Business licences for non-residents need to change: mayor

Town council sent a recommendation to increase business licence fees for non-resident contractors back to committee for more work at Monday night’s meeting.
While the Planning and Development executive committee had recommended the town charge an annual business licence of $350 for non-resident contractors, as opposed to $35 per job as it currently does, Mayor Dan Onichuk said the one-shot fee only encourages non-resident contractors to come here.
“These contractors come into town, line up jobs, and effectively take business away from contractors that live and work here,” he charged.
“We encourage businesses to start up in the industrial park, but why would they ever do that when they only have to pay a one-shot fee of $350?” the mayor asked.
Mayor Onichuk added this is a very small fee to pay considering local contractors pay much more than $350 in taxes each year.
He also noted the reason why the non-resident business licence fee was ever reviewed in the first place was because of complaints of “red tape”—the fact that non-resident contractors had to go through the trouble of applying for licences for each job.
While the annual licence fee of $350 would be easier for the town to enforce, rather than trying to keep track of each and every job a non-resident contractor does, the mayor said there has to be a better solution.
“I’m confused by the issue. It seems we’re trying to give a break to non-resident contractors,” he noted.
“I can appreciate bylaw doesn’t police this very well,” Mayor Onichuk added. “Perhaps they should find a way to police it better, as opposed to giving [non-resident contractors] a break, making life easier, and putting local contractors out of business.”
Coun. Tannis Drysdale noted the one-shot annual fee does eliminate red tape, to which Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce president Gary Rogozinski, who was on hand for Monday’s meeting, agreed.
Rogozinski added he felt making it easy for non-resident contractors to work here leads to “friendly competition”—and thus better pricing for customers.
“You’re advocating putting local contractors out of business,” replied Mayor Onichuk, adding the town still could find a simple way to keep track of jobs and make non-residents pay for each of them.
For instance, if a non-resident contractor knew they were going to be doing 10 jobs, they could write them all down on a form at once and pay $350—$35 for each job.
Then, after a thousand jobs and they’ve paid $35,000, they’ll find it easier to simply set up shop here, hire some local workers, and contribute to the tax base, the mayor reasoned.
“The issue is a lot bigger than a $35 fee,” argued Rogozinski, adding he felt the lack of incentives and high tax rates were reasons why more businesses don’t start up here.
“I believe in competition, too. So come into town and compete,” remarked the mayor, adding he also felt that business licences currently may protect other forms of businesses here, but they specifically fail to protect local contractors.
A report from Planning and Development superintendent Rick Hallam recommending the amendment to the business licence fees for non-resident contractors was sent back to the Planning and Development executive committee for further discussion and a recommendation.