Kristine Simpson receives a gift from incoming Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce president Scott Johnston at the Chamber's annual general meeting on June 16.

Kristine Simpson receives a gift from incoming Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce president Scott Johnston at the Chamber's annual general meeting on June 16.

New office, new president among Chamber changes

Scott Johnston takes over as Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce president

A new, spacious, mortgage-free office; increased voter turnout; action on several issues near and dear to Langley businesses and election of a new president are among a flurry of activity for Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.

All were mentioned in the reports to members at the 84th annual meeting of the Langley business group, held at the Cascades Casino Convention Centre on Tuesday.

Scott Johnston, a lawyer with Campbell Burton McMullan, was named president for a two-year term at the meeting, taking over from Kristine Simpson, an accountant at BDO Canada.

In their reports, the outgoing and incoming presidents spoke of the chamber’s new office facility at 8047 199 St., near the Langley Events Centre. It is larger than the former facility on Glover Road in Langley City, and the chamber has bought it without the need of a mortgage. The other building has been sold and the new facility purchased without any need for a dues increase, secretary-treasurer Paul van Koll told the members.

One of the chamber’s initiatives in recent years was “Your Voice — Your Vote,” designed to educate its members, their employees and the general public  about the importance of voting. Simpson noted that voter turnout in the 2013 provincial election, 2014 municipal election and transit plebiscite in Langley all showed increased participation.

The chamber sponsored a series of leaders’ speeches during the provincial campaign which were well-attended, and also hosted a well-attended debate on the transit plebiscite early this year.

Voter turnout for that plebiscite in Langley City was more than twice as high as in the November municipal election, and numbers in the Township were also considerably higher than in the November municipal vote.

At the recent meeting of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce,  the Langley chamber made progress on resolutions in four areas — the mobile business licence; online municipal voting; property transfer tax reform and collection of duties and taxes at the Canada-U.S. border.

Simpson was also elected to the board of the B.C. chamber at its meeting.

She said one of the most challenging parts of her term in office was the debate on the chamber board and in the community over the transit plebiscite. The board voted not to support the Mayors’ Council proposal for an additional 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund transit improvements, and raised issues about the likelihood of business leakage to Abbotsford, where the higher sales tax would not apply.

“It was draining and stressful,” Simpson told The Times. “I’m glad with where we landed and how we conducted ourselves.”

The Greater Langley Chamber was the only one in Metro Vancouver to take a stance against the proposed sales tax increase.

She highlighted the importance of the chamber’s role in advocacy in her farewell speech Tuesday, noting the motions it put forward to the B.C. chamber and those that will go to the Canadian chamber.

The issue of tax and duty collection at the border is critical to the wellbeing of Langley businesses. Reform of the property transfer tax to boost the level at which it jumps from one per cent to two per cent to $600,000 would have an immediate impact on B.C. residents buying homes, the chamber points out.

“We look forward to the year ahead,” Johnston said.

“We will be working to get our residents to consider Langley first and grow our business community by shopping locally. We will be working with other chambers to strengthen the voice of business.”

Also serving on the chamber board are Jack Nicholson of Otter Co-op, vice- president; Paul van Koll of Deloitte LLP, secretary-treasurer; community directors Rick Barnett, Valley First Aid; Brad Kiendl, HSBC Canada; Mike Morrison, Envision Financial and Scott Waddle, Precision Auto Service; and at-large directors Claude Choquette, Audacious Living; Tammy Rea, TD Canada Trust; Jane Fee, Kwantlen Polytechnic University; Janis Ryder, Trinity Western University; Garth White, Avison Young Commercial Real Estate and Sherri-Lee Woycik, Social Media Minder.