To the North, Qualified Optimism

Canada's small business sector is sending a message of economic resilience in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Although they have been hurt by the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the U.S., Canada's small business owners are optimistic that business conditions will steadily improve, according to a survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) that was conducted immediately after the September 11 attacks.

The survey of CFIB members shows 54.5% of respondents expect their businesses to perform "about the same, somewhat stronger, or much stronger" during the remainder of 2001. For a year down the road, 63.3% hold those same views.

By comparison, 43.9% of respondents saw the performance of their businesses "somewhat weaker or much weaker" for the remainder of 2001. Expectations for 2002 also were more upbeat, with just 30.5% having a "somewhat weaker or much weaker" outlook.


  In terms of employment, small-business owners see relative stability, with 77% of respondents reporting they would be maintaining staff levels (65.7 per cent) or adding additional employees (11.4 per cent). Only 17.9% expect to lay off employees, and 5% said they didn't know what they would be doing. Normal seasonal factors would explain a large part for those expecting employment changes at this time of year.

"These are encouraging readings," says CFIB President Catherine Swift. "It is important to keep in mind that not only are small business owners taking into account the recent acts of terrorism in the U.S., but also a sluggish economy that is always a damper on optimism.

"Nevertheless," says Swift, "the message from the small-business community is one of resilience and reveals strong stability within the sector. There are many ways to combat terrorism and we all have a role to play, but small business is clearly showing quiet leadership by not expressing pessimism in these troubled times."

By Robin J. Phillips in New York

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