A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

CFIB raises estimate of small businesses at risk of closing permanently

One in six Canadian small business owners seriously contemplating shutting down

TORONTO — More than 200,000 Canadian businesses could close permanently during the COVID-19 crisis, throwing millions of people out of work as the resurgence of the virus worsens across much of the country, according to new research.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Thursday one in six or about 181,000 Canadian small business owners are now seriously contemplating shutting down.

The latest figures, based on a survey of its members done between Jan. 12 and 16, come on top of 58,000 businesses that became inactive in 2020.

An estimate by the CFIB last summer said one in seven or 158,000 businesses were at risk of going under as a result of the pandemic.

Based on the organization’s updated forecast, more than 2.4 million people could be out of work – a staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs.

Simon Gaudreault, CFIB’s senior director of national research, said it was an alarming increase in the number of businesses considering closing.

“We are not headed in the right direction and each week that passes without improvement on the business front pushes more owners to make that final decision,” he said in a statement. “The more businesses that disappear, the more jobs we will lose and the harder it will be for the economy to recover.”

In total, one in five businesses are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic, the organization said.

The grim new research comes after a brutal year for Canadian businesses.

“The beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said Laura Jones, executive vice-president of the CFIB, in a statement.

She called on governments to help small businesses “replace subsidies with sales” by introducing safe pathways to reopen to businesses.

“There’s a lot at stake now from jobs, to tax revenue to support for local soccer teams. Let’s make 2021 the year we help small business survive and then get back to thriving,” Jones said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

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