Growth Shouldn’t Leave Small Business in the Dust

 Jordi Morgan, Vice-President, Atlantic – CFIB

 Small business owners appreciate private sector development. They realize when it’s completed, everyone should benefit from improved infrastructure and growth. The trouble is, they want to be around when it’s done.
The problem with recent collateral damage from development and infrastructure work lies not with developers and contractors but with a lack of thoughtful planning by HRM…and to find out where it starts, just follow the money.

Anyone in the industry knows, developers can be charged tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for permits, encroachment fees and other charges related to their projects.

After the developer finds the money, buys the land, creates the plan, hires consultants, architects and contractors, it’s time then to apply and pay for demolition permits, building permits, plumbing fees, development permit fees, occupancy permits, lot grading fees, solid waste charges, blasting permits, streets and service fees and deposits and inspection fees. These are on top of regional development charges, capital cost contributions (CCCs) and the list goes on and on, ad nauseam.

These taxes, fees and development charges are, in principle, meant to offset costs to the city for administration, service delivery and in the case of CCCs, to ensure development related to growth should pay for itself and not impose a burden on existing residents. However, it’s time to ask if we are actually meeting any real policy objective with the imposition of these taxes, fees and charges? If there indeed is any identifiable policy objective, how are these monies being applied to achieve it and is the money trail transparent?

Recently, due in large part to the experiences of small businesses in HRM either taking huge financial hits or going under, CFIB has been creating a national Construction Mitigation Best Practices Guide to provide more clarity around the responsibilities of municipalities, developers and construction companies to better protect small businesses from the impact of adjacent major private construction and public infrastructure projects.

As part of this, we think the arbitrary costs now imposed by HRM must be reduced so builders can use that money, which now amount to little more than fines and taxes, to create a less damaging or undesirable environment adjacent construction sites.

We believe in clear, outcome-based regulation and only when necessary. That means less red tape, not more. We also feel the city must ensure money being collected from development is being used to meet well defined policy objectives and not simply being poured into the black hole of general revenues. With major project such as development of the Cogswell Interchange lands and billions in Halifax Water upgrades, we need to take thoughtful action now to ensure small businesses aren’t left to die in the dust.

Jordi Morgan is Vice-President, Atlantic, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). CFIB represents the interests of 109,000 small- and medium-sized independently owned businesses in all sectors across Canada.