Time to pay at­ten­tion to main street, Mr. Tory

City & prov­ince need to make an ef­fort, or we’ll be left with noth­ing but face­less chain stores

Annex Post - - NEWS - RON JOHN­SON

When I go for a cof­fee, I fre­quent a small, lo­cal in­de­pen­dent café, same goes for restau­rants, and other ser­vices. These op­er­a­tions are high on ser­vice and of­fer a su­pe­rior prod­uct of­ten sourced lo­cally or at least roasted in house, and they serve as lit­tle com­mu­nity hubs. But I’m wor­ried that the city has for­got­ten about them and other in­de­pen­dent business.

A lot of ink has been spilled over the rais­ing of the min­i­mum wage and the speed at which it has been im­ple­mented, but I’m OK with the in­crease.

If you work 40 hours a week for $11 per hour, it sim­ply means that even an av­er­age onebed­room apart­ment in the city is unattain­able, let alone, you know, food. That be­ing said, I do think our elected of­fi­cials in all lev­els of govern­ment are mak­ing them­selves look good on the backs of small busi­nesses strug­gling to sur­vive.

If we aren’t care­ful, we might lose them for­ever and we’ll be stuck with ev­ery main street in our amaz­ing neigh­bour­hoods filled with bland and or­di­nary fran­chises owned by face­less cor­po­ra­tions who care lit­tle for your kids’ soc­cer team.

Wher­ever I travel in On­tario, when I pull in to a town or city, I’m greeted by the same plazas with the same big box stores and fran­chise restau­rants, most of which aren’t even Cana­dian com­pa­nies at all. Yes, I’m look­ing at you, Tim Hor­tons.

Is that what we want to see in south Bayview, Yonge-Lawrence, For­est Hill Vil­lage or on the Eglin­ton Way? No, def­i­nitely not. But that’s what we are go­ing to get if some­thing isn’t done. And the peo­ple los­ing their busi­nesses won’t be share­hold­ers in Brazil.

These busi­nesses are be­ing hit from many di­rec­tions at once. Our run­away real es­tate mar­ket has re­sulted in mas­sive prop­erty tax in­creases that land­lords im­me­di­ately pass on to their ten­ants leas­ing out space for restau­rants, book­stores and sa­lons. (On top of that, On­tario’s Com­mer­cial Te­nan­cies Act does not reg­u­late rent in­creases.)

The city has talked of cap­ping tax in­creases, but noth­ing is ap­proved as of yet, and small busi­nesses con­tinue to suf­fer.

Even if they do get ap­proved, it’s a stop-gap mea­sure. What is needed is the the cre­ation of a spe­cial tax clas­si­fi­ca­tion for these busi­nesses to give them some re­lief and breath­ing room so they can con­tinue to pay liv­ing wages and help cre­ate a vi­brant street life in our com­mu­ni­ties.

It can be done. To that end, the city is also study­ing cre­at­ing spe­cial tax classes for things such as live mu­sic venues.

I want to see in­de­pen­dent and unique busi­nesses thrive in Toronto. It makes for a bet­ter city. Hope­fully, this will be an im­por­tant elec­tion is­sue.

Unique main streets with thriv­ing lo­cal busi­nesses make neigh­bour­hoods more liv­able

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