Laura Jones: Lack of affordability hampers small business



Pete McMartin’s recent column, Running on Empty: The Westside loses its garages, gives an excellent glimpse into the challenges facing many businesses: “Vancouver isn’t only becoming a prohibitively expensive city in which to live, but one, also, in which it’s difficult for small independent businesses to survive.”

It is in vogue for politicians to worry about affordability for the middle class. But what of affordability for small business owners who are themselves typically middle class and who support thousands of middle class jobs?

For the business owners McMartin interviewed, property taxes were a significant factor in their decision to close, with each paying around $100,000 a year in property taxes. When you consider how many auto repairs it would take to pay this tax bill alone, you start to understand the affordability challenges that small business owners face. Business owners also pay provincial and federal income taxes, as well as EI, CPP, and WCB premiums for employees.

On top of government tax bills, business owners must generate enough money to cover the business of being in business — paying for supplies, equipment, rent, employee wages, and their own wages. Artist Andy Warhol captures the creativity this takes: “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Yet the art of running a small business is one that many municipal politicians continue to undermine by making it unaffordable. Overspending has fuelled punitively high levels of property taxes. A resident on an average value property in Vancouver ($1,532,937) pays $5,395 in property taxes while a small business owner pays $22,710 (part of this is provincial school taxes, which are also unfairly high).

For some municipal politicians, including Vancouver’s mayor, support for the “living wage” has become a way to translate concern over affordability into a more concrete policy position. The idea is to pay city staff and those that contract with the city a wage that covers basic costs for a family of four with two income earners. New Westminster was the first municipality to adopt it in 2011.Vancouver’s “living wage,” according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is $20.64 an hour or roughly $40,000 a year. The living wage policy is not so great for small businesses that get shut out of contracting with the city for things such as food deliveries and ground maintenance if they can’t pay their staff the living wage.

In Vancouver, we continue to lose businesses even while our population grows — between 2012 and 2014, there were 987 fewer business licenses issued.

Do these well-intentioned mayors realize that most small business owners fall below the living wage themselves? Business owners earning less than $40,000 a year outnumber those earning more than $250,000 by a ratio of 4 to 1. In fact, about a third of business owners earn less than $33,000 a year, and two-thirds earn less than $73,000 a year.

In the quest to make things affordable for the middle class, policies like the living wage miss the point. A thriving middle class and a healthy small business sector go hand and hand. When small businesses do well, they can afford to hire more and pay more, which is the point. Shouldn’t supporting the art of small business get at least as much attention as the living wage debate does?

The businesses that McMartin interviewed are not alone. In Vancouver, we continue to lose businesses even while our population grows — between 2012 and 2014, there were 987 fewer business licenses issued. Until municipalities get more serious about listening to small business, you can expect more McMartin stories in your neighbourhood. Which begs another important question: How do municipal governments think they will achieve their “affordability”, “sustainability” and “livability” goals without small business?

Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The Legend of Santa Claus

Dr Sarwan Singh Randhawa, Community Librarian – Supervisor, Muriel Arnason Library, FVRL


The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. to a wealthy family in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. His parents died, and he inherited a considerable sum of money, but he kept none of it. He gave away all of his wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.

Nicholas was chosen a bishop by the people of Myra at very young age. But life was not always good for him. He along with many others was thrown into prison for not worshipping himself as a god as declared by the Roman emperor Diocletian. He was released in 313 AD when Diocletian resigned and Constantine came to power. He then returned to his post as Bishop of Myra continuing his good works until his death on December 6, 343.

After Nicholas died, he was canonized as a saint. Much admired for his piety and kindness, he became the subject of many legends. Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6, a holiday in many countries. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married.

Many stories are told of his generosity as he gave his wealth away in the form of gifts to those in need, especially children. Legends tell of him either dropping bags of gold down chimneys or throwing the bags through the windows. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.

By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland. During the Protestant Reformation, German Protestants depicted the Christ child, “Chriskindl”, as a giver of gifts. This helped merge the association of St. Nick with Christmas. Later, this association with Chriskindl was translated to Santa’s other name: Kris Kringle. In England he came to be called Father Christmas, and in the Netherlands, the saint’s name, Sinter Nikolass, became shortened to Sinter Klaas.

The American version of the Santa Claus figure received its inspiration and its name from the Dutch legend of Sinter Klaas, brought by settlers to New York in the 17th century, and the name evolved into what it is today – Santa Claus. As early as 1773 the name appeared in the American press as “St. A Claus”. A popular author, Washington Irving gave Americans detailed information about the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas in his book “History of New York” published in 1809 under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. This Dutch-American Saint Nick achieved his fully Americanized form in 1823 in the poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke. It was further elaborated by illustrator Thomas Nast, who depicted a rotund Santa for Christmas issues of Harper’s magazine from the 1860s to the 1880s.

Finally, from 1931 to 1964, Haddon Sundblom created a new Santa each Christmas for Coca-Cola advertisements that appeared world-wide on the back covers of Post and National Geographic magazines. This is the Santa we know and love today with a red suit trimmed with white fur, leather boots and belt, long white beard and a pack of toys slung onto his back.

In these days, Santa Claus is a symbol of hope, faith and trust. People believe that he is a jolly, happy and really fat (in good sense) guy, who visits on Christmas Eve, entering houses through the chimney to leave presents under the Christmas tree and in the stockings of all good children. In addition, children are taught that Santa rewards the good children and leaves the bad ones empty-handed.

Meet the Trudeaus: Who’s who in Canada’s first and only federal dynasty

By Tristin Hopper

Nationa Post
The United States has the Kennedys and Bushes, Bangladesh has the Sheikh-Wazeds and India has the Nehru-Gandhis. Until now, and the election of Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada has not had a federal dynasty. So here’s a rundown of what Canadians can expect buzzing about 24 Sussex Drive.
Sophie Grégoire
To be sure, Laureen Harper was more comfortable in the spotlight than her husband, but between the Just for Cats festival and the occasional motorcycle ride, the former Alberta farm girl wasn’t seen all that often. By contrast, Sophie Grégoire, the wife of Justin Trudeau, is a former broadcaster and celebrity reporter who seems to share her husband’s love for public affection. She blew kisses during Trudeau’s acceptance speech, she’s posed for magazine covers, she’s given interviews about the “hardship” of a political marriage and the couple always seems to be dipping in for a kiss before the cameras. As a certified yoga instructor and occasional spokeswoman for women’s charities, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Trudeau’s wife to use her newfound notice to roll out some kind of Michelle Obama-esque “wellness” initiative.
Margaret Trudeau
Justin’s mom, the former Mrs. Trudeau, could be forgiven for not having the fondest memories of her son’s new home. The prime ministerial residence, of course, was where her relationship to Pierre steadily deteriorated into the couple’s 1984 divorce. As a lifelong sufferer of bipolar disorder, the public eye hasn’t always been good to her. But on Election Night, the 67-year-old grandmother was all pride. “[Justin’s] always won whatever he took on … but this one he took on with such passion,” she told CTV cameras.
Alexandre “Sacha” Trudeau
Just like his older brother, Alexandre has endured the subtle annoyances of being Pierre Trudeau’s son. Namely, showing up to Liberal events and having a bunch of Old Spice-wearing oldtimers asking him “when are you going to run?” But while Alexander has eschewed partisan politics, he has been known to champion lefty causes: opposing Canadian intervention in Afghanistan, decrying the Israeli blockage of Gaza and, in 2006, penning a glowing Toronto Star editorial for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. “He is an expert on genetics, on automobile combustion engines, on stock markets. On everything … he is somewhat of a Superman,” wrote Trudeau. But Alexandre also keeps a low profile. Unless he suddenly starts publishing paeans to Kim Jong-un, the younger Trudeau may eke out the new Trudeau era in relative obscurity.
The kids
In his Monday night acceptance speech, Trudeau addressed his children Hadrien, Xavier and Ella-Grace, who were all asleep. “There will be some tough times for you as children of a prime minister, but daddy will be there for you,” he said. Trudeau has been quite candid about how abnormal it is to grow up in 24 Sussex. In a 2010 interview on CPAC, he remembered misinterpreting the text on a box of Alpen cereal claiming it was perfect for “the men around the house.” Said Trudeau, “for me, the ‘men around the house’ were the night watchmen that wandered through the halls of 24 Sussex.”
The Coynes
The mother of Pierre Trudeau’s fourth child is Deborah Coyne, the Constitutional lawyer who unsuccessfully challenged Justin for the Liberal leadership in 2013. In fact, she just wrapped up an unsuccessful campaign for the Green Party in the Ottawa riding of Carleton. But Justin has been almost completely estranged from Deborah and his 23-year-old half-sister Sarah Coyne. And in this latest election, when a reporter inevitably asked Sarah about her own political ambitions, she replied “it’s not something I’ve thought about.”

Opinion: Three things everyone should know about autism in Canada

Until recently, the federal government has done little to address the crisis faced by autism families across the country and has left the issue to the provinces to manage. But things are starting to change — for the better.

Earlier this month, the federal government appointed an “Autism Spectrum Disorder Working Group” with a $2 million budget to develop a plan for a “Canadian Autism Partnership” that will address autism research, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, among other issues.

It’s a good step forward, but much more is needed, particularly on the health and educational services side of the issue, so that real families get real help, now.

As governments across the country tackle the gap between need and resources, here are a few things everyone should know:


  1. Autism is not a mental illness or a learning disability. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by impaired verbal and social communication; rigid, restrictive and repetitive behaviours; uneven intellectual development; sensitivity to sensory input; challenges with fine and gross motor skills, among other characteristics.

Autism is more accurately referred to as “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) because each person on the spectrum can exhibit a differing array of these characteristics with wide-ranging severity.

  1. The rate of autism in Canada is not yet fully known, but we have recent estimates. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionestimate1 in 68 children in the United States has ASD. Since autism is five times more prevalent in boys than girls, they estimate 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls has ASD in the U.S.

So what are the rates in Canada? And are they on the rise?

“Our best estimate at this time is that ASD affects 1 in 94 children six to nine years of age,” according to Dr. Hélène Ouellette-Kuntz, Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Queen’s University and Director of The National Epidemiologic Database for the Study of Autism in Canada (NEDSAC). The estimate is based on diagnostic and services data from Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Southeastern Ontario from 2003-2010.

What we know from NEDSAC published materials suggests that autism rates are on the rise in Canada, though they vary widely across the studied regions. Even when you factor in increases due to the identification of previously undetected cases and other factors, “we cannot rule out the possibility of a true increase in incidence,” says Ouellete-Kuntz.

  1. Families often wait several years to access autism services covered by the public health-care system. It is not uncommon for families to wait several years to receive a diagnosis of autism for their child from publicly funded health services in most provinces. Once a child is diagnosed, interventions with a strong evidence base, such as behavioural therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy, have wait times of several months up to several years in most places across the country. Once services are received, families have access to these therapies for only limited time periods and often beyond the window of time most experts believe optimal.

The wide range in disparity of publicly funded services for autism across the country has even generated a kind of “medical migration” with several published accounts of families leaving their home provinces to move to Alberta or British Columbia, where services are more readily available and more flexible.

It is also no longer uncommon to find Canadian families using crowd sourcing campaigns to fund their children’s therapies.



Published on: July 28, 2015 | Last Updated: July 28, 2015 1:17 PM EDT

Kathleen O’Grady is a research associate at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University and managing editor, She is based in Ottawa and has two young sons, one with autism. \

Teachers must replace angry, combative BCTF leaders:Keith MacIntyre

Last year, I ran for school trustee in Penticton, falling one position short of winning. Through the process, I met other trustees, the superintendent of schools, teachers, principals, parents, students, the union, MLAs and many citizens in my district.

One thing that really stood out is how much anger there still is in the school system, even though the teachers’ strike is over.

It is disheartening to see teachers (not all mind you) going to work angry — angry at past deals, the strike, the current deal and the union’s court battle with the provincial government. How tiring it must be to go to work like that every day. Continue reading Teachers must replace angry, combative BCTF leaders:Keith MacIntyre

Income Splitting: Huge Tax Cuts for Rich Families

by Kathleen A. Lahey

After running up $164 billion in total annual deficits between 2008/9 and 2014/15, the Harper government says it will have a $3.7 billion surplus in 2015/16 – and plans to spend nearly $3 billion of it on parental income splitting. Although government references to this plan have been muted, with vague references to ‘new tax cuts,’ the promise of parental income splitting has been on the agenda for years. And there is good reason to keep the details vague. It is beyond dispute that parental income splitting will give lavish tax benefits to the richest families while giving shockingly small benefits to those who actually need them the most. Continue reading Income Splitting: Huge Tax Cuts for Rich Families