Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger just can’t seem to catch a break.
Only weeks after an Angus Reid, Global poll suggested that Selinger ranked among the least popular premiers in the country, a national survey released this week by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Manitoba Business found Manitoba business owners are the least confident in the premier and his government to support small business.
In fact, the survey found that in nearly every category surveyed, the Manitoba government and Premier Selinger received the worst ratings for a provincial government or premier.
Only eight per cent of Manitoba small business owners were confident their provincial government has a vision to create a small-businesses-friendly climate — tied for last with Quebec. And when asked whether their premier understands the realities of running a small business, only three per cent of respondents agreed, leaving Premier Selinger tied for last place with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Worse still, less than a quarter of Manitobans surveyed were likely to recommend starting a business in this province.
Saskatchewan received the top marks among the provinces with 72 per cent of entrepreneurs expressing confidence in their government’s vision.
But how can that be? After all, for nearly four years Manitoba’s NDP government has been boasting the elimination of this province’s small-business tax rate.
In 1999, when the NDP came to power, Manitoba had a tax rate of eight per cent, which was then the second highest in the country. As of Dec. 1, 2010, the province became the first in the country to have a zero per cent small-business tax.
That fact was also proclaimed loudly as part of the party’s 2011 election platform. “Small business is the backbone of our economy,” Selinger said in an election platform release. “That’s why we were the first and still the only province to eliminate the small business tax.”
Why then are business owners so cynical? Shouldn’t they be singing the NDP’s praises for eliminating a tax and creating a business-friendly climate?
A press release issued by the CFIB stated that the organization’s report identified “systemic concern” among Manitoba small business owners over the provincial government’s direction on taxation, public finance, labour shortages and consultation on regulatory changes.
Small business owners in Manitoba and Quebec were nearly universal in pointing to excessive red tape and bureaucracy coupled with high taxes as contributing to their ire.
And while a majority of small business owners in every province complained about intrusive labour laws, Manitoba was alone in “the significant unhappiness” small business owners expressed regarding their belief that labour laws are tilted too much against the standard of “fair and equitable.” Nearly 80 per cent of Manitoba respondents called for a course correction.
Another report by the CFIB dating back to last October also sheds a little light on the NDP’s dismal standing among business folk. The 2013 report ranked Manitoba sixth among the provinces in terms of small business-friendly tax systems. Though Manitoba scored strongly on corporate taxes, the government scored poorly on premiums and payroll taxes, personal income tax, property tax and sales and excise tax.
And of course one of the biggest bones of contention was last year’s increase to the PST, which followed other tax and user fee increases the previous year.
Essentially, Manitobans and business owners alike are feeling gouged. And that is hardly good for business.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 20, 2014