invest North Fraser partnerships and priority projects including business START and True North Fraser, Commercial/Industrial and Employment lands studies.

I have put in a request to have a Transportation Study update and Post Secondary Task force update provided. If you can think of anything else please let me know and I will make the request.

Next time I would like to discuss in depth business licensing (why is there a fee to begin with, what are you paying for and why can’t we have multiple year licensing available? Why do this every year?).  I will also discuss derelict and vacant buildings.  Please send me topics through email and I will come prepared to the next meeting with responses instead of you needing to wait if you would like.

I have one question for you and then I will open the floor for questions.

I was wondering if the Chamber has connected with the Municipal Auditor?

 

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