--> Getting It Right: Cambie Line Business Plan?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cambie Line Business Plan?

Laura Jones, the BC Vice-President for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, isn’t against the Canada Line. But she does feel it is “outrageous” that businesses along the Cambie corridor are paying the ultimate price for a public project.

She joined with NDP MLA Gregor Robertson this week calling for compensation for business owners and operators along the line who have seen their business revenues decline from 40 to 60 percent, according to Jones.

There is no secret that the Canada Line construction project is very disruptive. Anyone who has tried to journey east to west or back during rush hour knows the impact of taking out an arterial route does to our car-dependent town.

We also all pretty much knew that the construction would be a royal pain. You can’t tear up a major street and expect life to continue as normal.

Despite assertions to the contrary from Translink and the provincial government, Jones feels that those involved in construction are in denial about the state of affairs for Cambie business.

“It is ridiculous to suggest that business isn’t suffering. Long term, established businesses that have been in successful operation for 18 or 20 years are losing staff and moving out.”

The Canada Line team has tried to help out merchants. They have budgeted $1.5 million on advertising campaigns designed to encourage people to continue to shop in the area. They have conducted community consultations to mitigate some of the worse aspects of the project.

But having attended a meeting a few weeks ago at King Edward and Cambie, I can sympathize with folks trying to shop there – parking is a nightmare and restricted left turns took me on a confusing tour through neighbourhood back lanes.

The provincial government fears setting a precedent for major infrastructure projects and are nervous about potential costs to taxpayers every time there was inconvenient construction.
Robertson’s proposal included property tax breaks and low-cost loans that could be applied for by businesses who could demonstrate that the construction had an impact on their operations.

These shouldn’t break the bank – nor set up the government in a liability perspective, which is their other big concern.

Robertson estimated the total cost for property tax relief at $10 million in his private member’s bill which was shot down in the Victoria Legislature this week.

“This is really about a principle: should a small business pay an inordinate amount of the cost for constructing a service for the public at large?” said Jones.

In other words, should business, in effect, subsidize the construction of rapid transit?

The answer, according to the largest association of small business in Canada, is no.

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