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Feature   October 1, 2001   by Jim Anderson, Editor

Let’s focus on the immediate threat: the Canadian economy

We need to think about why operating a business in this country is so dominated by government paperwork.

Magazines operate with unusual timing; it takes several weeks to get each “out the door”, meaning that the comment you’re reading now was actually written as much as a month ago. That’s why in this month’s Rant I’m gong to comment briefly on the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11th. I hope that by the time you read this, the aftermath of the tragedy no longer dominates the news or people’s minds as it has at the time of writing. While lives will never be the same for the 6000 families affected, it will most certainly be the same for the rest of us if we just get back to work. Despite what the media wants us to believe, there is no threat to Canada, nor has there ever been. Whatever the issues terrorists have against the U.S., our country remains a safe place in which to live and work. In terms of the things which are real threats to Canadians, such as motor vehicle accidents, air pollution and crime, Canada is a safer place than it was ten years ago.

Canadians, and Canadian shop owners, don’t have a problem with terrorism; we do have a problem with finding talented technicians, and finding a profitable niche in each community in which to build a successful business.

As I write this, there’s lots of inane talk about sending troops and closing borders and economic fallout from September 11th. The reality is that terrorism has its roots in desperately poor economies like Afghanistan, where given a choice between starvation and terrorism, the survival instinct often drives the decision. Get rid of poverty, and you get rid of the problem. And in Canada we need to start in our own back yard by addressing the falling standard of living of average Canadians, and its impact on small business. We need to think about why operating a business in this country is so dominated by government paperwork. Why is it necessary to pay lawyers and accountants to operate a business whose value to the economy is driven by repairing Canadian vehicles? Why do taxes come in Local, Provincial and Federal types, instead of a single unified tax? Why is government divided haphazardly between Federal and Provincial responsibilities? I suspect that the real reason is that government looks after it own interests before those of its employers, and that we’ve been doing it this way for so long that we can’t imagine any other way. Think about the amount of time Canadian shop owners spend in the bays. That’s time that needs to be spent on the business as a whole. Then consider how much of that valuable time is spent on taxation, government regulations, accounting issues, etc. How much is left for strategic planning to grow your business? Canadian governments at all levels want your business to succeed; that’s their tax base. But they want to steal the most important asset you have to achieve that goal: your time. No one is addressing this issue, and that’s too bad for all of us. A strong country isn’t a matter of bullets, but depends on the creativity of Canadian businesses everywhere. Governments and Canadians are preoccupied by world events right now, but at some point we’re going to have to worry about our own serious issues. The sooner the better.

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