The Thanksgiving long weekend is an important one and I am hopeful that many of you had an opportunity to spend time with friends and family to both enjoy and reflect on how fortunate we are to live in this special part of British Columbia.
We have much to be thankful for here in B.C. and we must not forget those who live in areas of the world where threats of violence and oppression can be a daily occurrence. I also believe that we must be vigilant and never take for granted the value of a job and the importance of employment. In my nearly 17 years of public service I have observed firsthand how unemployment and the loss of a job can devastate a family and lead to poverty or worse.
I mention the importance of jobs because I also often hear disparaging comments against the business community who it should not be forgotten are the very employers who provide the jobs that our citizens depend upon. October is small business month and 98 per cent of all businesses in British Columbia are of the small business variety, in fact there are close to 400,000 small businesses currently operating in B.C. today.
This is why in 2001 the BC Government began a process to review, eliminate or consolidate “red tape” and to date have been successful in eliminating over 150,000 regulatory requirements. When small business owners can focus on running and growing a business instead of administration related to government regulation ultimately a business can grow and more staff are hired. Locally we have witnessed many local success stories as small businesses have grown into significantly sized operations that employ workers in the double digits instead of single digits.
When citizens are gainfully employed the wages they earn are subject to personal income taxes much as is discretionary spending on purchases of goods and services is also subject to sales taxes. It is from these tax revenues that government jobs are created and many important services are provided in areas such as healthcare, education, protection of the environment, social services and elsewhere.
However as the cost to provide public services now exceeds tax revenue that is realized from income tax and provincial sales tax, British Columbia also depends on individual service fees such as MSP and increasingly on resource revenues gained from natural gas, mining and forestry. Yet even with this added revenue the cost of providing government services continues to increase at a pace that exceeds the amount of taxation collected.
These points are a fiscal reality in the current economic environment. Over the next six months as B.C. moves closer to the general election, you will indeed be exposed to an increasing number of different interests that will seek to advocate for increased spending over and above the current amounts that are already at record and unsustainable amounts.
It is critically important to ask where any increased spending on government services will come from. It was not so long ago that a majority of British Columbians voted against a taxation system that largely leveled the playing field by removing tax exemptions on some products but mostly services that were subject to federal taxation but not provincial.
More recently it has been suggested that increased spending can come from increasing taxes on employers, who not unlike government, also need to cover operating costs from sales revenue realized from customers. In many respect sales revenue to a business is similar to tax revenue for government in that funds are required to cover costs. It should also be noted that much as there is only one taxpayer, there is also only one consumer who in many cases is one and the same.
When expenses continue to exceed revenue long term problems develop that in the private sector lead to job losses and increased unemployment that in turn also has a negative impact on government revenues that we must not overlook. Let us never take for granted the importance of employment and jobs in supporting our quality of life and providing the government services we depend upon.