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Castlegar mayor calls on small business to "step up"

Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff threw down the gauntlet for the city's small business community at the Chamber of Commerce's annual general meeting at the Fireside Inn last night.

"There's a change coming that will effect absolutely everyone, not just in Castlegar, but throughout the entire province," he said. "Small business in B.C. employs one million people, accounts for over a third of the province's gross domestic product, represents 56 per cent of private sector jobs ...that's huge."

He said the emergence of small business as a force to be reckoned with, in B.C. more than any other Canadian province, means a commensurate responsibility in decision-making that will shape the community in the years and decades to come.

"The question becomes, what role does small business play?" he said, adding now is an opportune time for small business owners to take more interest in governance and offer more input to the process - the obvious example being taxation.

He said now, as the city and province revisit the current taxation model - a model that no longer works, he said - is a prime time for small business to get involved and help develop a new, more effective model. Complaining after the fact, he added, is by far the poorer option for everyone involved.

"Input, to me, is the key to the whole thing," he said. "If you buy into the process as a stakeholder, there'll be a better end result, one you understand, and one you're happier with."

In the past, he said, a lot of community consultations have seen five, maybe six people on hand to offer commentary and suggestions. He said that has to change, and an important place for that change to begin is within the small business community.

"The major industry taxation model has to change, and we're not looking to off-load that burden onto small business - we're looking to them to engage in the process and help us develop a system that does work."

To that end, the city has invited the Chamber of Commerce to provide ideas, suggestions and opinions as the process evolves, and Chernoff said he hopes small business owners in the community will do likewise.

"At the end of the day, that's what it's about ...who shows up and who doesn't," he said.