“Attention K-Mart shoppers . . .”
One of the horses trotted out inevitably to pull the campaign wagon of conservative politicians is the promise to “help small business”, to make them “more competitive” by cutting taxes, regulatory red tape and bureaucracy. Bravo to the red tape promise – but have we seen it accomplished by any government? Ever?
I’m not sure why the public service with its volumes of regulations is so difficult a challenge for politicians, but I do know that there are even more effective aids than these. Fact: cutting taxes or reducing employee benefits will hardly be noticed by small business – most don’t earn enough profit to pay much in taxes! Direct fees, remittances, penalties, and other charges are much more onerous. Tax cuts help the multinationals, but their taxes are already very low, and their loopholes tremendous.
Much more effective would be to tackle costs, hidden or otherwise, laid upon small businesses, and not only by the Canada Revenue Agency. Bank fees, for example. Why does it cost almost a dollar to write a business cheque? Banks charge about 80 cents per cheque, just for the cheque. Processing adds another fee. The government’s own hand is in there with postage rates so high. It costs another dollar merely to mail the cheque across town. Canada Post could be infinitely helpful to small business, but is actually hostile (despite its self-promotion).
Or credit card fees – Walmart is battling Visa on the basis of credit card processing fees charged to small business, but most cannot survive without credit card payments.
Unfortunately, you and I, the public, have opted for the lazy route – pull out our cards—even if it hurts the small businesses which keep our community’s lifeblood flowing. We consumers feel little loyalty to anything except convenience and the cheapest price. Goodbye to Canadian-made appliances, furniture, books, clothing, and so on. We ourselves can do more for small business by our shopping habits than by voting for politicians who flaunt a pro-business hat. Vigorous loyalty to local shops would do more for small business than anybody’s tax cuts.
Tax cuts are self-injury, reducing revenues available for governments to improve our infrastructure, schools, health care, and so on. If governments really want to aid small business, they would institute a simple buy-local mandate – if municipal, provincial and federal government gave a first look at local providers (not just the cheapest, from somewhere else), those governments could generate more tax revenues by the businesses’ increased profits. Forget tax cuts — support buy-local rules.
Buy-local programs contradict the trade deals cooked up by the corporate world, and this is another reason to critique those international deals.
Buy-local provisions for government services and purchases, limits on bank charges and credit card fees, and a rigorous culling of regulations and procedures will do more to assist local economies (small business) than all the government-bashing, tax-cutting, huffing and puffing we hear around election time. Conservative leadership candidates, give this a thought.