By Dan Kelly
Published in Canadian SME on August 1, 2019.
Running a small business is often about making sacrifices: you take the risks, work the long hours, deal with mountains of red tape and pay yourself last, after your employees, suppliers and taxes, so you can provide jobs and keep local economies running.
As Canada prepares to vote in the upcoming federal election on October 21, CFIB is putting the people who make these sacrifices front and centre asking all parties to include our recommendations in their election platforms. To this end, we asked our members what their biggest concerns are and which measures would help them most, and created a Small Business Platform to provide all parties with small business friendly ideas. We’ve spent the past few months presenting the platform to Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Party politicians and will continue to meet with candidates, study the platforms of the various parties and hold them accountable to their promises after the election.
But as small business owners, employers and community members you also have an important part to play. In the coming months, you may be approached by your local candidates or their representatives. You will see ads, lawn signs, petitions, polls, debates and opinion pieces. I encourage you to engage with the candidates, to make your challenges known and to ask them what they’re going to do to support your small business.
After all, 99.9 per cent of Canadian businesses have fewer than 500 employees and 86 per cent have fewer than five. Small businesses were responsible for 85 per cent of the net new jobs created between 2013 and 2017. Small business is everyone’s business and we want the federal parties to take notice.
Here are three questions you should ask your local candidates before the election. You can count on us to do the same!
What is your plan for tackling the affordability crunch facing small businesses?
You are facing a slew of tax increases in the coming years. On top of this year’s Canada Pension Plan increase, premiums for employers and employees will continue to rise for the next six years.
The federal government also imposed a new carbon tax in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick, and will roll it out in Alberta at the start of next year.
Small businesses are on the hook for almost 50 per cent of the carbon tax revenues, but will only get a sliver of their costs back in rebates – if they spend a substantial amount of money on certain projects.
Our members have told us that these new costs are unsustainable, so we’re asking all parties to halt further increases to the CPP, as well as to repeal the federal carbon tax and work with the provinces on approaches to climate change that do not negatively impact small businesses.
How will you help businesses like mine find the right people for the job?
Small businesses are facing an unprecedented labour shortage – 435,000 jobs went unfilled for at least four months in the first quarter of 2019 due to a lack of interested and qualified candidates. All those job vacancies lower businesses’ productivity, cost them new opportunities and block their ability to grow.
Of course, you can probably recruit less experienced workers and train them up for the jobs you need filled, but that’s a big investment of time and money. The government can help offset some of those costs – and incentivize hiring young people – by introducing a training tax credit.
The immigration system could also help alleviate the labour shortage, but it needs to be retooled for today’s labour market. An “Introduction to Canada Visa” like the one we’re proposing in this election would create a pathway to permanent residency for temporary foreign workers at all skill levels, bringing more prospective staff into the workforce.
How will you make sure small businesses are at an equal footing in the financial industry?
Accessing financing is a major barrier to entry and growth for small businesses, as many are denied loans by the big banks. In the last few years, the financial industry has come out with a lot of cool innovations that have great potential for small firms, including online lending. However, we don’t want to see these new players charge you usurious rates or lock you into unfair contracts.
CFIB is calling on the government to ensure that there is a fair dispute resolution system in place for financial industry incumbents and newcomers administered by an independent, not-for-profit entity that has the ability to resolve complaints.
CFIB takes its commitment to non-partisanship very seriously. We work with all parties to ensure the voice of small business is heard and we commend good policy and criticize bad policy when we see it, no matter where it comes from. To that end, I encourage all small business owners to stay informed and share their concerns with the federal parties in the lead up to the election. Visit cfib.ca/election for more information on how you can get involved.