September 21st, 2018

Business Beat: Small business is too big to ignore

By Medicine Hat News on November 1, 2017.

October 15-21 was Small Business Week, which provided an opportunity to celebrate the significance of the nearly 1.2 million small businesses across Canada who represent 97 per cent of all business in our country. Small businesses in our country also employ 70 per cent of Canadians in the private sector, with over 1,127,000 individuals employed by small companies in Alberta alone. Within these small businesses, we have 2.7 million Canadians who are self-employed and another 100,000 new small businesses that are being created every year.

In our region of Medicine Hat, Cypress County and Redcliff, we have 2,890 businesses with 96.2 per cent of those being small businesses. However, that doesn’t include our agricultural businesses, which add an additional 805 farms to the business mix as well.

With this large scale contribution and investment by business to our country, our province, our region and our overall economy, it is difficult to understand why some of the policy agendas of government seemingly have a very obtuse view of these very vital economic drivers.

In a very short time span, we have witnessed a number of reviews, consultations, proposals and changes within labour and tax law that have tremendous impact on the business climate. These areas include minimum wage, employment standards, labour standards, workers compensation, occupational health and safety, farm and ranch workplace legislation, federal corporate tax changes and the new cannabis framework to name a few.

With all of these changes, our role is to make certain that government acknowledges that small business is too big to ignore and that massive wholesale changes simply layer on increased cost and administrative burdens to businesses, many of whom are already working with limited income, budgets, time and resources.

The most recent example is that after the quick 75-day consultation on corporate tax changes, the villainization of business by the federal government and the subsequent push back from business coalitions across Canada, we started to see our federal government change its tone. Our hope is that through this concerted effort by Chambers, business organizations and independent businesses across the country, our government recognized that they cannot ignore the concerns of the business community. As such, the federal government took the opportunity during small business week to affirm the importance of business and make several announcements on the federal tax plans.

Announcements included the reduction of the federal small business tax rate, as well as an announcement not to move forward with proposed measures to limit access to the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption. With passive investments, they ensured all past investments and the income earned from those investments will be protected; that businesses can continue to save for contingencies or future investments in growth; and that a $50,000 threshold on passive income in a year is available to provide more flexibility for business owners to hold savings for multiple purposes, including savings that can later be used for personal benefits such as sick-leave, maternity or parental leave, or retirement. Finance Canada also stated that they will ensure incentives are in place so that Canada’s venture capital and angel investors can continue to invest in the next generation of Canadian innovation. The government also committed to work with family businesses, including farming and fishing businesses, to make it more efficient, or less difficult, to hand down their businesses to the next generation.

We appreciate that the federal government has taken the time to move towards correcting its initial proposals, but we do remain cautious in terms of the details and implementation of these announcements. We also affirm that much more is needed if Canadian, Alberta and, particularly for us, southeast Alberta businesses are to compete.

All levels of government must consider the impact of small business and that it is too big to ignore. We will continue to work with our newly elected local governments; we will persevere with conversations provincially about impacts of the new and proposed legislation and well as those items still in the works. We will encourage the federal government to stop simply tinkering with the tax system, but undertake a comprehensive overhaul through a Royal Commission in order to simplify, modernize and make our tax regime competitive once again.

Our consistent message is that we must have systems, processes, programs and legislation in place that supports a growth agenda because we know that when business wins, we all win. Good public policy should not be about picking winners and losers, but rather creating pragmatic, fair, balanced and sustainable systems that support our businesses and our community.

Lisa Kowalchuk is the executive director of the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce. For more information on this column or the Chamber, contact 403-527-5214.

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