B.C. Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston. (Black Press files)

B.C. NDP names small business task force

Trio to tour province looking for economic growth input

B.C. Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston has appointed a three-member small business task force to tour B.C. and come up with recommendations to strengthen the sector.

New Westminster lawyer Micheal Hwang is chairing the task force. The other members are Cybele Negris, CEO of Vancouver-based Webnames.ca, and Shahraz Kassam, owner of Shamin Diamonds in Surrey.

The task force starts its provincial tour in Surrey June 6, visiting Nanaimo June 8, Terrace June 13, Prince George June 14, Richmond June 18, Cranbrook June 26 and Kelowna June 28. There will also be a website to take recommendations from around the province.

The task force is to “get a sense of how to enhance the prosperity of the small business sector,” Ralston said, introducing the members at a bakery in Surrey on Wednesday.

The new NDP government provided a tax break for small business last fall, matching a B.C. Liberal pledge to reduce the small business income tax from 2.5 per cent to two, retroactive to April 2017. But in the February budget, Finance Minister Carole James introduced a new health care payroll tax to take effect in January 2019. It applies to businesses with payrolls of $500,000 and up, to replace revenue from the government’s planned phase-out of Medical Services Plan premiums.

RELATED: Payroll tax cited in declining business confidence

The payroll tax and B.C.’s pipeline and trade dispute with Alberta were cited by small business owners for a decline in optimism in a spring survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Despite their concerns, the CFIB survey showed more than a quarter of B.C. companies were looking to hire in the short term, while nine per cent were expecting to cut back.

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