Small business needs help, we have a plan

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

It’s that time of year in rural Ontario when we focus our attention on planting season, but it’s also planning season for the business community. And as such, you might notice that there’s a plethora of business annual general meetings and chamber of commerce dinners.

To survive, businesses are always running full steam in one form or another and part of what they do is lobby government and politicians. And on that note, I’ve had some interesting meetings with representatives of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), who shared with me the issues affecting their 38,000 small- and medium-sized business members across all sectors throughout Ontario.

Small business is a huge economic driver and amounts to over 97 per cent of all businesses in Ontario. That’s a lot of jobs, innovation, and a big contributor to Ontario’s gross domestic product.

I heard from the CFIB that Ontario’s small business confidence has dropped like a lead balloon. According to the CFIB Business Barometer® index, confidence plummeted drastically since March of this year to 49.2, which puts Ontario in a tie with Quebec for the third lowest business confidence in Canada behind Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. The Business Barometer® index is tracked against the GDP and is an accurate reflection of the economy. It’s measured from 0 to 100 and a level above 50 signals that owners who believe their business performance will be stronger over the next year outstrip owners expecting weaker results. Ontario’s short-term business confidence level for the coming three months also decreased, declining 1.6 points since March to 48.4, coming in at second lowest next to Saskatchewan.

The main reasons behind the drops were insufficient demand, and rising insurance, fuel, tax, and regulatory costs.

In short, small-business owners remain stressed that rising costs are a major barrier. To turn this around, the CFIB encourages the government to take swift action. They gave me several recommendations, which are justified; however, I’ll touch on a few. But I encourage you visit their website for the full list

CFIB recommendations:

Reducing Ontario’s small business tax rate, which is currently 3.2 per cent and tied with Quebec for the highest in Canada. They ask the government to lower the rate, tie it to inflation, with the ultimate goal of reducing it to zero per cent.

Also, they hope the government will immediately increase Ontario’s small business tax rate deduction threshold to $700,000 and index it to inflation every year to avoid future “bracket creep.”

Fuel costs are among CFIB members major concerns. They strongly oppose the federal carbon tax and along with many other valid recommendations, encourage the federal government to expand the carbon tax exemption to all forms of heating fuels.

In April, I asked Premier Ford to follow Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s lead and find creative ways to give Ontarians carbon tax relief and Ford publicly excoriated me and threatened my job in the next election.

One recommendation that might seem big-city oriented but actually isn’t, is construction mitigation. The CFIB urges Ontario to create comprehensive construction mitigation programs to help businesses interrupted by public construction projects. Essentially, they suggest a direct compensation program that is easy to access and provides reasonable and timely monetary compensation.

Side note relating to carbon tax: the CFIB reminds all small businesses to file their taxes by July 15,2024, to be eligible for their refund.

For my part, I will be launching a petition urging the government to follow CFIB’s recommendation to reduce Ontario’s small business tax rate, index it to inflation, and eventually reduce it to zero per cent.

Stay tuned!

MPP Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk