Local business owners weigh in on tax and minimum wage changes.

Local business owners hopeful despite dip in provincial confidence

Most concerns around rising minimum wage

A few of Agassiz and Harrison’s ‘Ma and Pa’ shops are feeling good heading into spring 2018, despite a 3.6-point confidence dip from B.C.’s small businesses between February and March.

The Canadian Federation of Business’s (CFIB) monthly national survey asked business owners how they anticipate business performance moving forward, and discovered a two-point drop in confidence across Canada.

With a 65.9-point rating, the province’s dip came just months before the next minimum wage increase.

“It’s going to dip more than that,” speculated Andy Kosmas, owner of Jack’s Restaurant and Steakhouse. “It’s tough times right now. People don’t have the disposable dollar anymore…Higher cost of food at grocery stores, higher cost of gas, higher cost of…anything. The disposable income to go out and enjoy a meal is not there anymore.”

READ: Trade war, payroll tax could be behind B.C. small business confidence dip: pollster

While the announcement of a new payroll tax to replace Medical Service Plan premiums might have impacted the provincial confidence level of small businesses hoping to grow, Agassiz and Harrison businesses seem more concerned about minimum wage.

The B.C. government is raising the province’s miniumum wage to $15.20 by 2021 with gradual increases set for each June over the next three years. This June, employers will pay an additional $1.30 per hour, per employee, when minimum wage goes from $11.35 to $12.65.

“People should be earning definitely more than they were,” said Dawn Chowdhury, owner of Upstairs Hairdressing & Spa in Agassiz. “But there’s no doubt it’s going to put some strain on the small businesses.”

With a small number of employees, minimum wage increases aren’t a huge concern for Chowdhury, but she thinks the increase will start to impact other businesses. “I can just see that there will be cuts in hours and staff because there’s only so much budget that a small business has,” she said.

At Jack’s Restaurant and Steakhouse, most of Kosma’s employees are servers and not subjected to the increase because they collect tips. But they too got a raise last year, from $9.60 per hour in 2016 to $10.10 last September.

“I see this [wage increase] working in bigger cities and towns,” said Kosma. “Agassiz is a small town…you have ten people scratching at the same nickel. Doesn’t matter whether it’s food, mechanical, retail… everybody wants the same nickel. Who’s going to get it?”

Richard Fife, who’s owned Muddy Waters in Harrison since 2012, said at his business, the cost of the minimum wage increase will simply get charged to the customer.

“And that’s every business,” he said. “It’s reality. What’s going to effect me is inflation. Lots of people aren’t going to understand, ‘why does it cost me $17 [when] two days ago it was only $15?’”

The CFIB hasn’t yet released results from it’s confidence survey for April.

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