This week’s focus on the race for the City of Dauphin mayor’s chair looks at supports for small business.
The question for candidates David Bosiak and Kerri Riehl was:
Small business is one of the pillars of the community and locally, many small businesses are struggling to rebuild from the devastating effects of the pandemic. What role do you see for the City in facilitating that recovery and do you have any specific programming in mind that would you like to see implemented?
The global pandemic stopped ordinary life in its tracks. We were all there. From family gatherings for weddings and funerals to rites of passage for our young people the usual just didn’t happen. Local businesses were dealt a devastating blow. Things are improving but to start anything from a dead stop takes energy, time and money. Small businesses particularly are dealing with inter-related challenges – from the pandemic, staff shortages, rising input costs, supply chain issues and inflation. As a small business owner of 30 years in Dauphin I have been concerned by the issues facing current businesses. Who will weather this storm? Who won’t? What role can the City play in their recovery?
Firstly, the City should not make life more difficult. The City supports small business (defined by Industry Canada as a firm that has fewer than 100 employees) by making Dauphin an attractive and affordable place to operate. Although the City does not partner directly with businesses, they create the climate where businesses thrive or struggle so should assume responsibility for keeping them in Dauphin. As Mayor I would work with Council to:
• Freeze municipal taxes during recovery period;
• Lower existing service fees and charges to small businesses;
• Not impose new business taxes; and
• Propose an interest free property tax deferral program to assist businesses during pandemic recovery
There is a growing issue with lack of available workers in our region. In order for businesses to have access to the right people at the right time, skill building has to be occurring constantly. Do we need plumbers, electricians, nurses’ aides, practical nurses and child care workers? Those people can be trained right here. Keeping that capacity in place is one plank of recovery. Institutions such as Assiniboine Community College, Dauphin Friendship Centre and Regional Connections (the immigrant support service) have a wealth of courses and support to help people get job-ready. As Mayor I would work closely with these organizations and advocate to them and their various funders for the continuation of education options, settlement services, English-as-a-Second Language classes and literacy classes to provide job seekers the tools to join the labour force and support local business.
There are also structural changes that can be made to support bold and innovative ideas. Dauphin implemented a new accommodation tax this year. I would work with Council and propose the proceeds of this tax be earmarked for economic development initiatives for local businesses. The newly unveiled Dauphin Tourism branding “Adventure From Here On Out” positions Dauphin nicely to attract major events. Such opportunities attract people who spend money at local businesses. I would propose a new “Dauphin Adventure Fund” that would allow local organizations to apply for assistance and seed money to attract more major events to our city. The economic spin-off impact of major events is real, and many Dauphin businesses would benefit from more visitors traveling here to see all we have to offer. I would recommend the current Economic Development Committee expand their work to ensure there is community input into the use of accommodation tax revenues.
There are even smaller businesses that have a few employees or are run by entrepreneurs out of their basements, garages and workshops. These micro-businesses are adding more and more to Dauphin’s economy. I would ensure the City worked in partnership with local organizations the Hub and Community Futures so that entrepreneurs can access loans, training opportunities and assistance with business planning and related needs. I will propose ongoing financial support for the Hub to City Council and be a strong advocate for its approval.
Behind the scenes there are interactions with the City that are not always visible to the general public. Administration must continue to ask themselves - are we making it easy to be in business here or are we making it hard? I would ensure the Economic Development Office continues to work with businesses to smooth out the permitting and development plan process, and to work with new developers to find cost efficiencies and create incentives to stimulate commercial, light industrial and residential housing developments.
Dauphin is a great little City. I know from personal experience it is also a great place to operate a business. Elect me Mayor on October 26th and we will keep moving forward.
Experience is knowledge. I experienced the covid era as the sole owner of a small local business in our community, Riehl Security Solutions. Business owners endured alongside many other professions and people. We certainly were not in a covid pause, we all were in survival mode pivoting and scrambling daily.
As we emerge from the covid 19 crisis, other challenges continue to deeply affect Dauphin’s small businesses including struggles to return to normal revenues, the weight of the covid-related debt businesses were forced to take on to pivot and survive, rising costs on virtually every business expense and a gripping shortage of labor.
Along with the devastation to our local small businesses, our community members are also dealing with a great deal of trauma, loss, high cost of living, and food security. Strong leadership is vital to our community’s recovery.
What role do I see the city in facilitating with regards to recovery?
Principled leadership. For example, several people advised while their businesses were shut down for many months, they never had any contact with our leaders or economic development. However, they received a ticket for a snow-covered sidewalk and suggested a phone call would have been preferred under the circumstances.
As a business owner myself, I have experienced the same lack of regard. My only contact has been letters seeking donation to the city’s Christmas hamper or welcoming programming within the last seven years.
Personally, I served on council for three years. I resigned as my 84-year-old mother was diagnosed and quickly at end of life in B.C. requiring immediate terminal care. City staff are provided with time off and the option to care for their dying parents while small business owners are not. They cannot simply “close shop” and expect to reopen in the future. Councillor Eilers was the only individual who reached out to me upon my resignation and upon the passing of my mother. There was no press release thanking me for my contribution or notifying the citizens of Dauphin of my resignation. As a result, I’ve continued to endure bullying and have had to spend numerous hours dissipating the ripe Dauphin “rumour mill” while it could have been prevented by city administration.
It matters how leaders treat their citizens. Respective investors and existing businesses should be equally welcomed at city hall. Establishing standardized policies to ensure impartiality must be available. Systemic discrimination creates dysfunction. Every citizen must be treated with respect despite differences of opinion, religion, ethnicity, views, socioeconomic status, or associations. That is the role of municipal governance without exception and is law under discrimination legislation.
What programming would I like to see implemented?
Hire a project manager to source different funding grants at all levels of government and manage projects to completion while collaborating with all stakeholders.
Offer flexible business tax payment timelines and business fees without penalties for those businesses greatly impacted by covid. Businesses don’t want a handout; they want a hand up at this difficult time.
City undertake an advertising campaign spotlighting small business in conjunction with the chamber of commerce, economic development, The HUB, Community Futures Parkland, Regional Connections, educational institutions, and other key community partners.
Continue the Parkland committee of reeves and mayors seeking opportunities for economic regional growth in areas such as tourism.