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Susanna Cluff-Clyburne

Susanna Cluff-Clyburne

Senior Director of Parliamentary Affairs, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

There are numerous programs across Canada designed to fund and help Small– or Medium-Enterprises grow. Finding a way around the difficult requirements and processes of these programs is where problems start to arise.


Growth — both at home and internationally — is essential to the success of a Small– or Medium-Enterprise (SME). Though there are many federal programs created to help SMEs grow, navigating them can be extremely difficult, if not downright impossible.

The Fundingportal™, which helps organizations find and secure government funding, reported in 2018 that, while some programs are over-subscribed, many others go mostly unused. This is a shame when figures on the number of Canadian SMEs exporting range from 4 to 12 percent. Even at 12 percent, Canadian SMEs are still way below the over 20 percent of those exporting in other G7 countries. Clearly, there’s room for substantial growth.

Even when SMEs find programs that they believe could benefit their businesses, the application and administrative requirements are often too time-consuming — and so they abandon the process. The federal government must get input from SMEs to ensure programs will actually be useful to them as well as easier to find, apply for, and administer — and these programs need to be communicated via channels SMEs are likely to use.

Canada’s SMEs aren’t risk-averse, however they lack the time and the additional resources of larger companies to access foreign markets. Putting a bit more thought into the substance and communication of federal programs helps bridge the gap and pushes them into the same league as their G7 counterparts. 

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