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Mayoral debate: Commercial taxes, red tape take centre stage

Business improvement associations host candidates' debate

3 min read
caption McPherson and Savage debate city issues. Photo by Jeana Mustain.
Jeana Mustain
McPherson and Savage debate city issues. Photo by Jeana Mustain.
caption Savage and MacPherson debated business issues at a forum moderated by Dan Leger, centre.
Jeana Mustain

A debate between mayoral candidates Lil MacPherson and Mike Savage on Tuesday tackled the challenges small business owners face in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The candidates, speaking at an event hosted by eight local business improvement associations, were asked to offer solutions to one of the biggest hurdles for small businesses: commercial property tax.

The high value of downtown property means businesses located in the city’s core – large and small companies like – pay higher tax rates.

Savage says a plan to fix this is under way, but the city needs the provincial government to approve legislation in order to change the tax assessment system. Approval is expected this fall.

MacPherson, operator of the Wooden Monkey restaurant, says the tax issue and difficulties surrounding business permits need to be fixed. She says she would set up a team to work with small businesses and the government to change the tax assessment system, and make business permits easier to obtain.

“Small businesses are the engine and heart-beat of our city,” said MacPherson.

Fred Connors, owner of FRED, a salon and café on Agricola Street, attended the debate and says he has seen nothing but challenges for small businesses.

“We have a mayor who four years ago promised the red carpet at city hall, not red tape,” he said in an interview.

Savage pointed out that Halifax now has the second fastest-growing economy in Canada. Both Savage and MacPherson spoke about the development of the downtown core.

Many small downtown businesses have lost customers due to the construction of the convention centre on Argyle Street. MacPherson urged more community consultation around development, and more awareness of the affect of downtown construction on businesses.

Biscuit General Store is a boutique department store on Argyle Street. Owner Wendy Friedman said she welcomes the potential for growth, but has some stipulations about development.

“I feel like sometimes our officials are a little too quick to get starry-eyed, and not think about the consequences and the deeper meaning of the choices that we’re making,” she said in an interview at the event.

Writer and consultant Dan Leger moderated the debate. Voting day for the municipal election is Oct. 15.

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