Representatives of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses had little but praise for Penticton when they visited the South Okanagan earlier this month.
Dan Kelly, president of the CFIB, and Laura Jones, executive vice-president, visited the community to meet with local businesses and political leaders on June 6.
“That was a great meeting. I love that kind of meeting when they come to town and give us good news statistics,” said Mayor Garry Litke, who spent an afternoon with Jones going over the CFIB’s statistics.
“It was altogether good news and they are continuing to monitor. The nice thing about them is that is an independent source,” said Litke.
Despite a series of cuts and spending restraints since 2009, Penticton’s ranking is only rising slowly in the CFIB’s annual Communities in Boom report.
Kelly said that is likely to change in the coming years, noting that the data the reports use is from previous years.
“With some of the measures that have been taken and if the trend lines continue one would expect that the city’s fortunes in the Communities in Boom report would improve,” said Kelly, pointing out that Penticton had a very loose spending regime prior to the 2009 core review.
“I do know that Penticton has made some progress on the spending side, which has been real progress after years of spending increases,” Kelly said.
“There were some cost restraints in recent years and certainly that has been noticed and appreciated by small businesses in the local area.”
Litke said Jones was also appreciative of the budgeting process Penticton adopted as part of the 2009 core review process.
That, said Litke, has each department starting from zero and justifying their spending annually, rather than working from the previous year’s budget, adding the cost of living and an increase, as Penticton used to and other communities still do.
According to Litke, Jones said they often get stonewalled when they try to talk about budgeting with other mayors.
“She said they cannot understand why the gap between their growth and spending continues to get wider and wider,” said Litke. “We will continue to do the same things we have been doing. Our budget process apparently is very different from most other municipalities.”
Kelly said the CFIB recognizes there are many demands for city resources and many people asking cities to spend more.
“It is very difficult to say no,” said Kelly, adding that from a small business perspective, saying no is appropriate, but not always easy.
“Small firms need to live within their means and our municipal councils, provincial and federal governments need to do the same,” said Kelly.