Small business owners in Vancouver are hoping they'll see some relief from ballooning taxes they say are bleeding them dry after voters elect a new administration later this month.
"We're a small business that has a staff of five people," said Jane Tennant, who owns The Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware on Robson Street.
Given its location, her business is now more viable than ever, but Tennant said she is facing bankruptcy because of property tax bills that have now exceeded rent.
"Our portion of it is around $120,000 and that's over and above all our other expenses," she said, adding that the situation "just doesn't seem reasonable."
For other businesses, it's already too late.
The Dulux paint store that has stood on West Broadway since the early 1970s is shutting its doors next year. The owners expect property taxes to approach $250,000 in 2019, an increase of about 20 per cent in just two years.
Empty storefronts dot Vancouver's retail landscape, with mushrooming property taxes a common theme.
"The City of Vancouver has been widening the gap between residential and commercial rates, unlike other places in Canada," said Amy Robinson of LoCo BC, which advocates on behalf of small businesses in the province.
Not only are businesses paying more than homeowners, but areas that have been rezoned for condos have skyrocketed in assessed value. Businesses are now paying for that development potential even though the theoretical value of their locations has not yet been realized.
"There's only so many sales that can support that kind of operating cost," Robinson said.
Combined with the delays and costs associated with the long and labourious licensing process, small business advocates say it's a serious municipal election issue.
"These issues need to be addressed and there's an opportunity to make Vancouver a much more business-friendly place," Robinson said.
The five front runners for the city's top job agree with so-called split assessments, which base taxes on the current value of a property, to lessen the tax burden on businesses, but a detailed plan is hard to find.
Tennant, meanwhile, said voters should consider the effect that losing small businesses would have on their community.
"If you bankrupt and put small business out of business all over the city, how will the city look?" she said.
Vancouverites will head to the polls on Oct. 20 to elect their new mayor and city councillors.
Looking for more information, including voter resources, key issues, and an interactive map of who's running in each municipality? Check out our Election 2018 microsite.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos