Canada Election 2021: Small Business Outlook

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(L-R) Erin O’Toole (Conservative), Annamie Paul (Green), Justin Trudeau (Liberal), Jagmeet Singh (NDP), Yves-François Blanchet (Bloc Québecois)

Each party has their own platform pledges, but how do they impact business owners?

In the run-up to Canada’s federal election on September 20, the economy and environment are topics that are most resonating with voters across the country.

As far as small businesses (including many of those in the automotive sector) are concerned, each political party’s platform offers both pros and cons.

According to a press release from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), the economy is a key concern for voters, with 78 percent of those surveyed saying it was top of mind.

And yet, confidence among business owners that their concerns will actually receive enough attention from any of the five parties is pretty low at just 24%.

To help voice their concerns, the CFIB launched a new petition that business owners can sign at cfib.ca/electionpetition to tell all federal parties what measures they want to see on their platforms.

Issues addressed

Additionally, based on the results from a separate public opinion poll that the CFIB conducted among members of the Angus Reid Forum, Canadians do want to see small business issues addressed in the upcoming federal election.

Among these issues, the economy ranked at 59% while small business recovery stood at 47%, both making them among the top five political issues related to this latest federal election.

Additionally, more than nine in ten Canadians (93%) agreed that small business recovery is crucial for Canada’s economic recovery, with 83% also saying a strong small business platform will be important in this election.

The measures business owners want to see included in federal party platforms include:

  • A clear, detailed economic recovery plan (81%), including improving COVID-19 relief programs like the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), and wage and rent support for all small businesses.
  • Plans to reduce the overall tax burden on small businesses (77%)
  • A commitment to control government spending, and a timeframe for balancing the budget (72%)
  • A plan that ensures any future changes to Employment Insurance are made with small businesses in mind (71%)
  • Policies to address labour and skills shortages (58%).

Given that many small businesses have been struggling since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada last March, there is a great deal of anticipation when it comes to seeing an actual economic recovery. This sentiment was summed up in a statement from CFIB President Dan Kelly.

“Small businesses have been through the wringer over the past 16 months, and many are looking at a long and bumpy road to recovery,” said Kelly. “They want to see all political parties commit to real measures that can support them now that an election has been called.”

So, what are each of the parties offering for small businesses with their election platform? In a nutshell, this is it:

Conservative Party of Canada

  • Creating a Job Surge Plan for all businesses (including those established since the beginning of the pandemic) that pays up to 50% of the salary of new hires for six months following the end of the Canada Economic Wage Subsidy (CEWS) initiative.
  • Create a Main Street Business Loan program (essentially an expanded Canada Emergency Business Account) which will offer loans of up to $200,000 with up to 25% of the loan forgivable (depending on the business itself)
  • Officially appoint a minister who will be responsible for reducing red tape for businesses
  • Offer Employment Insurance type payments for businesses that employ independent contractor/gig workers
  • No plans for extending the existing wage and rent subsidy programs

Liberal Party of Canada

  • Plans to extend the Canada Recovery Hiring Program (CRHP) until March 2022 for businesses that have continued to experience revenue losses (the CRHP supports up to a 50% of incremental increases in the costs of staffing for business since Spring 2021)
  • Offer temporary subsidy support for businesses operating in the tourism sector until March 2022 (up to 75% of wage and rent expenses). These subsidies are only for those businesses that have seen revenue drop by 40% or more)
  • Offer 10 days or paid sick leave for federally regulated employees via amendments to the existing Labour Code and working with individual provinces and territories on legislating sick leave in different areas of the country.
  • Matching ticket sales for cultural venues such as theatres and performing arts venues to hedge against reduced audience capacity (until March 2022)
  • No plans for extending the existing wage or rent subsidy programs

National Democratic Party (NDP)

  • Create a hiring bonus program that pays the employer’s portion of Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan for newly hired workers.
  • Continue with CEWS and CERS programs until businesses are able to fully re-open
  • Offer a single point of contact aimed at simplifying regulatory processes and compliance requirements for businesses
  • Boost the capital gains inclusion rate from 50% to 75%

Green Party of Canada

  • Continue with CEWS and CERS programs until COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are fully removed
  • Eliminate duplication of tax filings and reduce red tape for businesses
  • Keep business taxation rates at no more than 9%
  • Create a guaranteed livable income
  • Increase the Carbon Tax rate by $25 per tonne every year from 2022 until 2030

Bloc Québécois

  • Elimination of the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) program in all sectors except those where recovery is sluggish.
  • Lower credit card fees for businesses
  • Increase the amount of time required to pay back loans offered during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • No plans to extend CEWS/CERS beyond existing terms

People’s Party of Canada (PPC)

  • Eliminate the fiscal deficit through measures of spending cuts and fiscal prudence
  • Reduce corporate and personal income tax rates, along with personal capital gains taxes once the deficit has been eliminated
  • Phase-out all COVID related subsidy programs, including CEWS/CERS
  • Reduce the total number of official immigrants admitted to Canada each year and place restrictions on temporary foreign workers

At the time this article was posted, the outcome of the election was still very much undecided.

Yet no matter who Canadians end up choosing on September 20, let’s hope the party that forms the next government recognizes the contributions and economic wealth that small businesses bring to Canada’s national economy and by doing so enable us, as a nation to move down a path toward true economic recovery and prosperity.

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