Entrepreneurs consider that government meddling is one of the greatest risks
#LSN_Opinion Risky business
TORONTO, ONTARIO February 4, 2018 (LSN) Imagine opening a business on a busy city street. Your business is the product of months of planning, compliance with government regulations, gathering finances maybe borrowing from family, presenting a business plan to the bank and borrowing more money, hiring staff, sleepless nights of worry, then finally achieving your dream. This happens thousands of times a year in Ontario, where entrepreneurs take enormous risks to provide a livelihood for themselves and their families. Businesses succeed and fail all the time, there are no guarantees.
With all the risks involved in opening and running a successful business, few entrepreneurs consider that government meddling is one of the greatest risks. Worse yet, there are at least three layers of government that each entrepreneur must confront.
Lately Ontario business owners have been impacted by new Federal business tax rules, new Provincial rules micromanaging employee minimum wages and hours, and in some jurisdictions, actual changes to the busy street outside the business by the local municipal government impacting the business plan.
Toronto is an excellent example of the latter. Toronto city council has had no compunction about adjusting city street situations when it is lobbied by environmental groups or any special interest pressure group with an agenda. Last fall, city councillors voted to remove two car lanes permanently from one of the busiest sections of one of the busiest streets in the city. About two and a half kilometres of downtown Bloor Street now has separated bicycle lanes. Presumably this made Bloor safer for bikers, but also removed bikers from parallel and less busy nearby streets. Was there an impact on business along Bloor? Of course, but the “War-on-the-Car” in Toronto has a long history. The incidental fact that Toronto has winter conditions that are less friendly to bikers for 5 months of the year did not seem to phase city councillors. But Bloor is still a thoroughfare, and cars can travel alongside the bikes over its entire length. It could be worse.
The recent Toronto King Street Pilot Project is worse.
Some business owners along busy King Street in Toronto are outraged that city council has decreed a one-year experiment to improve transit reliability, speed, and capacity over a 2.6-kilometre stretch so streetcars would not be as packed and commuters could save some minutes. Along this stretch, left turns are prohibited at most intersections, all on-street parking spots have been removed and drivers are compelled to turn right off King St., at most major intersections 24 hours a day. Make an error on King Street and drivers are subject to fines and demerit points. Needless to say King Street has become deserted and business owners are incensed.
The owner of a small restaurant and bar on King St. Claims his revenue has dropped 50% a day since the pilot project was initiated. In protest he had an ice sculpture of a hand constructed, that showed the middle-finger to the politicians and organized a street protest including a street hockey game on King to demonstrate how deserted it was. Some businesses have laid off employees and what’s, worse is the amount of streetcar commuter time saved is paltry.
The Mayor and city councillors are determined to give the pilot project a chance seemingly without regard to the pleas of business owners. What is most striking here, is the surprise shown by the politicians that people would just desert King St. To sort of make amends, the Mayor announced that he would make free parking available in nearby lots, and he would insert art installations and street performers to attract pedestrian traffic to King St. The question that needs to be asked is why the political planners did not anticipate some negative consequences for businesses on the street?
In this case many people’s livelihoods are being jeopardized by a poorly conceived political decision designed to save commuters just a few minutes each morning. By the time the one year pilot project is done, some of the businesses on King Street may be done as well.
Leader of the Ontario Libertarian Party
Candidate in Markham-Unionville