Folks often say that recessions begin on Bay Street, while recoveries begin on Main Street.
As our province takes its first shaky steps out of the steepest recession in a generation, we should celebrate the success of our small-business sector. Competing in low-margin, labour-intensive industries, these Mom & Pop shops, family restaurant owners, and self-employed tradespeople have endured tough times while displaying unparalleled moxy and entrepreneurial sprit.
Not only have these folks persevered through difficult circumstances, they have done so while carrying the rest of us.
For example, commercial businesses, including small business owners, typically pay a greater share of property tax. Across Alberta, commercial property tax rates are nearly two-and-a-half times the residential rates. In Calgary, commercial property owners pay 3.81 times more than residents. Through the recession, many municipalities opted to increase property taxes, relying on business owners to carry the load.
The vast majority of small business owners also employ at least a few people. As employers, they are required to match every employee’s Canada Pension Plan contributions. In addition, employers match Employment Insurance contributions. Under federal policy changes, both CPP and EI rates are increasing, putting additional pressure on employers.
The provincial government is also dipping into the pockets of small business owners in a variety of ways. As most Albertans are aware, the carbon tax is driving up the cost of both electricity and heat, not to mention the cost of transporting fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs. Additionally, the province has most recently overhauled a series of labour regulations, resulting in significant impacts on small business owners. As a direct result of Bill 17, employees who don’t work on statutory holidays still must be paid for them. Of course, employees should be paid for stat holidays, but this change appears to be particularly punitive. It’s a ludicrous change that will cost restaurant owners tens of thousands of dollars, despite the fact that many don’t even open on Mondays.
These are just six of the ways governments have stacked the deck against small business in recent years. There are many more. The fact that so many managed to endure through the recession is a testament to their perseverance. At the very least, they deserve our admiration and gratitude.
If recessions begin on Bay Street, and recoveries begin on Main Street, just imagine what our small businesses could accomplish if government would get out of the way.
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