With HST referendum ballots to be mailed out next month, the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce set out to inform local business owners as to the pros and cons of the taxation.
Although the HST faced provincial scrutiny when it was first instated, things aren’t as bad now as they once were.
“I’ve adapted my businesses, and people that come in aren’t as hostile about it,” chamber president Jim Humphrey said, of his own business, Beaver Lake Resort Campground.
The HST taxation was discussed during the chamber of commerce’s Wednesday, May 18, General Dinner meeting; their first since last November.
The chamber’s board of directors have decided to support the HST, as Humphrey said that they don’t want to see it go back to a HST/PST situation.
“Overall, for most businesses, able to claim that seven per cent has benefited some,” Humphrey said.
In closing, although guest speakers cancelled their appearance last-minute, Humphrey encouraged those attending to look over a pros and cons booklet on the HST, prepared by the Smart Tax Alliance; a non-partisan coalition of 40 BC business and industry groups.
“We have to vote. Vote yes, or vote no,” Humphrey said, of the upcoming mail-out referendum.
“As more information comes in, we’ll give it to our members,” he said.
Other items discussed
More and more chambers of commerce are getting out of the Visitor Centre businesses, Humphrey said.
“It gets more and more expensive to run a visitor centre,” he said, citing the raising of minimum wage as one factor.
The Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Centre is funded in the form of $20,000 from local area taxpayers, through grants, and $25,000 through fund-raising, such as the Spring Fling.
This will be an ongoing item of discussion, Humphrey said.
Visitor Information Coordinator Katherine Worsley said that numbers are up about 30 per cent this year, with 8,360 parties and 11,586 visitors coming in the front door so far this year.
Last year’s total number was 20,507.
“The (Pacific Marine) Circle Route has been a huge reason for these numbers this year,” she said. “They’re coming from both ends.”
The Circle Route links communities in a circular roadway through Lake Cowichan, Mesachie Lake, Port Renfrew, Sooke, Victoria, Duncan, and all the communities between.
Related to the Circle Route, Town of Lake Cowichan councillor Jayne Ingram pointed out that mayor and council have been meeting with various stakeholders from around the route; first at an Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities luncheon they hosted, and then again, in Port Renfrew. A third meeting has been scheduled for next month in Sooke.
“It’s going to be a whole day of how we’ll promote the Circle Route,” Ingram said.
Since the last meeting, Humphrey has met with premier Christy Clark and former minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Pat Bell, using his position as BC Lodging and Campgrounds president.
“Whenever I meet with them, I tell them that more needs to be done for rural communities,” Humphrey said, adding that Clark seems interested in doing something.
“I’m hoping that we’ll get good things,” he said. “We need to find jobs, not only for our youth, but for our adults who are trying to raise families.”
One investor has been attracted to the area, thanks to the Cowichan Lake Economic Advisory Network’s (CLEAN’s) efforts to get a pellet plant running in the area.
The investor is coming out to the area soon to look into the idea, which could create 30 full time, 40 part time, and 75-100 outside jobs in the area.
“That in itself is huge,” Humphrey said.