Supporting Small Business
This past week was National Small Business Week in Manitoba and across Canada and there were a series of events held to show support for small businesses and their owners. It has long been recognized that small business is the engine of the economy and is often the lifeblood of many communities.
While most small business owners are quick in surveys to cite the positive aspects of owning their own small business (notably the challenge and pride of growing a business), there are ever increasing challenges and pressures on small business owners. Already entrepreneurs are often working long and difficult hours to keep their business moving in the right direction. Small Business Week is partially about encouraging government to create policies that foster small business and to ensure it doesn’t make decisions that make it even harder for a small business to succeed.
It was unfortunate that the most recent survey of business owners in the province of Manitoba showed that optimism is down for the third straight reporting period. In fact optimism among Manitoba business owners was among the lowest in the country.
There were a number of reasons that business owners identified for their lack of optimism. One was the increase of taxes and regulations that they are facing in Manitoba. Most small business owners operate on narrow profit margins and with few staff. Increasing taxes and adding regulations makes staying in business and keeping employees more difficult and increasing red tape takes time away from being able to run the business.
Another concern raised in the survey was the growing cost of insurance. This isn’t surprising considering the NDP government increased the cost of insurance by 7% in the spring of this year by adding provincial sales tax to most insurance products.
One of the key concerns for business owners was their inability to find adequate skilled labour. This was seen in recent census numbers that showed that far more people were leaving Manitoba for other parts of Canada than were coming to Manitoba from other provinces. Many of the people leaving for other provinces are skilled laborers who have decided not to make Manitoba their home.
These concerns are very real and they need to be taken seriously by the provincial NDP government. Small businesses are key employers across the province and in virtually every community. Tax and red tape policies that make it more difficult for entrepreneurs to operate their small business hurts the economy and it hurts Manitobans. Hopefully National Small Business Week and the collective voice of entrepreneurs will be heard by the NDP government.