Chamber balks at tax hike

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — A big hike in property taxes is more than some business can handle, according to the president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Charla Robinson attended the City’s pre-budget meeting Thursday night to make a deputation on behalf of the Chamber’s business membership.

“We used the opportunity to really provide a perspective from our members about not only the business climate but the business climate as it relates to the budget,” she told The Chronicle-Journal.

Robinson made it clear that the proposed 6.18-per-cent tax increase is not acceptable to Chamber members and asked for a maximum increase of the tax levy of three per cent.

“We’re also saying they need to put back the $1.3 million (in capital spending), because we know that the infrastructure in the community is failing,” she said. “You can’t keep pushing that can down the road either.”

The Chamber identified many businesses that are struggling in the post-COVID era, saying it will take years to recover.

“But now, piled on top of that are all of the new challenges of supply chain issues and labour shortages, rising labour costs and inflation,” Robinson said. “Businesses are having to adapt. They have to manage price increases to their customers and at some point, if you raise the prices too high it becomes unaffordable for their customers.”

Robinson provided an overview of the different ways that businesses are trying to manage these challenges. Measures include staff reductions, reviewing employee benefits, technology investments and using less office space.

Mayor Ken Boshcoff asked how the Chamber of Commerce supports local retailers. This spurred a discussion about the Chamber’s successful Thunder Bay First campaign that urged people to shop local. Robinson pointed out that many of these tax-paying retailers created online accessibility for shoppers to purchase their merchandise as a result of restrictions during the COVID pandemic. However, businesses also are competing with online retailers all over the world.

“That’s why we need the city council to keep in mind the challenges that our business community is facing, and we really can’t afford another six per cent in taxes at a time when there are so many challenges layered on top of each other,” Robinson added.

Robinson says they are encouraging Chamber members to go online to visit so they can fill out the City’s budget survey. The survey is available until Feb. 4.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal