Whitehorse Daily Star

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Valerie Braga and Coun. Laura Cabott

City can do more to assist businesses, council is told

There are steps the city can take to provide more support for local businesses during the pandemic, city council was told at its meeting Tuesday.

By Chuck Tobin on June 24, 2020

There are steps the city can take to provide more support for local businesses during the pandemic, city council was told at its meeting Tuesday.

Greg Stone, the city’s economic development co-ordinator, set out a few options available to council, including relaxing restrictions on home-based businesses.

But Stone also told council that forgiving the cost of business licences and sidewalk café permits, as some businesses have requested, is not being recommended at this time.

“Waiving business licence fees and sidewalk patio permit fees are possible initiatives for the city but it is not recommended at this time due to the relatively low cost of individual business licence fees, and the cumulative revenue impacts on the city,” says the administrative report presented by Stone. “In 2019, the City generated $533,637.06 in revenue from business licences.”

Stone also noted, however, that if the city wanted to forgive licence fees, it could base the application on whether a business qualified for the Yukon Business Relief Program.

To qualify, businesses have to show a loss of 30 per cent of gross revenue or more, he said.

“To ensure eligibility, applicants could be required to show proof of enrolment in the Yukon Business Relief Program,” Stone told council.

“The city can both refund businesses who have already purchased their 2020 business licence or sidewalk café permits, and waive fees for eligible businesses who have yet to apply.”

Stone noted in his report the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of its members in April and May about the impacts related COVID-19.

“Of the 211 completed surveys, 85 per cent of respondents reported losing revenue due to COVID-19, with 50 per cent reporting having lost roughly 50 per cent of their revenue,” he said. “Also within this time, 50 per cent of the reporting businesses indicated laying off staff.”

Stone recalled for council many of the initiatives the city has taken to offer support during the pandemic.

It continued to employ all city staff as a means of supporting the local economy, and operated the transit service at a substantial loss by waiving the bus fares as a means of ensuring people could still get to work and go shopping.

It continued most city services and redirected resources to ensure alternate methods of doing business were available, such as online payments.

Stone said the city suspended the collection of penalties and interest for late payments of city services like utility bills.

The city could continue exploring permitting patios in parking spaces and on the street, though it would not take effect until late summer because of the process involved in amending the zoning bylaw, he said.

Stone said there are several changes to restrictions on home-based business that could be changed to allow for greater flexibility in operating those businesses, such as increasing the number of clients permitted at the site.

“The scope of implications of the pandemic on local businesses are still unknown, but in some cases there may be long-term impacts,” Stone said.

“This initiative suggests participating with the Yukon Department of Economic Development should this department begin work on the development of a long-term economic recovery plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Several councillors suggested whatever the city can do to help the business community should be done.

Acting city manager Valerie Braga said the city is waiting for and is expecting more information from the business community and the Yukon government regarding else what the city could do to help.

Coun. Steve Roddick suggested using the city’s emergency powers to streamline time lines in processing requests for assistance.

“Can we find ways to be more nimble?” Coun. Samson Hartland asked. “What do we need to do to kick-start some of these responses?”

“The city has done a lot for the business community,” Braga said. “We should be proud of the things we have done.”

Braga said the city has reached out to the government and its Business Advisory Council as well as the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce for information on what else it could do.

Coun. Laura Cabott said it’s imperative the city remain in contact with the chamber as it works through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chamber did provide an email Tuesday with a list of things that could be done, she pointed out.

The chamber, Cabott told her colleagues, will hold its annual general meeting Thursday.

“It might be a good time to reach out to the chamber and catch up with how we can support them at this time,” she said.

Comments (11)

Up 0 Down 0

Wilf Carter on Jun 30, 2020 at 4:35 pm

Economic development to help business as proposed by the city will do nothing to put cash in their pockets.
Business pay high taxes on their business and again on their residents - Cut taxes.
Use government grant money to soften the hardship business is going through.
Cut back on hiring new staff and cut unnecessary services. Just fund essential service.
Same with service fees which when cost benefit analysis is done is 25% over charging businesses and residents because of poor political management over the last 8 years.
Cut out things that make no sense like a climate change which they could not define. Waste of staff time as they stated!!!
If our business community fails then we fail as a community, simple as that.

Give out 4 parcels of land to developers and let them develop the land and build 300 homes which we need badly or no economic development will take place in Yukon because we don't have the housing like Fort Mac in AB.
There's lots in Whistle Bend that are not even being built on yet, why??
Work with supply companies for Alaska northern BC, NWT for resource industries which I and others put together and we had companies wanting to move but nothing was done because political masters don't know how to do economic development.

Up 20 Down 3

Joe on Jun 28, 2020 at 5:39 pm

How about helping businesses by getting your staff back to work and giving businesses a semblance of some service. How come same taxes with poor service?

Up 17 Down 4

Jim on Jun 27, 2020 at 11:22 am

@iBrian, so we unintentionally saved the planet and now your suggesting we slow down the GDP more? So where do you think this money will come from to keep paying all the government workers and private sector to stay home. Letting private businesses fail seems to be OK, but letting huge corporations thrive like Walmart, Canadian Tire and large grocery chains is more to your liking.
Tourism is dead, personal services are dead, restaurants are on life support, but your OK with that. Save the money for the second wave and do what with it? Pay more people to stay at home? This is a double edged sword. Don’t help businesses and let them fail. How will that affect Whitehorse’s tax base? Empty commercial buildings will not be contributing to the city coffers. Small businesses are a large contributor to the economy.
Comparing this pandemic to the depression is a joke as most people are still being paid a full government salary and are not worrying where their next meal is coming from.

Up 10 Down 13

Moose on Jun 27, 2020 at 12:15 am

@JC Every country in the world is running huge deficits due to Covid. Next thing you will be saying that Trudeau controls the global price of oil too.

But for comparison, last year Trudeau ran a $15 billion deficit for the entire country. Ford in Ontario ran a $12 billion deficit just for Ontario. Trump for perspective has been running a $1 trillion structural deficit since he came to office. Even when you adjust that per capita it is IMMENSELY larger than what the Liberals are doing here. In fact, the US debt is now a dangerous 107% of its GDP while Canada's debt is around 34% of its GDP. Not great, but among the best in the developed world. So you see, our economic picture is much rosier than you make it out to be. No need to fear monger about debt.

Up 12 Down 4

One One-Lesser-Voice on Jun 26, 2020 at 11:23 pm

My suggestion is the city could use the lions share of the 19 million annual windfall in gas tax funding this year and next to support businesses which are having a hard time.

Tax breaks; grants and funding which helps sustain business small and large would be helpful.

Up 10 Down 8

Adam Smith on Jun 26, 2020 at 10:53 pm

Yes well at least some people are trying to force the government open up the borders and stop trampling on our rights. Though it's really sad that all of the politicians are lined up against the lawsuit and business owners behind it. I had hopes that at least the Yukon Party (NDP is a write off) with a new leader would step up and give some legitimacy and support to this lawsuit and fundraiser, but so far nothing. Disappointing and very telling. Shame on the lot of our politicians!! They are all the bloody same.

Up 9 Down 7

Jc on Jun 25, 2020 at 5:41 pm

IBrian, you forgot about Larry the cheque cutter. He'll save the Yukon. JT has only run up a 300 billion dollar debt and 200 billion dollar deficit since November. Plenty of money left in the pot. Sure glad though, I won't have to pay it off.

Up 22 Down 13

JC on Jun 25, 2020 at 10:55 am

How can the City support businesses when the Yukon Liberals are shutting businesses down? Time to open up and get back to business. Somebody tell that to the Dawson teacher with the huge teacher's pension. He doesn't have to worry about bread on his table.

Up 7 Down 11

Joyce Chang on Jun 25, 2020 at 9:28 am

The big property tax is making the businesses more difficult to survive! The Fed. and city Gov. should start to enlarge the spending into the consumers' market and also may create "consumer's vouchers" let people to spend more in local restaurants, bars, tourism spots, airline tickets and many others. Without gov. support the consumer's spending, we will see more businesses closed.

Up 20 Down 10

iBrian on Jun 25, 2020 at 6:57 am

Seems we’re at a cross roads. For decades prior to Covid19, tree huggers and hipsters have been protesting and raising money to combat Global Warming. Now, the planets economies have been slowed, to the point that NASA can measure how the CO2 was reduced over Europe and Asia.
So we have “Saved the Planet” unintentionally. However, in order to continue this Lowering of carbon emissions. We need to slow down and reduce our GDP, or Greed.
Some businesses will have to fail, shut down and close up.
Households will have to budget off of a single income.
This is the time for people to completely change their ways.
It’s nice that city officials are trying to see how they can help.
If your business is affected by this like mine was, then use your savings. Oh, you don’t want too or shouldn’t have too. Well then, you're the problem. The second wave is coming, it’s already started.
Don’t bother bailing anyone out. We’re gonna need that money come October.
Too many people with Corperate minds. Can’t deal with a few months of losses. Cause they don’t save anything. We live in a Boom and Bust Economy in this territory. Has no one else realized this?
Look at how our grandparents and great grandparents lived through the depression. That’s what we’re going to have to do to get through this.
I see the Gardens are all planted. That’s a start.
Good luck everyone, we’re no where near through this yet.

Up 21 Down 4

woodcutter on Jun 24, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Brilliant Idea.

Fill the sidewalks and parking lots with tables so we can park 5 blocks away to go shopping in the downtown core, and while your at it, give everyone a tax holiday that has zombie business.

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