If your only exposure to federal politics was the cut-and-thrust of Question Period, or the attack ads we see during election campaigns, you might come to the conclusion that Canadian democracy is entirely partisan and borderline dysfunctional. And while our political environment can leave much to be desired, it doesn't tell the whole story.
After years of living and working in Ottawa, I'll let you in on a little secret about our nation's capital: many Members of Parliament -- even ones who belong to different parties -- can actually get along quite well. Also, under the right circumstances, MPs can agree with each other more often than they disagree.
One of the topics that seems to bring MPs -- and Canadians as a whole -- together is a belief in small business. According to an Angus Reid survey that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) commissioned last year with HP Canada and Intel Canada, 98 per cent of Canadians said that small business is important to Canada's future.
With so much goodwill towards entrepreneurs out there, politicians of every political stripe tend to listen to CFIB, even on occasions when they may not want to hear our message. CFIB has plenty of hard-fought victories under our belt, but every now and then we're able to accomplish something spectacular.
Last year, CFIB managed to get Conservatives, New Democrats and Liberals to endorse our Small Business Saturday initiative, which encouraged Canadians to shop in small, locally-owned independent firms.
And earlier this year, approximately 20 MPs from the three main parties (plus one independent) put partisan differences aside in order to focus on Canada's two-million entrepreneurs. They formed the Entrepreneur Caucus on Parliament Hill.
Co-chaired by Conservative Chris Warkentin and New Democrat Glenn Thibault, the Entrepreneur Caucus will meet several times a year to discuss ideas and policies to support small businesses across Canada.
We were very pleased when the new Entrepreneur Caucus invited CFIB to present to its inaugural meeting, and we had five of our top representatives from across Canada share messages they were hearing from our 109,000 members.
We also used the opportunity to share which budget measures small firms are hoping to see in the weeks ahead. Based on survey data from small business owners, CFIB's top six recommendations for Budget 2013 include:
- Freezing CPP/QPP premiums, because entrepreneurs can't afford to pay more;
- Extending the Employment Insurance hiring credit for small businesses and expanding it to include firms with up to 15,000 in EI premiums;
- Lowering the small business corporate tax rate;
- Indexing the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) to inflation;
- Saying focused on eliminating the deficit by 2015/2016 or sooner; and
- Making further reforms to public sector pensions.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy, so it's important we do everything we can to help them thrive. According to July 2012 Industry Canada statistics, small businesses are responsible for 42 per cent of the country's private sector gross domestic product, and employ more than five million people, which is 48 per cent of the private sector labour force.
Getting things done for entrepreneurs should transcend partisan affiliations, so I applaud the MPs who formed the Entrepreneur Caucus. Let's work together and give Canadian small business owners the support they need to grow our economy and build our communities.
Dan Kelly is President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). In this capacity, Dan is the lead spokesperson and advocate for the views of the Federation's 109,000 small and medium-sized member businesses across Canada. Follow Dan on Twitter @CFIB and learn more about CFIB at www.cfib.ca