Government spending, taxes and red tape top concerns
Elections are exciting and bring out the best and worst in us.
The best: Contemplating the future direction of the country, debating policy choices, and thoughtfully deciding how to vote based on what is most important to us.
The worst: Inattention to substance in favour of muck.
The antidote to the latter is to look carefully at the policy platforms (or a reliable summary), particularly with respect to the issues that matter most to you.
To help small businesses, which cover all stripes of the political spectrum, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has put questions to all party leaders on the issues that we know matter most, including spending, taxes, and red tape. Responses will be posted on our website at cfib.ca.
This week, we released the list of policy commitments we would like to see leaders make based on our frequent surveys of small business owners. Below are some of the issues we are following carefully:
1) A balanced budget and government spending
Controlling government spending and debt is supported by 86 per cent of the 6,874 small businesses that responded to a poll last fall on the question of political parties should include in their platforms. A specific commitment that businesses are looking for is that governments balance the budget — something all party leaders have said they would do. Business owners would also like to see more fairness between public- and private-sector wages and benefits (currently, federal public-sector employees earn over 30 per cent more in wages and benefits relative to the same job in the private sector).
The total tax burden consistently ranks among the top challenges for small business owners across Canada on CFIB surveys. One tax issue, sure to get attention during this election campaign, is whether Canada Pension Plan premiums should be increased to ultimately fund higher payouts.
Small business owners and the general public believe there are better ways to help Canadians save for retirement. For example, reducing the tax load in other areas to allow more money to be put into savings or creating some form of incentive like a one-time match to an RRSP contribution to encourage saving.
Another tax issue is the reduction of the small business corporate tax rate, an idea originally brought forward by the NDP in the last federal election. The rate is currently scheduled to be reduced from 11 per cent to nine per cent over four years. All parties seem to agree with this direction.
3) Red tape
Reducing red tape is a high-priority issue that all parties support. The Red Tape Reduction Act, which eliminates one regulation (and equivalent burden) for every new one introduced, had near unanimous support: 245 votes in favour and one opposed. There has been a lot of good work done in this area, some of it started with the previous Liberal government. However, there is a lot more heavy lifting to be done, and 71 per cent of small business owners want to see commitments to this effect in the platforms. In particular, small businesses would like to see the federal government take a page out of B.C.’s policy book and set a red tape reduction target. B.C. reduced its red tape by over 40 per cent relative to its 2001 baseline. Federal parties should commit to at least a 20-per-cent reduction.
A few other tips for sticking to substance: Turn off the attack ads and tune in to the debates. It will be an interesting few months on the federal scene. Good luck staying above the muck!
By Laura Jones
Laura Jones is Executive Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CFIBideas.
As Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, CFIB is Powered by Entrepreneurs™. Established in 1971, CFIB takes direction from more than 109,000 members in every sector nationwide, giving independent business a strong and influential voice at all levels of government and helping to grow the economy.