COLUMN: Michael Mantha on small business, economic stability

Northern Ontario’s most resilient economic stabilizer is small business, says Algoma-Manitoulin MPP

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP, Michael Mantha writes a regular column about provincial initiatives and issues impacting our community. This column was originally released by Mantha’s office.

The other day, I stopped by to help a friend construct some trusses for a garden shed he was building. He asked for a hand because he knew it was getting late to have the shed in place before winter set in. He had some of the pieces cut and ready to assemble. I had expected him to use spikes or large nails to hold the 2x4s in place, but instead, he pulled out a bunch of truss plates to be hammered on. I looked at the metal plates and was surprised to see how small the “nails” punctured into the plate were to fasten the wood. I asked my friend how he could trust the truss to be strong enough with such puny little nail fasteners. He explained that using a lot of small “nails” was by far stronger than using larger nails or spikes that could even split the wood. He explained that the strength came from the number of fasteners and the very broad coverage.

It makes total sense to rely on the combined strength of many rather than just a few nails that may be larger and stronger individually but do not distribute the power widely. I certainly am not an engineer or carpenter, so I learned something new that day.

As I write this week’s column, we are approaching Small Business Week in Ontario, during which we salute the thousands of small business entrepreneurs across the province. Unequivocally, small business is the backbone of not only Ontario’s but all of Canada’s economy. Federal government statistics indicate that small businesses collectively employ 67.7 percent of the private workforce. Further, an article published in June 2023 by Shaw & Associates reports that 97.7 percent of all businesses in Canada are classified as small businesses.

Who’d a thunk it?

Shaw & Associates went on to say, “Let that sink in—small businesses are not the occasional mom-and-pop corner store. Small businesses are what business in Canada is all about.” They quoted the Government of Canada, writing, “As of December 2020, there were 1.22 million employer businesses in Canada. Of these, 1.2 million (97.9 percent) were small businesses, 22,725 (1.9 percent) were medium-sized businesses and 2,936 (0.2 percent) were large businesses.”

When I read this, my friend’s lesson about building solid and reliable trusses came to mind. The strength of Ontario’s economy is not found in the medium and large size businesses. Our economic stability relies upon the strength of our small businesses. If we put all of our eggs into one “big business” basket, the damage to the economy is severe and hard to recover from if it falls. On the other hand, if a small business falls, the strength of the small business network can pick up the slack with minimal impact on the overall economy.

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario. It was a most profitable meeting in that they helped convey the many challenging struggles that small businesses are experiencing these days. And they also helped me better understand the particular challenges facing Northern small business operators.

Northern Ontario has a rich culture of entrepreneurs working to bring something unique to their home communities, be it the tourism industry, local food and beverage producers, restaurants and cafes, or artists and craftspeople.

But from all my travels back and forth across the riding this summer, I heard almost daily that many businesses in the North are struggling. With high inflation, out-of-control cost of living and uncertain economic times ahead, Ontario’s government must not forget independent businesses in the North.

With CEBA (a support measure from the pandemic days) loan repayments coming up in January, many businesses in Algoma-Manitoulin are telling me they are worried about making ends meet through the winter.

Northern Ontario’s heightened operating costs also continue to hamstring the growth of local business because, as we all know, Northerners pay more for everything from fuel to electricity to basic goods.

And, just to compound the challenges for small businesses, labour shortages continue to hit Northern Ontario harder in part because necessities like adequate healthcare, housing and infrastructure are being ignored in our region.

The North is a unique place with unique issues and circumstances. I encourage the government to listen, particularly to Northern communities, business owners and associations, so that the Province can effectively help them address their challenges to ensure that businesses and our economy can continue to grow and prosper in these difficult times.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.       

Michael Mantha MPP/député      



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