Prospectus: We’re not all in this together

Small business owner alone
Editor's Note

In each issue of the OBJ newsmagazine, publisher Michael Curran shares his prospectus for the Ottawa business community. Read the spring edition of the newsmagazine here.

In times of crisis, like this pandemic, there is a sense that “we’re all in this together.”

It’s a noble sentiment with a sometimes practical purpose. In this situation, for example, one person who flouts public health guidelines can infect dozens with COVID-19. In that sense, there is a connection between us.

Unfortunately, this togetherness only exists at a superficial level. Consider the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on seniors, women and minorities. There isn’t much togetherness there.

As vaccines roll out and we inch closer to a recovery phase, let’s remember the inequity this terrible health-care crisis has exposed.

Given OBJ’s mission, let me advocate on behalf of a group that is bearing the brunt of restrictive public health measures: small business owners.

For many small business owners, the notion of togetherness is an infuriating concept.

The common refrain of this group is: “People just don’t get it. They don’t understand my reality.”

What they mean is that political leaders, public officials and the average person don’t truly appreciate the difficulties and financial risks associated with small business ownership.

Let’s use plain language. Here is what a pandemic lockdown means to a small business owner.

Lay off loyal employees, many of whom are like family.

Stop collecting most, if not all, your income.

Put your low-margin business at severe risk of failing.

Contemplate losing your home.

Forget about your retirement.

As small business owners point out, this is not the reality that most people face in this pandemic, particularly here in Ottawa with its large public-sector workforce.

With the federal government preparing to table its long-delayed budget on April 19 (and likely a general election on the horizon), the financial reality of small businesses needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

It wasn’t that long ago that former Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau incited a tax revolt by proposing measures that restricted the financial gains of hard-working small business owners. These were gains typically built up over decades.

The Liberals should reflect on the sacrifices made by small business owners during this pandemic and consider how entrepreneurs are incentivized through the tax system.

More than most others, the pandemic has punished entrepreneurs who risked it all for their families, their employees and their communities. Without appropriate incentives, we might well lose a future generation of wealth creators and limit our economic recovery.

Read the spring newsmagazine

Learn how Ottawa's fastest-growing companies are making their mark on the local economy, explore how remote work is unlocking new sources of talent for employers and meet the entrepreneurs betting on a tourism rebound.

Other features in this issue:

  • Ron Corbett explores the impact of the pandemic on downtown retailers;
  • The regional manufacturers accelerating the push to 'reshore' production;
  • Mark Sutcliffe argues COVID-19 is reconditioning how business leaders think;
  • Blindside Networks opens online education opportunities around the world

Plus: Caroline Phillips' OBJ.social coverage, a rundown of top Ottawa executives on the move and a look at how local employers are managing remote workforces.