Most working Canadians are employed by small (1-99 employees) and medium (100-500) sized businesses. In 2015, small businesses contributed 32% to Alberta’s GDP (StatsCan). These businesses are significantly affected by the price of oil and gas, either because they directly service the energy industry, or because they provide housing and other consumer items to a less confident marketplace.
In today’s Alberta economy, it is important that we do not implement policies that will make a bad situation worse. This has been my consistent message since before the Calgary-Foothills by-election. Unfortunately, we keep hearing how small businesses in Alberta are feeling unsupported by their governments.
At 8.1%, Alberta has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the country yet the NDP government insists on an aggressive plan to increase the minimum wage to be highest in the country (by far). A recent C.D. Howe report predicts that this will cause 25,000 job losses here in Alberta by next year. I worry that this will disproportionately affect young people who are eager to get some job experience.
Last spring, with minimal consultation, the NDP government forced through new labour legislation that will facilitate more unionized work places. This sends a signal to investors that Alberta is a riskier and less attractive place to do business.
In the city of Calgary, many small businesses were recently hit with sharp property and business tax increases. This is like rubbing salt into the wound of already lower revenues.
Not to be outdone, the Trudeau government is planning to take away long standing tax measures that have proven to be effective in creating and growing small businesses. Our provincial NDP government has remained silent on this.
On a bright note, my colleague MLA Grant Hunter will be introducing a Private Members Bill this fall that would force government departments to eliminate one or more regulations for every new regulation introduced. Perhaps this small proposal will garner multi-party support.
Prasad Panda, MLA Calgary-Foothills