Business Forum raises tax concerns

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Jane Toller takes notes as Caitlin Brubacher addresses her concerns as a business owner in the Pontiac at the first Business Development Forum in Fort Coulonge last Monday.

Nikki Buechler

FORT COULONGE – MRC Warden Jane Toller presided over the first ever Pontiac Business Forum at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Fort-Coulonge on April 17. This was an opportunity for local business owners to voice concerns about business development and challenges faced.

Toller set the tone for the meeting by voicing frustration over the length of time some residents and businesses waited for Quebec Hydro to restore power following the recent ice storms. She also criticized the way Quebec collects tax, in particular the land transfer tax levied against purchasers of property. “This ‘welcome tax’ is a burden for many business owners, and it might make it easier for them if we offered the chance to pay it over three years instead of one lump sum”. Representatives from local municipalities responded it is a provincial tax and not under their control.

John Edelman, owner of Astra Estates in Bristol, questioned the lack of tax incentives offered by municipalities. “We bought this property as a cottage for ourselves, but decided to re-open the golf course. It’s expensive, and we would like a subsidy. We employ local people, and locals use our store.”

Caitlin Brubacher, owner of Elephant in the Attic, in Portage-du-Fort, suggested the current model of separating businesses into “either a for-profit business or a non-profit entity,” lacks nuance. “If you want to start a project that is a social enterprise, of benefit to the community, there should be some way to accommodate these types of enterprises.”

Todd Hoffman, owner of Brauwerk Hoffman, questioned whether businesses operating seasonally should be charged for services year-round: “I’m being charged for garbage collection for 12 months of the year, but we’re only open for half of that.”

A variety of other topics were mentioned during the evening, including the difficulty involved in finding information on government websites, differences in local bylaws causing confusion, and environmental conservation.

“We want to support Pontiac businesses so we can help them succeed,” said Toller. “I’m looking forward to hearing more ideas as we continue to have these types of discussions in the future”.