Affordability hurting Nelson small businesses

Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament Wayne Stetski has no shortage of ideas on how to strengthen and support small businesses in this region, thanks to feedback from local business and community members who attended his Nelson Small Business Forum on May 24th. This was the third in a series held by Stetski across his riding.

“Nelson’s uniqueness is reflected in challenges exclusive to this community,” Stetski said. “Many concerns, however, are shared across the Kootenay-Columbia region, most notably around taxes, transportation, shipping costs, and housing. Responsibility for these issues is intergovernmental, which is why when I host the forums, I invite provincial and municipal representatives to participate with me.”

MP Stetski was joined by MLA Michelle Mungall and Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak in a roundtable discussion involving a wide range of small business owners from tourism and service industries to agriculture, consulting and private practice. 

While concerns around government “red-tape”, taxation and a lack of financial support were cited, much of the discussion centered on the lack of affordable housing and childcare. Businesses are struggling to find workers because they can’t afford to live in the region.

“Demand for affordable housing is a good example of how politicians at all levels must work together,” Stetski said.  “Federal responsibility covers infrastructure funding, CMHC mortgage insurance and lending programs.  Taxation is both federal and provincial.  Housing policy and programs are administered provincially, while municipalities dictate zoning, local development costs and regulatory fees. All of these areas need to be examined if governments are serious about addressing this crisis.”

Stetski’s sentiment was echoed by Cal Renwick, board member of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce, “It’s refreshing that they wanted to meet with us. We would like to see more participation from businesses at future forums and more collaboration going forward,” he said.

Participants of the forum can look forward to a report in the coming month. Stetski is also compiling a report for Ottawa based on the feedback from his Nelson, Invermere and Fernie forums. These reports will be available on MP Stetski’s website once the final report has been released in Ottawa.

“I really appreciate the participation of MLA Mungall and Mayor Kozak in the Forum, Stetski said. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and it is imperative that we continue our dialogue to help them achieve success.”