Test of “mobile business licences” could come this year to reduce costs for small business

The Vancouver Board of Trade’s goal of creating a “mobile business licence” to allow small businesses to operate across municipal boundaries with a single business licence could become a reality in 2013, according to City of Vancouver staff who have been working on a similar proposal.

The call for mobile or and intermunicipal licence (IML) program is a top priority for the BOT, according to the lead article in the January issue of Sounding Board, the board’s newspaper. Based on experience in the Okanagan, the Board aruges that such a program could reduce expenses and regulatory burden on small business.

I’ve submitted a motion to Vancouver’s upcoming council meeting asking city staff to report on work so far to create an IML pilot program. There are problems, of course. Different municipalities have different standards and the cost of enforcement across the entire region can’t be borne by one municipality collecting a single fee.

But mobile businesses in construction contracting and similar fields could pay an extra fee to work across municipal lines, reducing administrative costs both for the contractor and participating municipalities.

According to city staff, Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond have already begun work on an IML pilot program and Burnaby, New Westminster and Delta have recently signed on as well.

My motion seeks a full report to council on work so far and assurance that the Board of Trade will be involved in what seems like a common sense idea to reduce red tape. Here’s the motion:


WHEREAS many small businesses operate across Metro Vancouver in many municipal jurisdictions, each of which requires a separate business licence; and
WHEREAS this duplication imposes a regulatory burden on small businesses and municipalities; and
WHEREAS mobile business licences have already been implemented with some success in the Okanagan and two Metro Vancouver municipalities; and
WHEREAS city staff, as well as the Vancouver Economic Commission, have already begun to analyze the costs and benefits of this approach, including the impacts on city revenue and enforcement; and
WHEREAS the Vancouver Board of Trade has identified mobile licences as an important strategy to foster small business success and reduce regulatory burden;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Council ask staff and the Vancouver Economic Commission to report on the status of the city’s work, including the feasibility of a pilot program, developed in partnership with the Board of Trade and other interested municipalities, to implement a mobile business licensing program.