Letter to Mayor and HRM Council on Tipping Fees

On behalf of its businesses, the North End Business Association sent the following letter to Mayor and Council regarding proposed tipping fee increases of 36% for restaurants for the upcoming year.

Dear Mayor:

On behalf of my membership, I would like to voice my opposition to the recommendation to increase tipping fees by 36% for restaurants.

In 2011, Halifax developed its latest 5-year economic strategy. All three levels of government were around the table. A key objective to promoting a growth-oriented business climate was to “reduce regulatory, tax and policy issues that can inhibit development and investment.” And yet, three years later, businesses continue to see assessment, tax and fee increases that are inhibitive to growth, and few reductions.

In 2013, the Conference Board of Canada estimated Halifax’s GDP growth to be 1.7%. In 2012, it grew by 1.4% – both of these are below national averages. And yet, in our district, property tax assessments have grown by 5-7% annually (with some properties seeing as much as a 300% growth in a year), new taxes have been tacked on for snow removal, parking on residential streets has changed from free to monthly fees, and now tipping fees for restaurants will increase by 36%. Each of these come out of the operations or cash flow that is integral to business investing in progress and expansion.

As well, several of our businesses have lost time and money to uncoordinated and inconsistent permitting (particularly around accessibility), and while the additional permit parking was brought in over a year ago, we still do not have an efficient, electronic way to renew – each employee has to head to a service desk each month to get one.

Each of these in isolation may not be a huge deal – however, in coordination, they are constricting cash flow and productivity at a time where the economy is sluggishly growing. Is it no wonder that we’re not seeing the business growth that the Ivany report suggests we so desperately need?

Council continues to talk about commercial tax reform, waiving development fees, incentives to stimulate business in the urban core, and a reduction of the regulatory burden – but three years after the endorsement of our economic strategy, we need to see motions for actionable, measurable, and tangible action and not just vocal support.

As was said several times at council during the referral of the Regional Plan 4th draft, perfect is the enemy of good – and while ensuring our fee increases are related to actual economic growth is not the perfect way to guarantee business growth, it is a tangible way to start. We can’t wait for the perfect plan and time to act.

Best,

David Fleming

Executive Director

cc: Councillors, Clerk’s Office