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Cowichan communities join others in multi-community business licence

Business leaders and politicians say they have eliminated some red tape for local entrepreneurs with the launch of the Mid-Island Inter-Community Business Licence.

Starting Jan.1, businesses can purchase a licence that allows them to legally operate in Duncan, North Cowichan and 10 other communities from here to Campbell River.

“Up until now, there has been a lot of red tape for businesses,” Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said during a news conference at a construction site Thursday in her constituency. “This is a helping hand for them.”

Contractors and others who find themselves doing work in, say, Parksville one day and Lake Cowichan the next, can now purchase a business licence in their home community and add this new licence for a fee.

To comply with the current bylaws of most communities, businesses must have a licence to operate in each separate community. The price of this supplementary licence has not been released.

“We have projects scattered throughout Central Vancouver Island so we are thrilled about (the new licence),” said Rob McGorman, owner of Bayshore Construction in Parksville. “It will save us time and money and support the future success of our business.”

There are still a few wrinkles officials would like to see ironed out. For example, there are no requirements for small businesses based in unincorporated regional district communities to purchase any kind of business licence.

There were other concerns raised by town and city politicians and others about how cash-strapped municipalities would find the staff and resources to do any enforcement related to non-complying businesses.

There were also concerns raised by individual communities about losing business-licence revenue from the new program, money that many communities roll over to chambers of commerce to run tourist information booths and other programs.

Kim Burden, the executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce said data from other places in the province that have this type of mobile licence shows towns and cities don’t lose revenue.

She tried to paint a picture of how this would help businesses.

“We are within spitting distance of four or five communities that all have business licences,” said Burden. “It’s great for our members to move freely between those jurisdictions without having to go through the process of getting a business licence in every jurisdiction they work in.

“And it brings other businesses into our jurisdiction that might not normally come here, to perhaps fill a void. And it opens up that co-operation between municipalities.”

Port Alberni Mayor John Douglas said he agreed with that bigger-picture view.

“I think it makes a lot of sense and will promote economic growth in the entire region,” said Douglas. “We can’t be insular. I believe in shopping local but I also believe in being competitive. It’s sort of like tourism — we shouldn’t fight each other to get tourists just to one town. We want them (tourists) all on Vancouver Island and share them.”

The 12 participating municipalities in the Mid-Island program are: Campbell River, Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland, Duncan, Lake Cowichan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, North Cowichan, Parksville, Port Alberni, and Qualicum Beach.

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