Nearly a quarter of businesses say they have already been negatively affected by the ongoing rail blockades, while another 48 per cent expect they will feel the impacts soon, according to preliminary data from a new survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Affected businesses report they have lost an average of $60,000 since the start of the blockades.
“The continued disruption of rail service is quickly becoming a crisis for small businesses,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “Many business owners across the country are telling us they have already had to suspend operations, lay off staff or ration supplies. Many are in danger of losing important contracts to other international competitors and they worry about how this will hurt their reputation with clients going forward. While there are no easy answers to this complex issue, the risks of inaction are significant too.”
Many small businesses depend on rail service to receive supplies and get their products to market. They typically have limited resources and cash reserves to weather a prolonged service interruption. In fact, 62 per cent say they are very worried about the impacts of the blockades on their business. Nine in 10 business owners say that the federal government should make it a priority to work with the provinces and law enforcement agencies to ensure rail service is resumed.
“This situation could have consequences for small businesses and Canada’s economy as a whole that extend well beyond the blockades,” added Laura Jones, CFIB’s executive vice-president. “In addition to being concerned about their own reputation, 90 per cent of business owners are telling us they worry about how the blockades will affect investor confidence in Canada.”
In terms of sectors, agriculture has been hardest hit, followed by wholesale, natural resources, transportation and manufacturing. But all sectors and all provinces report significant negative impacts, including 23 per cent of retailers affected by the blockade.
The survey was sent to business owners on February 21 and is still open. CFIB received 6,802 responses and over a thousand examples of how the blockades are hurting individual businesses.
“Ultimately, Canada needs a clear path forward to balance economic development, environmental policy and Indigenous land rights to avoid repeating this situation and restore investor confidence,” concluded Kelly.