Canadian Small Businesses Unaware of Support Programmes

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Amid widespread labour shortages impacting a significant 74% of small businesses in Atlantic Canada, a report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) sheds light on a concerning finding: almost half of small business owners in the region, accounting for 45%, remain unaware of provincial employment support programmes (ESPs) designed to alleviate these challenges.

The CFIB report underscores that over half (53%) of small businesses in Atlantic Canada have not utilised ESPs due to a combination of factors, including a lack of awareness of these programmes and ambiguity surrounding eligibility requirements. Beatrix Abdul Azeez, Policy Analyst at CFIB, stresses the importance of improved government communication, noting that some businesses only became aware of these programmes after participating in the CFIB survey.

While small business owners who have availed of ESPs in the past year reported benefits such as reduced hiring costs and expedited hiring processes, a significant portion (28%) indicated that these programmes had no discernible impact on their operations. Issues such as skills mismatches and a lack of qualified candidates were cited as key challenges.

Abdul Azeez advocates for meaningful consultations with small businesses in the development of such programmes, emphasising the need for a better understanding of their needs to ensure effective outcomes.

The CFIB conducted the Survey on the Effectiveness of Provincial Employment Support Programmes online from October 17–30, 2023, garnering 300 responses. The margin of error for a probability sample with the same number of respondents is +/-5.7%, 19 times out of 20.

Additionally, the April Business Barometer® findings were based on 657 responses from CFIB members, collected from April 2 to 17, with a margin of error of +/- 3.8%, 19 times out of 20.