Where Vancouver's mayoral candidates stand on tech and business development

Oct 9 2018, 5:58 pm

Economic growth is important to most of the 2018 Vancouver mayoral candidates, especially after the success the city has seen with the tech industry in recent years.

But this election’s economic priorities mainly revolve around economic survival, specifically the survival of small brick-and-mortar businesses.

Most of the candidates also drew direct correlations between the seemingly out-of-control housing affordability crisis and the struggles small businesses are experiencing with keeping up with rents and property taxes and attracting the workers they need to keep their business open during normal operating hours.

Several candidates also highlighted the idea of providing small businesses with a different, more affordable tax rate.

Here is a rundown of the tech and business development plans of the five major mayoral candidates running in the 2018 Vancouver civic election (be sure to also vote for the candidate with the best business development plan in our poll below):

Hector Bremner (YES Vancouver)

The candidate on business development:

YES Vancouver’s Hector Bremner says small businesses are vital to the city considering they account for most of the activity in the local economy.

The new party’s platform revolves almost completely around creating housing affordability by building an ample new supply, which they believe is the key to fixing much of the discontent in other areas and issues beyond housing.

Four things you should know about YES Vancouver’s business development plan:

  1. Being more open to new business ideas, industries, and concepts
  2. Fostering the potential for creative manufacturing after the local successes of brands like Herschel, Arcteryx, and Lululemon
  3. Create new housing that provides affordable housing for Vancouver’s critical workforce
  4. Create split property tax assessments for commercial space and non-profit space; commercial spaces will no longer be punished for the value of the potential zoning of their property. A commercial space in a building with residential in the upper levels and commercial space in the lower levels will only be taxed for its commercial use.

Ken Sim (Non-Partisan Association)

The candidate on business development:

Ken Sim with the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) has a two-fold development strategy for supporting small businesses and providing new catalysts and framework for the tech industry to grow.

However, the NPA’s mayoral candidate firmly believes the housing affordability crisis needs to be resolved, otherwise any attempts to attract talent and retain our workforce will be futile.

Other priorities for the NPA include ensuring natural gas continues to be a cooking and heating option within the city, reversing a position held by the existing municipal government. It will oppose any policies in the building code that restrict residents and the businesses, particularly restaurants, in the city from using natural gas.

Four things you should know about the NPA’s business development plan:

  1. Create split property tax assessments for commercial space and non-profit space. Commercial and residential spaces in the same building will be taxed separately. Currently, a one-storey business can be taxed on the “imaginary” condo floors of a 50-unit building.
  2. Simplify and accelerate new business processes, and develop a fast-track process for businesses in duress. The intention is to reduce barriers in starting and growing a new small business, and expedite the process of reopening a business after a flood or fire.
  3. Engage tech and other disruptive industries. Create a ‘Disruption Working Group’ to respond to rapid technological changes, such as Uber and Airbnb, and make Vancouver City Hall an early-adopter and incubator of promising new technologies.
  4. Thinking regionally. An effort will be made to collaborate with other municipal governments in Metro Vancouver on regional economic development, instead of competing for the same local benefits.

Kennedy Stewart (independent)

The candidate on business development:

Independent candidate Kennedy Stewart says he will approach business development with a two-folded approach of supporting small businesses and growing the tech industry.

He also believes he has “good access” to the decision-makers in both the federal and provincial governments, and has greater experience in this area given that he was the official opposition critic for science and technology of Thomas Mulcair’s federal NDP.

Four things you should know about Kennedy Stewart’s business development plan:

  1. Review on small business policies. There will be a top-down review of all municipal policies that affect small business, including taxation and permitting.
  2. Create new affordable neighbourhood commercial spaces. This includes more small-scale retail, such as corner stores and small cafes and even retail within laneways.
  3. Build a new affordable start-up hub. A new purpose-built hub for new tech start-ups will be constructed to remove barriers and reduce costs.
  4. Revitalize Chinatown by creating a new permanent Food Street similar to those in Asia, supporting the creation of a Chinese History Museum, and accelerating the work being undertaken on the UNESCO World Heritage Site application.

Shauna Sylvester (independent)

The candidate on business development:

Shauna Sylvester, an independent candidate, wants to change the way the municipal government thinks about fostering industry and job growth to a way of thinking that aligns with the digital age.

Her platform also immensely emphasizes the need to create effective strategies that protect small businesses. This includes fixing housing to ensure talent and workforce can find housing that is affordable.

Sylvester believes she has the necessary experience, given her role with Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue and various previous social entrepreneur roles. She also sat on the boards of Vancity, MEC, and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

Four things you should know about Shauna Stewart’s business development plan:

  1. Promote new industries and technologies, changing the government’s way of thinking.
  2. Reform city policies for small businesses, beginning with a policy review during the first 100 days. Eliminate overlapping, outdated, redundant, and unfriendly policies that inhibit innovation. A Small Business Ombudsperson will also be created.
  3. Reforms to commercial tax rates that clearly differentiate big businesses and small businesses, with the latter paying less than a major business.
  4. Work and collaborate with business improvement associations, and strengthen their capabilities.

Wai Young (Coalition Vancouver)

The candidate on business development:

Wai Young with Coalition Vancouver wants to bring real business leadership to the city and create much-needed business infrastructure that supports the growth of businesses.

Four things you should know about Wai Young’s business development plan:

  1. Reform the permitting process and reduce taxes for small businesses.
  2. Create business infrastructure within the municipal government that speeds up the permitting process.
  3. Create a small business unit and a small business hotline.
  4. Keep commerce flowing by maximizing the volume of safe traffic flow through city streets.

 

See also