Calgary city council has stabbed small business in the back, says columnist Chris Nelson.
Usually, it’s wise to avoid overused metaphors, but dodging a bullet fits so snugly.A few years back, the idea of hiring a young journalist crossed my mind; the start of an expansion of work now done alone in my home-based office — a posh term for what would otherwise be called the spare bedroom.Hey, we could soon be doing this, that and, of course, the lucrative other. Maybe some PR work, a spot of media training, more freelance gigs from the rest of Canada and possibly overseas — Mounties, moose and mountains are perennial bestsellers.Thankfully, such stupidity lasted about 48 hours before crumbling in the face of overwhelming obstacles, ones still facing any Calgarian considering such a dubious economic future.Never mind the burden of having someone else’s financial well-being in your own hands, there were myriad rules, regulations and costs suddenly appearing as if by black magic.As if paying other folks’ EI and CPP along with workers’ comp dues, various insurance tallies and such wasn’t enough, there was also the realization proper office space would be required and, with that, came the pivotal moment of clarity — yes, the City of Calgary would soon be after me for small business taxes.No longer would I be a self-employed Calgarian but instead would be transformed into that most endangered of all species — the owner of a small business. (Maybe I could have named it Dodo Media?)The dream was dead: the hope was gone.Regrets, I’ve had a few, as Ol’ Blue Eyes once sang, but not that one. It has proven among the most sensible decisions in 62 years of life. This week proved it beyond doubt.Because if ever there was a defining moment capturing Calgary city council’s bizarre, blinkered and reckless attitude to that alien world beyond the Oz-like purple curtain draped upon itself, it came this week when it managed to not only put the boot into whatever remains of small business enthusiasm in our city but then insisted on the usual pathetic pontificating over the rapidly cooling corpse.We’ve heard for months about the distress small businesses face because of skyrocketing civic taxes imposed to make up the shortfall to city coffers after a hollowing out of the downtown when major energy companies picked up their sticks and left.Not long ago, the mayor told those unfortunate souls getting tax demands that made their eyes water faster than an allergy sufferer camped in a poplar tree, we have your back.Yeah, sure: makes it easier to stick the knife in. You wouldn’t want his council following you onto Juno Beach.Because, despite the endless bleating and promises of action, in the end, they did sweet fanny all and thereby allowed the 2019 tax bills for 8,000 businesses to go out announcing another year of double-digit tax increases.“It is a failure of leadership. They circled around and around and around and finally landed — and have nothing to show for it,” said Richard Truscott of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.He’s right. And this was the bunch of nincompoops who imagined delivering an Olympic Games to our city. What a joke. They couldn’t deliver coals to my hometown of Newcastle, other than by turning Scotswood Road into a bicycle-only thoroughfare.It was always going to happen. This council knows only one thing, to increase spending, jack up taxes and dream up more social engineering claptrap while eyeing huge legacy projects as Calgarians, paying for this ego-enhancing fluff, are left holding an increasingly threadbare bag.Cut spending? They aren’t formatted that way. You might as well ask a cat to bark.OK, here’s a quickie. Sell all city golf courses immediately and axe the staff employed by them. Apply the proceeds to business taxes. Why are we subsidizing golf while the heart and soul of Calgary bleeds out?Ah, why bother. Move on, as I once did, when considering a small business.Chris Nelson is a regular columnist for the Calgary Herald.