I rose to speak to Motion No. 72 – Supporting Island small businesses on November 23, 2023. You can find video and transcript below.
Hansard-23 November 2023 (PDF) Starts on page 59 of 64 (page 2304 of Hansard)
Speaker: The hon. Member from Rustico-Emerald.
B. Trivers: Thank you, Madam Speaker. It’s a pleasure to rise and speak to this motion supporting Island small business. I am particularly looking at the repayment terms of the loans that were given out during the pandemic.
Up in District 18 Rustico-Emerald, of course we have many, many small businesses. A large number of them are either fishers, farmers, or tourism related.
Of course, in particular, the tourism businesses were impacted by the pandemic. We’ve heard other members talk about that. The tourism businesses, it was difficult for them to pivot during the pandemic. That’s why the loans were so important to get them through, although some were able to successfully.
We did see some record numbers on the books in the year immediately after the pandemic “ended.” We just heard today that, in fact, we’re back up to one of the highest number of cases ever of COVID in the QEH – which is one of the reasons that it is exacerbated – but we did have a great year of tourism. However, it almost appears to be that it was a pent-up demand.
What I’m hearing from some tourism operators is, in fact, numbers have been down this summer. Now, I think overall, from a tourism perspective – and perhaps the Minister of Tourism will speak to this.[Interjections]
B. Trivers: He’s saying that overall, our tourism this year has been fantastic, and the numbers are one of the highest ever, but that includes the Canada Games numbers in there, which of course was a massive event. So, I’m not sure the total reflects some of what happened during the summer season when in fact some of our numbers were down.
I think of some of the property management companies. Those are the ones that I heard from; some of the key businesses I did hear from during the pandemic, and I believe they did benefit – I hope they benefited – from some of the loans, but they’re reporting that the numbers are in fact down quite a bit. Some of them, I know, have had to reduce staff. It’s really important we do what we can to support them, and if it’s looking at the financing terms of these loans, that’s a great way to go.
That’s why I support this motion. It’s supports are hardworking Island small business-people.
We’re debating the Capital Budget on the floor of the Legislature right now. We’re talking about millions and tens of millions and hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars that are going to be spent over the next five years. Well, $1.3 billion over one year – over five, pardon me. I was going to say, that would be a little crazy.
Good thing we’ve got an excellent Minister of Finance at the helm here to keep things under control. That money, Madam Speaker; as a former Minister of Finance yourself, I know you thoroughly understood and also expounded on this: that money has to come from taxpayers at some point to be given to government to spend.
It’s our Island small businesses who are the ones that are actually paying those taxes, employing people who are paying the taxes, and making this happen. Small businesses and large businesses as well, but small businesses in particular. I’d be interested to hear the stat; I don’t know off the top of my head the percentage of our GDP that comes from small business versus large business. I’m looking over at the Minister of Innovation to see if he can give me hint. There’s another question set there somewhere.
The money does come from our businesses who work hard to produce products and services that add value, that people pay for, and that’s how the taxes get paid. Sometimes I think, when we get caught up here in debating the capital budget or the operational budget, we forget that. Sometimes, we say, “Hey, don’t worry, most of that money’s coming a federal program. It’s coming from the federal government”. Well, guess what? Guess who’s paying the federal taxes. The same small businesses. The same businesses on PEI. The same taxpayers. The hardworking Islanders here.
So, it’s important to support Island small businesses because when we do that, it’s a way that we’re being fiscally responsible, and that’s what we need. It’s tempting to just spend, spend, spend. We’ve seen that at the federal government level, and we’re in – some would say – some big trouble because of it. We’re in an inflationary period. Anything we can do to help our businesses on PEI is a good thing.
We’ve been debating other bills on the floor. Everybody seems very keen to be the first politician, the first party to introduce mandatory paid sick leave, and it’s been mentioned many times by many members in the House that it’s our Island small businesses are the ones that will probably struggle the most with a mandatory paid sick leave.
One of the points I always bring up when people ask me about it is that in fact, almost all of our Island businesses already do offer some sort of paid sick leave; whether it’s mandatory and whether government has to reach their big hand down or not, and say, “do it.”
So, Madam Speaker, I support this motion and I support our Island businesses.
Thank you very much.