Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit December 04, 2017 - 1:15 pm

City reaches out to Iqaluit businesses on licensing reform

“It certainly was a good move on the part of the city to invite business out to honestly discuss”

BETH BROWN
Mona Godin and a table of small business owners and managers brainstorm ways the City of Iqaluit can rework its outdated business licensing system, during a meeting between business owners and city officials held Nov. 30. (BETH BROWN)
Mona Godin and a table of small business owners and managers brainstorm ways the City of Iqaluit can rework its outdated business licensing system, during a meeting between business owners and city officials held Nov. 30. (BETH BROWN)
Rannva Simonsen speaks at a table attended by artists, and by Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern, at a meeting of the Iqaluit business community held Nov. 30. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Rannva Simonsen speaks at a table attended by artists, and by Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern, at a meeting of the Iqaluit business community held Nov. 30. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

The City of Iqaluit just received some much-needed feedback from in-the-know users on the municipality’s working plan to overhaul its business licensing system.

Members of the Iqaluit business community met Nov. 30 for a city-hosted roundtable discussion, aimed at brainstorming possible updates to Iqaluit’s headache-inducing business licensing process.

Right now, every business in Iqaluit, no matter how large or how small, pays the same fee for the same licence and has to renew that licence around the same time each year.

The city’s goal, as discussed in a city economic development committee meeting Nov. 7, is to create a series of tiered licences for small, medium and large business, so that the licences are more accessible and better reflect the Iqaluit business community.

To do this, the city has to amend its business licensing bylaw. 

“Our bylaw is really old and outdated and that’s why you guys are here tonight,” said Coun. Terry Dobbin, who sits on the city economic development committee.

At the workshop, participants broke into groups for small business, large business, contractors, developers, artists and taxis drivers. The event took place in the Koojesse Ball Room at the Frobisher Inn. 

Some suggestions made by attendees were that:

• Licence fees be pro-rated if they are bought part of the way through a year.

• A licence year start on the date of registry, instead of in January.

• Licence classes be ranked by the number of employees.

• Hobbyist licences be given out at no cost.

• Licensing fees be used to foster economic development projects.

• Resident businesses be given more priority than non-resident businesses.

• An extended licence be available for businesses that want to purchase a licence for more than one year.

• Paper trails be reduced by cutting the need for secondary forms.

• The application period be opened earlier in the year.

“It certainly was a good move on the part of the city to invite business out to honestly discuss,” said Matthew Clark, who is president of the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce and a manager at Arctic Co-operatives Ltd.

This meeting acts as public consultation for the coming changes that the city hopes to have in place by next year, said Gabrielle Morrill, the city’s economic development officer.

An online licensing system could also be in the works, thanks to some excess economic development funding that needs to be used this fiscal year.

The hope, besides providing a modern registration process through a business licensing website and online business registry, is to gather Iqaluit-specific economic data that will benefit business owners in future.

“I can’t make any promises, but I would like to see this all amended and the website up in place by March 31,” Morrill said. “We’re hoping this new process will be unveiled by next year’s business licensing, which is Dec. 2018.”

Because funding for the city’s economic development department comes, in part, from the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development, proposals for community economic development projects that the city wants to do in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal year have to be finalized by the end of March.

“The feedback from this event is going to determine what next year’s projects are going to be,” she said. 

But Mona Godin, manager at the small Iqaluit grocer, DJ Specialties, has her doubts.

“I don’t think there is enough change. The changes that they are making aren’t significant enough to matter to businesses,” she said, adding “the online process is going to result in the same amount of paperwork, by their demonstration.”

Godin also questioned the need for annual licence renewal and an annual fee.

“They should have one business licence and that does them until they are done doing business,” she said. “Why renew what you already have?”

Godin and other attendees also said that the city should remove its requirement for businesses to show proof of registration with the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission, or require other forms such as health inspections, to get a business licence. 

The attendees noted that since the territorial government already enforces these requirements, the city shouldn’t have to duplicate those efforts.

“Why is the city making work for themselves and for businesses by requiring that again?” Godin asked.

While it sounded as if annual licence fees will remain roughly the same, the new tiered licensing system would see the current flat rate reduced for smaller businesses, so that a small store like DJ’s is not paying the same for a licence as a larger business like Northmart.

Morrill said the fees are used to cover processing and administration costs, but attendees wanted to see more transparency in how their fees are used.

“It’s a tax on business,” said one attendee at the large business table, who asked for more transparency in how dollars from licensing fees are used.

She also asked that the appeal process for licensing fines be put on the new website.

“The information has to be readily available,” she said. 

Outside of the bylaw amendments, business members also gave suggestions for how the city could be more supportive of economic development in Iqaluit, including:

• Privatization of land development.

• Reduction and proper scaling of fees for commercial garbage collection.

• Speeding up the process for approving new buildings, such as hotels and commercial spaces.

“If you want to attract investors you have to have that friendliness to business,” one attendee said.

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(6) Comments:

#1. Posted by Latner on December 05, 2017

Most of the policies and bylaws are outdated. There is no staff to enforce the bylaws or work the policies. Perhaps we can start by encouraging the mayor to focus on internal city issues HERE rather then conferences around the world on non pertinent issues

#2. Posted by Snodden on December 05, 2017

Too many issues lately. It’s hard for small business owners to succeed. Constant dug up utildors, lack of lots for homeowners… giant apartment complexes seem to get priority over the little guys. The city seems to want to make the big business richer while the little guy struggles. Hey Mayor, and city council what are you doing for Iqaluitmiut?

#3. Posted by Green Machine on December 05, 2017

I wonder if and when anyone in Iqaluit going to open the city’s first dispensary?

Legal cannabis is coming soon, this is a great business opportunity.

#4. Posted by Re: Green Machine on December 05, 2017

Although I would like to see that happen, do you realize where you live? We would need to have 14 years of consultations and town hall style meetings before they would even think about it. Then even if the majority wanted it the minority would whine and moan the loudest as usual.

#5. Posted by Inspector Gadget on December 06, 2017

What is the purpose of a municipal business license in Iqaluit?

If it serves no purpose, then get rid of it.

If it does serve a purpose, then the application process and associated costs should reflect that purpose.

Otherwise, it’s just a tax, “because we want money from wherever we can get it.”

But when was the last time a drug dealer in Iqaluit was charged with:
1. selling drugs, and
2. operating a business without a municipal business license

And when will people selling carvings be asked if they have a business license?

#6. Posted by Under The Radar on December 08, 2017

Too many businesses arenot following the rules: they are operating below the radar and do not apply for a Business License.
Examples are new B & Bs and Air B & B people in Iqaluit who do not have the required health and fire inspection, liability insurance or business license.  This is not fair to those who operate with all the overhead of these things. Fair is fair.  If you are doing this, get what you are supposed to have and compete fairly!

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