Tri-City Biz group calling for one licence

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and Port Moody Coun. Diana Dilworth weigh-in with their thoughts on the a mobile business licence for the Tri-Cities.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and Port Moody Coun. Diana Dilworth weigh-in with their thoughts on the a mobile business licence for the Tri-Cities.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce is pushing councillors in Coquitlam, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam to adopt a mobile business licensing process that would apply across all three cities.

Mike Hind, the chamber’s executive director, told The Tri-City News the business organization will be making presentations to councils in the coming weeks in order to answer questions and explain the system local businesses would like to see put in place.

Currently, businesses that operate in more than one city must purchase a business licence in each. A mobile business licence would allow the business owner to operate in all three of the municipalities, simplifying the process and saving businesses money.

Hinds said chamber members see the initiative as a first step toward a Metro Vancouver-wide business licensing system.

“What we want is a zone to start with as a pilot project,” Hind said. “We will try and see how it works, with the ultimate goal that it would be expanded across the Lower Mainland.”

One of the main sticking points among the municipalities is money.

Cities rely on the revenue generated by business licence fees in order to pay for bylaw enforcement and processing.

How the money paid for a mobile or joint licence would be distributed among the participating communities is another detail that would have to be considered, said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.

While Stewart called the current system “incredibly onerous” and “unjustifiable,” he said there are many details that need to be worked out before the cities can agree on a mobile business licence process.

“There are some communities that are concerned about revenue,” he said. “Business licences are a source of revenue that funds functions at city hall that will still have to be done.”

Port Moody Coun. Diana Dilworth, who will be part of the Tri-City joint working group that will be looking at the implications of the mobile business licence initiative, agreed with some of Stewart’s concerns.

She said there are more businesses from outside of Port Moody operating within the municipality and the city relies on the revenue generated by those licence fees.

“The potential negative impact to Port Moody is we could lose money,” she said. “I believe there are a number of businesses coming to provide services to our residents but I don’t believe that is offset by the number of Port Moody businesses that are applying here to provide services elsewhere.”

If a system were put in place to pool fees to distribute among the municipalities, the mobile business licence system would be more attractive to Port Moody, Dilworth said.

But the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce chair, Davide Fantillo, said adopting the new system will not necessarily cut the cities’ revenue.

Municipalities that adopted a mobile business licence system in the Okanagan and on Vancouver Island actually saw their revenues increase, he said, adding that in those cases, the streamlined process actually led to an increase in compliance, so more licences were issued.

“It enables people to be honest about doing business in other communities and paying for the privilege of doing that,” Fantillo said. “More people will pay the extra money to get that licence instead of not getting that licence at all.”

The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce is expected to make its presentations to the three Tri-City councils in the next six weeks.

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