Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Response to Questions from DSA of Canada Members

The DSA of Canada was fortunate to have the opportunity to reach out to their respective member companies to determine questions that they would like to pose to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The DSA of Canada accumulated the questions then narrowed down to what would be shared with the Prime Minister’s Office, in order for the Prime Minister to answer.

Please find below  the written interview questions and answers provided by the Prime Minister.

Can you speak to initiatives that have been implemented to support small business owners and particularly the direct selling industry? What types of initiatives are planned for the future?

Small businesses are the fabric of our communities, and when they succeed, communities succeed. Our government recognizes this, and this is why we’re working hard to make it easier for Canada’s entrepreneurs to succeed.

We have kept taxes down, froze the employment insurance premium rate, and as you may know, we’re reducing the tax rate for small businesses from 11 per cent to 9 per cent by 2019. This will be the largest tax rate cut for small businesses in over 25 years, and is estimated to reduce taxes for small businesses by $2.7 billion from 2015 to 2020. The amount of annual income eligible for this lower rate was increased from $300,000 to $400,000 in 2007 and to $500,000 in 2009.

Our Government also worked to reduce the red tape burden for businesses through the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan. It’s estimated that these steps have saved Canadian businesses 750,000 hours in time spent dealing with red tape, and over $32 million in administrative burden. Regulators now must remove a regulation each time they introduce a new regulation that imposes administrative burden on business, through the One-for-One Rule.

Economic Action Plan 2015 included real action to support Canadian small businesses.  We have improved access to financing for Canadian small businesses, and we’ll expand the services of the Business Development Bank of Canada to help Canadian businesses grow and become more competitive, innovative, and efficient. Additionally, we’re supporting women in business by providing mentorship opportunities and increased access to credit and international markets.

I’m glad you brought that up. As you know, direct selling is largely dominated by women, what initiatives has the Federal Government implemented to support women entrepreneurship? Of these initiatives which ones apply specifically to the direct selling industry? What initiatives have been implement or are being considered to encourage men to have greater participation in direct selling?

Our government is continuing its commitment to women entrepreneurs under the Action Plan for Women Entrepreneurs.  There are a number of initiatives under this plan, but notably, the Business Development Bank of Canada will make available $700 million over three years to finance women-owned businesses. We’ll also enhance our trade missions for companies led by women and bring together women entrepreneurs for a national forum where there will be a sharing of tools, networks and connections – all important things for any entrepreneur to reach their full potential.

On the topic of trade, our Government has developed the Global Markets Action Plan, Canada’s new blueprint for using trade and investment to create new jobs and opportunities for Canadian businesses. ‎The most important milestone is the free trade agreement announced last year with the European Union – the world’s largest trading bloc, representing an economy with over $20 trillion of economic activity each year. This agreement will make Canada the only major developed country to have preferential access to the world’s two largest markets – the European Union and the United States, accessing 800 million consumers.

We’ve also focused our efforts on the economies of the east, where new market access will unlock opportunities for Canadian businesses. For example, we concluded a free trade agreement with South Korea which came into force on January 1, 2015. We expect that this agreement will create more than 10,000 new jobs and add close to $2 billion to our gross domestic product.

I can’t say that we have any specific policy initiatives to encourage more men to participate in this sector, but I would point to our extensive record of creating an environment that encourages small businesses and entrepreneurial growth. I’ll also mention our Government’s support for families. These measures help Canadian moms and dads balance work and home responsibilities, and make life more affordable for families.

The Family Tax Cut, so-called income splitting, allows for a maximum benefit of $2000 a year. We’ve also doubled the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and have expanded the Universal Child Care Benefit to $160 per child under the age of 6 per month, with $60 per child for children between 7 and 17. We’ve also increased the Child Care Expense Deducation by $1,000, allowing parents to claim up to $8,000 per child under the age of 7 and $5,000 for those between 7 and 16. We’re focused on helping hard-working Canadian families make ends meet by making important priorities affordable. With these measures, Canadian families will have more money in their pockets, to spend on their priorities as a family.

Prime Minister, how valuable is our channel to the Canadian economy?

Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy and our government recognizes the important role that they play in creating jobs, generating economic growth, and sustaining Canada’s competitive edge in the global marketplace. They represent 99 per cent of all businesses in the country and account for 90 per cent of the total private sector workforce.

This is why, since taking office in 2006 our Government has strived to support small businesses. When small businesses succeed, our communities succeed. By nature, your industry relies on community, but communities also rely on the strength of their small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Self-employed individuals don’t necessarily believe that they are entitled to benefits. What are the benefits that self-employed direct sellers can participate in? 

Our government has provided self-employed Canadians with access to Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits so they do not have to choose between their family and business responsibilities. The benefits cover a wide range of special circumstances, and include maternity, sickness, compassionate care and parents of critically ill children benefits.

Self-employed Canadians are able to voluntarily opt into the EI program to access the same benefits available to salaried employees.  We believe you should be able to choose when it’s right for you to opt in.

When it comes to the Canada Pension Plan, we also believe in having options. Our Government doesn’t believe in forcing Canadians into a mandatory one size fits all approach, unlike the forced payroll increases to the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan. Canadians should have options when saving for their future. That is why we created Tax Free Savings Accounts, Pooled Registered Pension Plans, and introduced pension income splitting for seniors. With these new savings options in place, and the many other improvements we have made, Canada’s retirement income system compares very favourably to others countries.

As there are many programs and benefits geared toward small business owners, can you clarify how direct sellers are recognized under the umbrella of the small business definition and what small business programs apply to direct sellers?

There are many different kinds of support available to entrepreneurs across Canada.

Also, the Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP) is a loan loss-sharing program that helps Canadian small businesses obtain access to financing. Under the CSBFP, Industry Canada and commercial lenders share the risk of providing small businesses with term loans for real property (land or buildings), equipment or leasehold improvements. The CSBFP is a national program that operates in all provinces and territories. Once the Budget Implementation Act (BIA) is passed, the definition of eligible businesses under the CSBFP will change from those with $5 million in gross revenues or less, to those with $10 million in gross revenues or less.

Unemployed individuals or new immigrants to Canada are often faced with few opportunities for employment due to experience direct sales has a tendency to break down these barriers. Individuals have accessible training programs for their direct sales business, as well as they can build a customer base within their ethnic community. Would the Canada Business Centres offer counselling through Self Employment Benefit Coordinators or through information (printed material, web material) accessible at the centres for the non-traditional employment opportunity of direct sales to individuals seeking employment? 

You’re certainly right about direct selling providing great opportunities for Canadians to break down barriers and connect in their towns and cities and communities. Canada’s cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths in this globalized world. We’re a pluralistic and multicultural country where citizens of various ethnicities, cultures and faiths live in peace and prosperity. I’m glad to know that many Canadians, especially new Canadians, participate in direct selling. It is an excellent way to contribute to both the social and economic fabric of our country.