REACT 2008 Article Series - Article #4
Small Business and Rural Sustainability
|Small Business and Rural Sustainability|
Leanne Hachey, Vice-President, Atlantic Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Sustainability means many things to many people. To small businesses, sustainability means being able to stay in business and serve the local community for the long haul.
Sounds simple, right?
There’s nothing simple about business sustainability – all of the shops you’ve seen open and close over the years are a testament to that.
But as every rural community knows, there’s a lot hinging on the sustainability of small businesses that extend far beyond just the business owner.
I emphasize small businesses because the businesses that dot the rural landscape in Nova Scotia are made up of thousands of tiny businesses, each of which employs just a handful of people.
So while they may be small in size, collectively, small businesses are of huge importance.
And for those businesses to operate in your community for the long-term, countless things need to fall into place.
To begin, there has to be a customer base for the product or service and there has to be a supply of solid employees to help run the business. And in rural Nova Scotia, neither one of those elements is a given. Ask any small business owner and they’ll confirm that in a heartbeat.
Of course, business owners have a big role to play in ensuring sustainability. They can – and should – do their homework to make sure they’re offering something the community needs. They can also make their business an attractive place to work to lure and keep solid employees. Finally, they can be innovative and use resources efficiently to reduce wasted materials or wasted time.
But beyond this, there has to be an environment that makes it profitable to run that business. After all, the business owner has a family to feed, employees to pay and customers to serve. And if you’re not making money, none of that can happen.
Here’s where government plays a critical role– and I mean every level of government. After all, all levels of government collect money from both businesses and families in the form of taxation. This influences both a businesses’ ability to invest in bettering their business and a family’s ability to invest in their future.
Of course, few would argue that tax is necessary to fund valued public services. This is a given. The larger question is at what point does tax become excessive and a ‘burden’ or barrier to success - – both for businesses and families.
Unfortunately, in Nova Scotia, tax has grown to be excessive, failing our businesses and families miserably. A whopping 85 per cent of small businesses in Nova Scotia say taxation is the most significant issue facing their business. To be clear, it’s not just Cape Breton small businesses that say there’s a problem: according to research by the New Brunswick government, businesses and families in Nova Scotia pay more corporate and personal income tax than just about every other Canadian.
This doesn’t bode well for business success – after all, they’re trying to compete with businesses facing a lower tax regime. And by extension, this doesn’t bode well for community success.
So while small may be beautiful, rural Nova Scotia needs small to be sustainable. And right now, business sustainability is teetering on the brink.
Business must do its part to set itself up for the long-term. But so too must government.
CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses, representing more than 105,000 business owners who employ 1.25 million Canadians and account for $75 billion in GDP. CFIB has 5,200 members in Nova Scotia.