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Defining Small Businesses

Defining “small businesses” is notoriously hard. Not all businesses maintain a payroll, making counting businesses difficult – even with a mandatory census form, hey! In addition, not all businesses are legal. An economics analysis paper published by the Royal Bank of Canada in October 2008 defined small business as a business with 100 employees or fewer. This paper also contained useful definition of a “micro-business,” with very small numbers of employees. Regardless, statistics published by Industry Canada in July 2002 indicate there were 1,023,104 legal businesses with fewer than 100 employees in Canada at the time. There are certainly more than that now, and there are certainly many more if we count illegal businesses and informal micro-businesses that operate completely out of sight of the taxation authorities. Probably the true number of small businesses in Canada is closer to two million, but let’s be very conservative and define the number of small businesses at one million. The CFIB claims membership of 107,000. Obviously, this number contains a higher percentage of hard-core, committed market fundamentalists than among small business owners generally. We’ll round this number down to 100,000, seeing as we’re using an eight-year-old figure to calculate the total number of small businesses. This makes the arithmetic convenient and gives us the 10 per cent figure cited in the blog post. The reality is that the CFIB likely represents a far smaller percentage of small business people, a large portion of whom do not share the CFIB’s hard-right, anti-union perspective and, indeed, a significant number of whom are likely union members or former union members. Yet this seems to be the foundation on which the CFIB is basing its conclusion that 84 per cent of Canadian small business owners support the organization’s position on anti-union legislation. The smell of BS is distinctive, as those of us who live in Alberta know, and this figure has more than a whiff of it.

— DJC


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