Nfld. & Labrador

'Character-building' years ahead, says St. John's Board of Trade

The head of the St. John's Board of Trade sees tough but not impossible ahead for local business owners following council's newly released three-year budget.

Board members say city should have consulted more, anticipate tough times ahead

Chair of the St. John's Board of Trade, Kim Keating, says she has "mixed feelings" about the budget. (CBC)

The chair of the St. John's Board of Trade sees "character-building years" ahead for local business owners following a hard-hitting council budget that raises taxes, in the midst of broader economic uncertainty across Newfoundland and Labrador. 

In an interview Tuesday with CBC's St. John's Morning Show, Kim Keating said setbacks are often "the greatest time of innovation, reinventing oneself, being resilient and being relevant."

But Keating does have some concerns.

While there may be more opportunities for "private sector participation," she said, any tax increase is a worry for business owners in a softening economy.

Keating says the City of St. John's budget for 2016-2018 may create more opportunities for "private sector participation." (Laura Howells/CBC)

"The taxation increase is of concern and we're disappointed [about] the elimination of the vacancy allowance as well," she said. 

The vacancy allowance gave commercial property owners a tax break on vacant, unrented space. 

Council, however, believes there are too many vacant buildings in the city. It hopes cutting the tax break in 2018 will encourage owners to clean up and rent their space, or move on. 

Keating said members are telling her this could have an impact on how and where they spend.

"For some, unless they can confirm 100 per cent occupancy, they're going to think twice about perhaps moving forward with future investments," she said. 

Not right to tax unused space: Keating

Keating feels it's unfair to tax businesses on a space that isn't being used or generating income, and said there should have been more consultation before the decision was made. 

While residents can expect a tax increase of about 12.7 per cent, Keating said business owners are looking at the same. 

Despite tough times ahead, Keating said there is a silver lining. 

"A lot of our members talk about character-building years. I think this is the time now from the business community that we'll be building a lot of character," she said. 

Some businesses, she said, may have to explore other markets.

"The reality is, we live in a natural resource based economy and we're going to see these wild swings from time to time." 

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