Small businesses have gone a full month without information about the grants and rebates promised to them under the federal carbon tax in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has been asking the government for details about the grants and rebates for months without answer.
"Since April 1, the government has had time to allocate millions to big companies like Loblaws for retrofits, but small firms have heard nothing about the sliver of funding that was to be available to them," said Dan Kelly, CFIB's president.
"Small firms are already paying the tax and are reporting they'll have to absorb a majority of the new costs. This continued lack of clarity is adding to the unfairness of the situation."
Nearly half of the revenues of the carbon tax will come from small businesses, but they can expect to receive just seven per cent back in the form of yet-to-be-determined grants and rebates.
"Not only are we concerned that small firms have been given zero information on the rebates they have been promised, past programs targeted at small business have been incredibly poorly designed," added Kelly. "We hope the government doesn't model the small business rebate program after the Low Carbon Economy Fund – the one that provided $12 million to Loblaws."
While the Low Carbon Economy Fund was open to firms with as few as one employee, it required a minimum spend of $2 million for a business to be eligible. "It is ridiculous to advertise a program to small business owners that requires them to spend millions," Kelly said.
CFIB is asking the government to cancel the federal carbon tax and work with the four provinces on approaches to climate change that do not negatively affect small businesses, particularly before any consideration is given to expanding it to Alberta. If the government is intent on keeping the carbon tax as is, it must provide grants and rebates equal to the contributions that small businesses will pay into the tax. A majority of small firms (84 per cent) say they are already taking steps to reduce their environmental impact.
"As things stand, small businesses are feeling like the cash cow helping to fund the rebates, exemptions and grants for everyone else. If we all share the responsibility for addressing climate change, it is deeply unfair to pass the bill to SMEs," concluded Kelly.