Missed opportunity to address small business debt and cost pressures
Ottawa, March 28, 2023 – The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is pleased that today’s federal budget confirms a deal to lower credit card fees for small merchants, as promised in last fall’s economic statement. However, the budget was a missed opportunity to provide relief to small businesses facing massive debt loads and increasing costs.
“The biggest win in the 2023 budget is the deal reached with Visa and Mastercard to reduce credit card fees for small business owners,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB president. “A reduction of up to 27% in small business merchant fees is significant, but more details are needed to determine how many small businesses will benefit from this plan.” CFIB has been working closely on this file with the government and is pleased with the commitment to expand reductions to other cards, such as American Express, and ensure the reductions are passed on to small firms by payment processors.
“We were disappointed by the lack of meaningful debt relief for small businesses in the budget, when more than half are still carrying pandemic-related debt at an average of $105,000,” Kelly said. “An extension to the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) ) loan repayment deadline of December 31, 2023, is urgently needed and will be a major priority for CFIB in the weeks ahead.” Businesses can still repay after the deadline, but they will lose the forgivable portion of up to $20,000 and start accruing interest.
CFIB is disappointed that the government continues to project deficits for the foreseeable future resulting in increasing debt charges that will reach $50 billion by 2027-2028. “Bringing the budget back to balance remains a priority for small business owners,” Kelly added.
Importantly, Employment Insurance (EI) premiums are not projected to increase for the next 7 years. Following many years of Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premium hikes and the January 1, 2023, increase in EI, stable EI premiums would help small businesses face many other rising costs of doing business. CFIB was pleased there were no significant new costly benefits added to the EI system within the budget.
“While CFIB is pleased that the government is capping the hike in excise duties on beer, spirits and wine at 2% for 2023, we will continue to press the government to end these automatic tax increases. Sadly, the government missed another opportunity to freeze the upcoming carbon tax hike on April 1, putting further cost pressures on small firms,” Kelly said. The current federal carbon backstop has collected billons in revenues but has returned less than 1% of the funds that were allocated to small businesses in the form of programs and rebates.
Other budget measures
- Employee Ownership Trusts: While CFIB is encouraging the government is moving forward with measures to facilitate the transfer of businesses to their employees, CFIB will review the proposals carefully and propose any changes needed. Getting this right is important as 70% of small business owners are looking to exit their firms in the next decade.
- Intergenerational Transfers: New measures surrounding Bill C-208 hold significant implications for small business owners and require detailed review to ensure they are practical and respect the spirit of the Private Members’ Bill. CFIB will be studying the proposed amendments carefully but is pleased the government will only apply them starting January 1, 2024.
- Internal Trade: The budget commits to reduce internal trade barriers through a Federal Action Plan which includes funding to help identify barriers to trade and explore ways to eliminate them.
- Tradespeople Tool Deduction: It is good news that this deduction will double from $500 to $1,000, allowing tradespeople who provide their own tools as part of their employment to cover rising costs.
CFIB will continue to work with the federal government to advance the issues that matter to small businesses across the country.
For media inquiries or interviews, please contact:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.