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Small business bearish

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MANITOBA'S small business owners are an increasingly pessimistic bunch these days -- second-gloomiest 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 from 58.0 in July.

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 for the fifth consecutive month, and is now the second-worst in Canada," said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, a CFIB vice-president.

"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 focusing 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 labour was once again the most frequently cited limitation on sales or production growth at 28 per cent.

And only 17 per cent of the Manitoba respondents said they plan to add full-time staff, while six per cent said they plan to cut back on staffing.

The CFIB said Saskatchewan entrepreneurs are the most optimistic in Canada, with an 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.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2013 B6

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