FACE TO FACE: What is 'small business' and does it even matter?
My colleague on the other side of the page has long grumbled that politicians and pundits are obsessed with small business. He complains, for example, that news stories related to tax and regulatory regimes are invariably looked at through the lens of their impact on small business.
Indeed, the way he tells it, whenever he turns on the TV, listens to the radio or opens a newspaper to bone up on government policies about anything from the HST and power rates to property taxes and the minimum wage, small business figures too prominently in the conversation.
And this simply irks him. A better bet would be to focus on families, workers, seniors, students and the unemployed, he suggests.
I am glad he has now given me the opportunity instruct him on the error of his ways. First lesson: Don't put the cart before the horse.
Allow me to explain: In the comprehensive welfare state that we call Canada, one of government's primary duties is to redistribute money in order to construct a more equitable society and alleviate suffering. I'm sure my colleague understands this.
But it appears he does not know where government obtains the money that it redistributes. The source is individuals and businesses. What sort of individuals? Primarily the ones who are employed. And where might they be employed? Primarily in businesses - businesses, small and large, that not only pay taxes of their own but also issue paycheques that are, in turn, taxed.
In other words, if there is no business, there is no tax revenue. And if there is no tax revenue, there is no public health care, public education, welfare, Old Age Security and the like. Agitate all you want about a better welfare state but always remember where the money comes from.
At a higher level, it's also important to keep in mind that every successful big business begins life as a hopeful small venture. And every hopeful small venture begins with a dream - a dream of hitting it rich, a dream of providing an important service or simply a dream of making something out of oneself.
Ultimately, these dreams are the sparks that ignite the economic engine that powers Canada. We should celebrate, not denigrate, these dreams.
An award-winning journalist, a writer with Edmonton's Report Magazine and Toronto's Catholic Insight magazine, and co-host of RoadkillRadio.com, Face to Face columnist Terry O'Neill is a long-time Coquitlam resident who sits on the board of the Coquitlam Foundation and chairs the finance commitee of St. Joseph's Catholic parish.