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PST hike partly to blame for business owner confidence falling: survey

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Manitoba’s small business owners are a gloomy bunch these days — second most pessimistic in the country — and the PST hike is partly to blame, according to Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

The federation said its latest monthly member survey showed confidence levels among Manitoba’s small business owners fell for the fifth straight month in August, with the Business Barometer index dropping to 57.6.

Canada’s index, on the other hand, took another upward surge following a healthy jump in July. It’s now more than eight percentage points higher than Manitoba’s index, at 65.9.

"While most other provinces saw improving optimism, it is extremely disappointing to see Manitoba’s index continue to slide... ," said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president, Prairie and Agri-business.

"Hiring plans also declined for the fourth-consecutive month," Braun-Pollon said. "It is pretty evident the PST hike continues to hammer Manitoba’s job creators. We hope the Manitoba government comes to its senses by withdrawing Bill 20 and begins focussing on getting its fiscal house in order."

Fifty-three per cent of the Manitoba survey respondents cited tax and regulatory costs as the biggest constraint on their businesses, with fuel and energy costs a close second, at 51 per cent. And a shortage of skilled labor was once again the most frequently cited limitation on sales or production growth at 28 per cent.

The CFIB said Saskatchewan entrepreneurs are the most optimistic in Canada, with index of 70.7. Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta aren’t far behind, at 70.4 and 69.5 respectively.

Prince Edward Island small business owners are the least optimistic, with an index of only 50.0.

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