Alberta small businesses struggling

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Annie Dormuth is the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Provincial Affairs Director, Alberta.

Annie Dormuth
Annie Dormuth

You are new in this role with the CFIB. Tell me what you see are your key responsibilities in this role?

Dormuth: To advocate on behalf of Alberta’s 10,000 small business members on issues that matter most and directly impact their business. My responsibilities are to ensure our members’ concerns are effectively communicated and represented in government. I come from a small business family and have a unique and personal understanding of the struggles small business owners face daily. It’s an interesting family business. My Dad is the third generation to run our trucking business – hauling aggregate in around the southern part of the province. While I get to advocate for small businesses here in Alberta, my older brother gets to take on the role as the fourth-generation owner.

What is the business mood in Alberta like these days for entrepreneurs?

Dormuth: Confidence has remained low, and relatively stable over the past few months. The latest monthly Business Barometer results from the CFIB show Alberta’s small business confidence index fell by half a point in October to 53.6 points, which is the third lowest in the country. This indicates that small business optimism in the economy remains consistently low. However, in a survey conducted this summer, 83 per cent of our members were hopeful that the provincial budget will improve the overall economy. Now with the budget tabled we are in the process of asking our members their opinions on the government’s long-term plan for jobs and the economy.

What were your thoughts on the provincial budget laid out by the UCP?

Dormuth: I think the Alberta government’s budget steers the ship in the right direction. You know, for 12 of the last 16 years Alberta governments have consistently increased operating spending beyond inflation and population growth. We now have a government with a renewed and much-needed focus on balancing the budget and spending restraint. The government’s plan to balance the budget directly aligns with our members’ views. According to a survey of almost 800 business owners in late July and early August, 99 per cent agreed the government needs to have a meaningful plan in place to reduce spending, while 86 per cent said balancing the budget was important for their business. It’s refreshing to see an Alberta government finally tackle the problem of over spending and focus on fiscal restraint.

What are you hoping to see from the new federal government for small business owners in the future?

Dormuth: CFIB has worked effectively with minority governments in the past and we look forward to working with the government and all parties to advance our members’ priorities. While we do not know who the new Ministers will be, the CFIB’s national team will try to meet all key members of the new cabinet and caucus as soon as possible. The Liberal party included some promises to small business owners during the campaign that were taken from the CFIB’s small business platform. We would like to see the new federal government act on those promises quickly. Some of those promises included: Continuing to work on tax measures to facilitate the intergenerational transfer of farms, making it easier for farmers to transfer or sell family farms to family members or others; Eliminating the “swipe fee” on HST and GST for credit transactions; Increasing basic personal exemption to $15,000 (income free from federal income tax); Moving forward with free trade within Canada; and  Cutting the cost of federal incorporation by 75 per cent, to $50 from $200.

What are the main issues you hear on a daily basis from small business owners?

Dormuth: Although I have been in the position for only a couple of weeks, I will say the main issues that I hear from small businesses is the struggle of navigating needless government red tape, additional taxes and the overall state of the provincial economy. Especially here in Calgary, I think the number one issue that’s on the mind of small business owners is property taxes. On top of that, there is a lot of concern regarding economic uncertainty. Although our members are hopeful the Alberta government will improve the economy, the actual results of their long-term economic and financial plan are yet to be seen.

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