Senior Vice-President of National Affairs, Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)
I’m often asked what the state of small business in Canada is now and how small firms are doing. While I’d love to say that things are back to normal for small businesses, that’s just not the case.
Three years after the pandemic, less than half (48%) of small businesses are back to normal levels of sales. Even those that have gotten sales back to normal are telling us their costs have gone through the roof. For business owners, keeping their heads above water, let alone making a profit, is more challenging than ever.
Small businesses are also struggling because over half (57%) have yet to repay their pandemic-related debt. More than 900,000 Canadian small businesses had to take on a Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan just to survive two years of lockdowns and business restrictions. The government initially provided a $40,000 loan to small businesses. Later, the loan expanded to $60,000 and the government extended the repayment deadline to the end of 2023.
The deadline to repay the loan interest-free by the end of 2023 is now fast approaching. Businesses can still repay after the deadline, but they will lose the forgivable portion of $20,000 and start accruing interest.
According to Export Development Canada (EDC), only 13% of businesses have been able to fully repay their CEBA loan. As small businesses are dealing with massive cost hikes, losing the forgivable portion may push some viable businesses to throw in the towel.
It’s time to ensure hard-hit small businesses get the debt relief they need.
CFIB is asking the government to extend the repayment deadline to the end of 2025 or at least end of 2024.
Our big worry is that if the government doesn’t help, we’ll see more business failures. According to the data released by the Office of the Federal Superintendent of Bankruptcy in early February, the number of business insolvencies in 2022 increased by 37.2% compared with 2021. This is deeply concerning but not surprising. We’re expecting more businesses may fail as they recognize their business is either no longer viable or that they are viable but they just can’t outrun their debt.
If we give businesses more time to repay these loans, we believe more of them will survive.
CFIB is also urging the government to increase the forgivable portion of the CEBA loan to at least 50% and ensure all CEBA loan recipients who received it in good faith but are now deemed ineligible get to keep the forgivable portion.
If you are a business owner and agree with what we are trying to do, you can sign CFIB’s petition to extend CEBA’s repayment deadline.
Corinne Pohlmann is the Senior Vice-President of National Affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the largest non-profit organization representing over 97,000 businesses across Canada.