Creating a level playing field for businesses

as the mayor sees it with District of Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys - Creating a level playing field for businesses

In Barriere we have had a business licence program for years.

Through the years, more than a few business owners stepped up to the plate and complied with the existing bylaw. I want to thank them for their community spirit.

Sadly we also had more than a handful that just simply refused.

At the last council meeting staff presented a report around enforcement of the business licence bylaw. The staff report stated:

“With the main goal of compliance, not punishment, the purpose of ticket issuance is not to generate revenue but to enforce bylaws set by the municipality and to ensure fairness to all operating businesses in the community.  Most often, non-compliant businesses are afforded with reminders of licence renewal requirements, warnings of action and a final “Notice” in the form of a ticket without a fine attached. If all three attempts to gain compliance are ignored, then the method of ticketing is initiated under the BNE Bylaw.”

It seems the recommendation is that we should be giving all the businesses that have thumbed their nose at the District of Barriere business licence bylaw for the past few years another three warnings, and then maybe give them a ticket that might carry a fine, maybe. Plus, in the end, the fine won’t be much according to staff:

“The average fine set by similar sized municipalities for those in contravention to their Business Licence Bylaw is $100.00 with an early payment reduction to $50.00 (if paid within 5 days as per Bylaw No. 95) and $125.00 for payments received after 30 days (late payments as per Bylaw No. 95). These fines are payable on top of their Business Licence Fee. The Offence Act authorizes fines imposed by local government up to $2,000.”

We may be misconstruing what the Offence Act is stating around the limit on fines. In Merritt under their Business Licence Bylaw 2034, 2008 the section on enforcement states:

“Every person who offends against any of the provisions of this Bylaw, or permits any act or thing to be done in contravention or violation of any provisions of this Bylaw, or neglects to do or refrains from doing anything required to be done by this Bylaw, shall be deemed to have committed an offence under this Bylaw and shall be liable on conviction of a fine of not more than Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00) and the costs of prosecution. Each day on which an offence continues shall constitute a separate offence.”

Please note the last sentence in this bylaw. Fines of up to Two Thousand Dollars ($2000.00) per day, plus costs, may encourage businesses to get a licence before starting up their business. Then there would be no need for warnings.

I am not really touting that the Merritt bylaw is better. However, if our community really wants to have business licences then the bylaw should really be written with an eye to doing what is needed to bring those that do not comply into line with what the community wants as quickly as possible.  Three warnings just loads more unnecessary work onto staff and the small fine amounts will never cover recouping the costs.

The staff report also states that the business licence administration costs would be paid for by the business licence fees and that the remainder be put into other business related programs. In all reality, after three warnings there would be little left for the other areas such as economic development and the Fire Department mentioned in the report.

Some communities are content to not have programs such as business licences. Others recognize that there are many current and continuing benefits to be realized from such a program if it is well run and equitable to all concerned. It all comes down to what our community wants to do now and how we choose to grow in the future.

We cannot expect to attract quality investors to our community if we do not properly manage investment related programs like business licences. Creating a level playing field for everyone through proper, effective enforcement of our bylaws is a critical part of giving comfort to future investors.

 

Perhaps what is fair for some is fair for all?