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Another major Fraser Valley grower condemns health care payroll tax

Another large Fraser Valley greenhouse operator has condemned the new provincial health care payroll tax for loading new costs onto their business.

“It really hurts,” said Dave Van Belle, president of Van Belle Nursery, an Abbotsford-based greenhouse that grows over 400 varieties of plants at four locations covering 100 acres.

Van Belle told The Times his company is “in the same boat” as Langley-based Darvonda Nurseries, which made the news last Tuesday (Feb. 27) when Langley East Liberal MLA Rich Coleman rose during question period in the Victoria legislature to say the Jansen family that operates Darvonda was “blindsided” by the announcement of the tax.

Darvonda co-founder Tamara Jansen estimated the tax would mean $100,000 in added costs for the family business and warned they may be forced to make cuts as a result.

Van Belle, who employs up to 150 people at peak, anticipates the same cost.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Langley greenhouse faces $100K hit from health tax

Van Belle said the tax was “bad for business.”

“It’s maybe good for populist vote-getting,” Van Belle said.

“If they’re (the provincial NDP government) looking for tax revenue, let the (TransMountain) pipeline go through. There’s billions waiting to be happening, to be collected right there.”

He said the government was raising revenue “on the backs of people who are creating jobs (and) the people who are creating jobs like me, are getting sick of it.”

He said his company is re-evaluating its plans as a result.

“There’s only so much you can risk before you start saying, we’re not going to hire any more or we’re going to put a hold,” Van Belle said.

When Coleman brought up the impact of the tax on Darvonda last week, he directed his questions at the provincial minister of agriculture.

“Do you think this family should lay off people, should they reduce production, make it a smaller farm, sell the farm or increase prices?” Coleman said.

Finance minister Finance Minister Carole James responded by saying that most businesses won’t pay the tax or will pay only a portion.

“Anyone with a payroll of under $500,000 will not pay anything,” James said.

The five per cent of businesses with payrolls of more than $1.5 million will pay the full 1.95 per cent, she added. Businesses that fall between will pay a portion of the full tax.

“We are protecting health care that we all care about in this province, and supporting small business, and supporting citizens in British Columbia,” James said.

READ MORE: BC BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

In January, the Van Belle Nursery won two International Grower of the Year Awards at the event hosted by The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) in Essen, Germany.

Van Belle Nursery won in both young plants and finished plants categories to became the first company to ever harvest multiple wins in a single year since the awards began in 2009.

The Abbotsford-based wholesale grower and propagator of ornamental plants was among eight other finalists from The Netherlands, Columbia, Israel, and China.



dan.ferguson@langleytimes.com

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