The wide-ranging, one-on-one discussion with Dan Kelly — president, CEO and chair of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business — included questions on trade, retirement savings and the tax regime for small businesses.
Harper used the platform to announce how a re-elected government Conservative government would aim cut to "red tape" for small businesses, saying that as a first step he would in 2016 launch a renewed round of cross-country consultations with business owners and advocacy groups to gather input on cost-cutting strategies moving forward.
Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the burden of administrative costs for small businesses, Harper said. He's previously pledged to reduce costly regulations by 20 per cent, but he said this morning his government would expand the cuts.
"What we are going to do is expand the baseline on that, so it will not just be 20 per cent off regulations but 20 per cent as deriving from legislation and policies as well. So we want a much broader baseline for which we are reducing the red tape," he said.
Harper also said that if re-elected, his government would "harmonize" regulations on child car seats with the U.S. in a bid to make more products available in Canada.
Following the discussion, Harper took questions from reporters and recent revelations from Senator Mike Duffy's ongoing criminal trial again took the spotlight. Harper, however, again declined to address any specific queries, including questions about what his chief of staff Ray Novak knew about Nigel Wright's plan to personally repay Duffy's inappropriate expenses with a $90,000 cheque.
"I am not going to cherry-pick facts that are in dispute — facts that are in dispute before a court. The fact of the matter is, I have held those who are responsible accountable," Harper said to applause from the audience of supporters.
After the event ended, Kelly said that all of the federal party leaders had been invited to participate in similar events with the CFIB.
The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 19.
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