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Federal government runs risk of ‘driving economy into ground and driving people crazy’ says small business leader

Small business sector sending cry for help to federal government before April budget announcement
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As the federal government prepares to announce its budget April 7, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is expressing concerns that Ottawa will not provide enough help for struggling small businesses across Canada.

“We’re quite concerned that we will see an end to all the pandemic support programs and focus on growing social programs rather than focusing on getting the economy back in order,” said Dan Kelly, Canadian Federation of Independent Business president and CEO, speaking to SooToday in a phone interview from Toronto Thursday.

It is anticipated the feds will announce significant spending on programs such as dental care and pharmacare.

“I’m not arguing that some of the programs would be very worthwhile but the problem is that if we’re trying to do all of them at the same time, we have to sort out who is going to pay for all of these things…small businesses are very afraid that they are going to be looked at as a source of revenue to pay for all of these, either now or in the future,” Kelly said.

“The sheer volume of new social spending could put us on a pathway to make deficits bigger and permanent. We’ve been hoping that the Liberals would focus instead on moving us to more of an economic agenda and getting the economy in better shape but it doesn’t seem like that’s likely.”

“That worries us a great deal,” Kelly said.

“A lot of small firms have been put through the wringer. They’ve been hanging on by a thread. Small businesses are facing a whole bunch of new cost increases in 2022.”

Kelly said the CFIB wants to see a budget with relief for small businesses, especially in the current COVID era.

Kelly also said the CFIB wants to see a freeze on any new government-imposed costs on small businesses such as the carbon tax, increased EI and CPP premiums and would like to see an extension of small business friendly programs such as the Canada Hiring Recovery Program (CRHP).

The CRHP provides funding to help small businesses to hire more staff.

CFIB wants the federal government to extend CRHP to at least September 2022.

Kelly said CFIB wants Ottawa to forgive a larger portion of Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans to small businesses upon successful repayment.  

Kelly said CFIB wants the federal government to ease up on its COVID-19 pandemic restrictions as a way to encourage consumers to have confidence and buy goods and merchandise from small businesses.

While crediting provincial governments — including Ontario — for easing COVID restrictions, Kelly said “the federal government hasn’t.”

CFIB has expressed its concerns to Ottawa, stating the federal government needs to rethink its vaccination mandate.

“It’s been heartening to see that finally public health officials, and provincial governments, are now encouraging people to get back to normal. The federal government has not,” Kelly emphasized, observing that most Canadians have now received COVID-19 vaccination jabs and that it is now time to get back to normal business conditions.

If not, Kelly said, “we run the risk of driving our economy into the ground and driving people crazy.”

As for urging the federal government to heed the Canadian small business community’s concerns, Kelly would only say “we’ve sent a load of letters to the federal government. Help is needed.”

— SooToday