Small businesses and farms drive our economy

By MPP Toby Barrett

Small businesses and farms form the backbone of our economy. They are the sources of not only jobs and opportunity, but also the innovation and risk-taking that comprise a strong, modern economy.

Small businesses and farms must have every possible advantage to succeed and grow. They are our engines of growth, job creation, and prosperity. What they require is fair, helpful, and equal treatment from government with as little intrusion as possible.

Ontario is home to more than 379,000 small and medium-sized businesses accounting for approximately $245 billion in annual economic activity. According to Statistics Canada, 94 per cent of Ontario businesses have fewer than 19 employees and 98 per cent have fewer than 50.

Clearly, small business is the hope for renewed job creation in the Province of Ontario.

But for small business to flourish, a number of changes are required, starting with a hard look at the suffocating burden of high taxes and unnecessary red tape.

According to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey last year, 68 per cent of small businesses said the introduction of the HST had a negative effect on their operations. From calls to my office, I can confirm the HST is certainly having an effect on the spending patterns of consumers.

In 2010, the CFIB condemned the WSIB’s hike of employer premiums, calling it an “irresponsible tax grab”. As well, 69 per cent of small businesses indentify time-of-use pricing for electricity as negative. And in another survey this past January, 70 per cent of small businesses told the CFIB the tax and regulatory burden in Ontario is their primary concern.

Dalton McGuinty’s surprise tax grabs have impacted sales taxes, health taxes, eco taxes and business taxes, which have all been raised. Businesses create the jobs our economy needs, therefore it is important to reduce the basic corporate income tax rate from 11.5 per cent to 10 per cent. This change will increase investment and bring additional well-paid private sector jobs to Ontario.

Another worrisome statistic reveals one in four small business owners say if they had known how much red tape and unnecessary paperwork was involved, they would have never set up shop in Ontario.

Business needs to focus on growing, not endless paperwork, forms and directives. Special attention should be paid to the burden faced by our farmers and small businesses.

Ontario has over 500,000 regulations that cost Ontario businesses $11 billion a year. This is the worst regulatory paper burden in Canada. Some of these regulations include, for example, dictating the size of the paper government posters are printed on.

Bureaucratic red tape is a job killer and cripples opportunity for success and growth. Unnecessary rules and regulations, and directives and forms take the fun out of running a farm or business.

The boosting of small businesses and associated jobs will require reducing taxes and red tape. Fast, efficient and customer-friendly service standards for dealings with government are crucial. Business would also welcome choice over mandatory time-of-use energy pricing, greater ability to bid on government contracts, and a formal voice in any legislation or regulation that effects economic growth.

If we are to restore jobs and our economy, we must make these changes a priority.