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LETTER: Small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador need help

In early May, there will be a new premier in Newfoundland and Labrador. The challenges facing the province are daunting, but they are not insurmountable.

In the last few years, many small-business owners have been struggling with generating enough revenue to cover costs. They look to the future and only see continued cost growth. Increases in Canada Pension Plan premiums and rising minimum wages rates in the next 18 months will add to labour costs; there’s no guarantee their electricity rates won’t increase substantially in the next few years; and the recent provincial solid waste management report, if implemented as recommended, will drastically add to the cost burden.

It all adds up.

Small-business owners have been looking to their provincial government for help, but there hasn’t been any. As it stands, this will continue.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) members are having a hard time running their businesses. Yes, there are positive stories in some sectors, but for the most part, our economy is underperforming. Business confidence is anemic and consumer confidence is no better as more and more residents find it difficult to eke out an existence in this province.

To get an idea of the difficulty many business owners in the province are facing, the January state of emergency in St. John’s is a good case study.

CFIB mentioned to members in St. John’s, based on their feedback, we were advocating for the provincial government to provide financial support to offset eight days of new revenues. In our view, the financial support seemed to be a no-brainer, given the potential negative effect on the provincial economy. Almost to a person, the response was, “It’d be nice, but don’t hold your breath.”

Unfortunately, our members were right.

The provincial government is not going to do anything, waiting instead for the federal government to step up. And the likelihood of that happening is slim.

The provincial government has been tone deaf to the needs of small business owners. Rather, it remains fixated on attracting large industry (regardless of the cost) and maintaining the public sector as the basis for a strong economy.

They could not have been proven more wrong. In the latest Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, there were 9,800 job losses from January 2020 to January 2021. Small businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador are simply not creating jobs.

It is not a matter of government-directed economic diversification, but putting in place the policies that allow all great business ideas to flourish and create jobs. This is what is sorely missing.

If the new premier wants sustainable growth in the provincial economy, small-business owners have to be given the help they so desperately want.

Vaughn Hammond,
Director of Provincial Affairs (N.L.), Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

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