0
Making it work
Real stories of small business
and foreign workers
Making it work
Real stories of small business
and foreign workers
The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program is
designed t...
Foreign workers in small town Alberta
creating jobs, not taking them
Eco-Flex® Recycled Rubber Solutions is a classic Cana...
and then usually they learned a trade
and took higher-paying jobs in the oil
patch,” says Champagne. “We’ve tried
raising ...
as far as their Canadian co-workers
are concerned, Champagne says that
they have actually benefitted from
the presence of ...
Sometimes a perfect fit
is not enough in Vancouver
If a micro-business is one that employs fewer than ten people,
then Sil...
Silvie applied for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO)
and helped Roger apply for a work visa, at first
expecting the process to...
The five-year search for talent in
suburban Quebec
An efficient economy is one that makes the right connections to
quickly...
But, of course, being a small business,
it’s never that simple. Millobit
advertised locally for an experienced
developer w...
Natural resources plentiful, human
resources scarce, in Fernie, BC
Fernie, BC, is a small ski resort town lying in the bea...
“We are constantly in hiring mode, and we’ve gone to extraordinary
lengths, especially in Fernie, to make sure we’re maxin...
Winnie the Pooh and TFWs too in
northern Ontario
If you’re ever in White River, Ontario, you may want to visit Winnie-the-...
“Across the street is Winnie the Pooh. You can just call me, Jeanne, the
pooped,” she only half-jokes. “I’m running a 29-u...
“It’s not fair to me, but mostly, it’s not fair to the staff that I do have,
because I can’t give them a day off sometimes...
Some people look at this job
as a temporary fix, and lately,
a lot of Nova Scotians have
been leaving for Alberta or
Saska...
The problem that WearWell Garments
has encountered in recent years is
trouble retaining staff once they’ve
been trained. “...
Our TFWs have a tremendous work ethic, and
that’s infectious. But it’s not just them. Everyone
is pulling together, and we...
The stories in this book come from CFIB member businesses.
Many thanks to the hard-working small business owners and their...
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Las PYMES de Canadá se manifiestan a favor de la entrada de inmigrantes mostrando historias de casos reales / Making it work: Real stories of small business and foreign workers.

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Las Pymes de Canadá manifiestan su descontento con las políticas restrictivas a la a la entrada de emigrantes extranjeros pues indican que les resultan totalmente necesarios para su desarrollo.

Le Programme des travailleurs étrangers temporaires (PTET) a eu mauvaise presse dernièrement. Le gouvernement fédéral a alors décidé d’y apporter des changements. Toutefois, ceux-ci ont eu pour effet de rendre le processus plus lent et plus coûteux, sans compter que d’autres modifications sont à prévoir. La FCEI a réagi en publiant un livret d’histoires vécues par certains de ses membres afin de rétablir la vérité sur le véritable objectif du PTET et sur ce qui explique pourquoi il est si important pour les PME qui en ont besoin.

Recently, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has received negative media attention, leading to changes that make the program slower and more costly, with more changes yet to come. In response, CFIB has published a book of member stories that help to set the record straight on the real purpose of the TFWP and why it is so essential to the small businesses that rely upon it

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Transcript of "Las PYMES de Canadá se manifiestan a favor de la entrada de inmigrantes mostrando historias de casos reales / Making it work: Real stories of small business and foreign workers."

  1. 1. Making it work Real stories of small business and foreign workers
  2. 2. Making it work Real stories of small business and foreign workers The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program is designed to allow companies in Canada to fill certain jobs they are simply unable to fill with Canadian workers. This ability to deal with labour shortages is essential to a well-functioning economy and allows small businesses, in particular, to grow and create additional jobs, most of which are filled by Canadians. The program is in no way intended to give Canadians’ jobs to foreign workers, and those who use the program for this purpose are abusing the system, plain and simple. This storybook was put together to tell the real story of Canadian small businesses and foreign workers. What you will read are stories of ordinary businesses that have tried everything under the sun to hire local, and have had no luck. Stories of business opportunities missed because the TFW Program was not sufficiently nimble. Stories of TFWs who are working hard, filling a need, and generating opportunity for themselves and their Canadian co-workers. Most of all, they are stories of a program that, with all its flaws, is essential to all Canadians, and especially to small businesses. We hope it sheds new light for readers on the issue by providing the first-hand perspective of the entrepreneurs and the foreign workers themselves. Note that a few of the names of businesses, business owners and workers featured in the stories have been changed as they may have open immigration files that could be affected. Foreign workers in small town Alberta creating jobs, not taking them Sometimes a perfect fit is not enough in Vancouver The five-year search for talent in suburban Quebec Natural resources plentiful, human resources scarce, in Fernie, BC Winnie the Pooh and TFWs too in northern Ontario Nova Scotia garment workers share in benefits of TFW Program
  3. 3. Foreign workers in small town Alberta creating jobs, not taking them Eco-Flex® Recycled Rubber Solutions is a classic Canadian small business success story with an environmental twist. Operating in the town of Legal, Alberta since 1992, the company gives new life to about 3 million old car and truck tires every year, turning them into everything from rubber sidewalks to speed bumps to rubber flooring solutions for home, agricultural and industrial applications. According to founder and owner Alan Champagne, none of it would be possible, however, without the tireless contributions of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs). “Right now I have just over thirty employees,” says Champagne. “And eight of them are foreign workers we recruited from the Philippines. Legal is a small town about a half hour from Edmonton, and with all the opportunities in Alberta right now, it’s near impossible to retain good people here.” Champagne adds that it isn’t the skilled jobs he has trouble with. But unskilled jobs are another story altogether. “We’ve had dozens of Canadians working as general labourers over the years. A lot of them were good workers. But we invested to get them trained, got them up to speed, With all the opportunities in Alberta right now, it’s near impossible to retain good people here.
  4. 4. and then usually they learned a trade and took higher-paying jobs in the oil patch,” says Champagne. “We’ve tried raising salaries for general labourers, offering bonuses for years of service. Nothing works.” About six years ago was the first time Eco-flex thought seriously about hiring internationally through the Government of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The process was long and costly. The company paid recruiters to find the right people overseas, then had to pay for the workers’ flights and arrange for accommodations. But once the foreign workers got to Alberta and started working, it didn’t take long to see that it was the right decision. “They work hard, they appreciate the opportunity, and they stick around,” says Champagne, adding that his foreign workers have thrived in Legal, picking up the language quickly, joining clubs and becoming a vital part of the community in a short time. And Foreign worker profile: Rey For Rey Gonjales, staying home was not a viable option. Married, with two young boys, his life in the Philippines was a constant struggle, with little hope for improvement. “Back home, I was a welder for six years, my wife worked for the city, but still we couldn’t afford our daily needs. Food, clothing for our children, there was never enough money, and it’s hard to watch your children go hungry,” says Rey. But that must seem like a lifetime ago now. Rey has been working for the past five years with Eco-Flex® Recycled Rubber Solutions in Legal, Alberta, where he started as a general labourer through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and has since ascended to the role of production supervisor. Rey has been home twice to see his family, but looks forward to bringing them here soon, hoping for a positive response to his provincial immigrant nominee application. He’s worked elsewhere, as a factory worker in Taiwan, and says that it doesn’t compare to Canada in terms of workplace safety and the standard of living for foreign workers. “It’s a better life here,” he says. “I love working here, I love living here.”
  5. 5. as far as their Canadian co-workers are concerned, Champagne says that they have actually benefitted from the presence of the TFWs. You see, since they arrived, productivity has increased by 20%, leading to raises for everyone, and allowing Eco-Flex to hire more Canadian workers. “If it’s used right, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program isn’t taking jobs from Canadians, it’s actually adding jobs for Canadians,” says Champagne. The problem now is that the company needs another seven or eight foreign workers, and has been working since January to go through all the necessary paperwork. Champagne estimates he is missing out on approximately $150,000/week in revenues by not having the staff he needs. With the recent changes restricting the use of the TFW Program, it’s anyone’s guess when the needed workers will arrive. Concludes Champagne: “I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country, but right now in Legal, Alberta, I might have to shut down my business if not for Temporary Foreign Workers. For whatever reason, Canadians either don’t want these jobs or don’t last at these jobs. I rely on TFWs and I don’t see that changing in the near future.” ...we invested to get them (Canadian workers) trained, got them up to speed, and then usually they learned a trade and took higher-paying jobs...
  6. 6. Sometimes a perfect fit is not enough in Vancouver If a micro-business is one that employs fewer than ten people, then Silvie Ferguson is the proud owner and operator of the micro-est of micro-businesses. She trains film and television actors in Vancouver. She needs someone to help her run the office, keep her various computer systems running smoothly and … teach a few acting classes. This is the way it often is with the smallest businesses. Their requirements don’t always fall into a neat job category. Ferguson needed a hybrid acting coach/tech support/admin person. She had been getting by for years hiring part-timers, farming out work to high-priced outside consultants, and doing the rest herself. At one point, she had hired a Canadian jack- of-all-trades who seemed to fit most of what she was looking for. That is, until he left with no notice, defrauding the company of thousands of dollars in the process. So when an Australian named Roger applied for the job, Sylvie was hopeful he would be the right fit. He had all the necessary skills on paper. He was on a working holiday visa from Australia, and had office experience combined with an acting background. After only a few months of having Roger on the job, Silvie knew she had found exactly the right person, and Roger knew that he didn’t want to leave Canada when his visa expired. “Roger is supposed to be exactly the kind of person that Canada wants. He’s young, talented, speaks English, and is highly educated,” says Ferguson. “And he was exactly the person my company needed. But none of that seemed to matter to the government.”
  7. 7. Silvie applied for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) and helped Roger apply for a work visa, at first expecting the process to be a slam-dunk, since he was already in the job. (The employer is required to get a positive response on an LMO before the worker applies for a work permit.) Once she found out that she had to list the job nationally and consider Canadian applicants, she complied with all the requirements, accepting resumes, holding interviews, only to discover what she already knew from previous searches, that the person she was looking for was very hard to find. The LMO was rejected three times. Ultimately, before finally approving the application, the government insisted that Silvie increase Roger’s pay rate to match what they considered “the going rate”. “I think what Service Canada did was they took the salary of an acting coach, and the salary of an office admin, and added them together,” says Ferguson. “It was much more than I had been paying previously. In fact, it was more than I was taking home myself.” After agreeing to increase Roger’s pay, Silvie kept him on staff for another year, and he continued to be exactly the right fit for the job. At the end of that year, however, Silvie faced the prospect of having to go through the entire process once again. She couldn’t do it. She wanted to keep Roger, but the work permit process had already taken a toll on her business and on her health. It was the end of this particularly perfect partnership. During his time in Vancouver, Roger had developed a network of contacts, and was able to latch on with a much larger company that, interestingly enough, had little trouble getting an LMO and work permit approved. Meanwhile, Silvie continues to plug away with part-timers and consultants, knowing there is a better way, but frustrated by a bureaucracy that too often makes small business do things the hard way. Roger is supposed to be exactly the kind of person that Canada wants. He’s young, talented, speaks English, and is highly educated.
  8. 8. The five-year search for talent in suburban Quebec An efficient economy is one that makes the right connections to quickly fill needs. It matches buyers with sellers, and employers with workers. In the high-tech sector, that matching of supply and demand becomes more complicated, more intricate. The needs are more specific, the people with the right combination of skills and experience, harder to find. Patrick Millard has spent many years trying to find just the right mix of people for his product development team at Millobit Group, a small business that is a leader in providing specialty software for the trucking industry, employing 15 people in Laval, Quebec. “When your business is developing innovative products, there is great value in getting a variety of different perspectives,” he says. “The Canadian programmers we have are excellent, but there is a particular way of doing things here. Sometimes, you need a new way of looking at a problem.”
  9. 9. But, of course, being a small business, it’s never that simple. Millobit advertised locally for an experienced developer with a particular set of qualifications, but they also required someone who could meet with clients in English or French, and who would be able to write the manuals and other user documentation that goes along with the product. “In a big business, one person meets the client, another person writes the code, and a third person writes the manual,” says Millard. “Here, it’s one guy, it took us five years to find him, and he happens to be a citizen of France.” After advertising the vacant position for years and getting very few applicants, never mind qualified applicants, Millard and his partner decided to take a chance on the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program. “It’s a little scary to be honest, because you are hiring largely based on a resume, but Luc has been here for a year, and he’s just the person we needed. He’s brought new life to the whole team, and allowed us to do things we couldn’t do before.” But the TFW Program has not been all sunshine and roses for Millobit Group. Aside from the risk involved in hiring overseas, there was considerable added cost, including a government ruling that requires Millobit to pay Luc more than they would pay a Canadian worker with the same experience. “The wage standards are based on what big companies pay. We’ve never been able to compete in that sense. We can’t afford it. People who work here could probably make more by going to work for the government or bigger businesses, but many of them like working here because of the challenge, the work environment, and the people they get to work with.” Delays are also a problem. The speed of the IT business in this day and age does not offer the luxury of waiting four, six, or ten months to get the right person in place. Millard says that an efficient TFW system is essential for a company like his, because he needs to be able to respond quickly to the market. “If someone’s selling orange juice, and it takes them five months to get their hands on some oranges, that’s not good. That kills the business. For me, I need the right people at the right time. If they’re Canadian, great! If not, the business needs to have the flexibility to fill the need some other way.” In spite of the challenges, Luc is thriving at Millobit, where he is accepted as just another member of the team, and has allowed the company to undertake projects that were not previously within their reach. Those projects represent job security for the Canadian developers working at Millobit, and perhaps even new jobs for other Canadians as the company grows. For me, I need the right people at the right time. If they’re Canadian, great! If not, the business needs to have the flexibility to fill the need some other way.
  10. 10. Natural resources plentiful, human resources scarce, in Fernie, BC Fernie, BC, is a small ski resort town lying in the beautiful Rocky Mountains between Cranbrook and Lethbridge, about 50 km from the border with Alberta. A wonderful place to live and work for a population of 5,500, Fernie offers ample employment in the mining sector, as well as the tourism trade. The workplace of choice in Fernie is a large coal mining operation in nearby Sparwood that employs some 4,000 people, typically paying $25/hour or more for entry level positions. Those who are not employed in the mining industry have plentiful opportunity in the hospitality sector, with a number of hotels and restaurants always on the lookout for talent. Ken Daimler, owner of two quick service restaurants, one of them in Fernie, finds himself between a rock and a hard place when looking to recruit and retain reliable staff for his small business in Fernie. “I know what it’s like from both sides,” says Daimler. “Because my restaurant in Cranbrook, which has a larger population and is farther removed from the resource sector, hasn’t really had these problems.” Like many other business owners who have turned to foreign workers to fill vacancies, Daimler says it is a combination of factors that make it hard to find the right help. “Proximity to where people live is certainly a factor. The combination of the mines and the tourism trade also plays a big role. The fact is that the mine is always hiring, and the hotels and other restaurants offer many workers the opportunity to supplement their income with tips. It’s hard to compete.” Daimler has been running his restaurant in Cranbrook, BC for the last 24 years, and has never used foreign workers there. When he opened a second operation in Fernie 10 years ago, staffing wasn’t a problem, initially, but as the coal mine grew and grew, that changed. That restaurant needs a staff of 40 to run at full capacity. Right now it has 25, and the turnover, as it often is in the industry, is never-ending.
  11. 11. “We are constantly in hiring mode, and we’ve gone to extraordinary lengths, especially in Fernie, to make sure we’re maxing out the local talent. We advertise all the time, on Job Bank, Kijiji, WorkBC, you name it. We hold job fairs, we’re in the high school sponsoring activities, we offer staff bonuses for referring a friend, and we’ve increased our starting wages. We leave no stone unturned, but it’s still not enough,” says Daimler. Six years ago, Daimler decided to try to hire a few foreign workers. After going through the considerable paperwork, the restaurant hired four workers from Mexico, and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Three of them have since gotten permanent resident status through the Provincial Nominee Program and are still working for Ken, one as a manager. “I haven’t had a single problem with my Temporary Foreign Workers. They work hard, they get along with the other employees, and they tend to stay longer than many of my other staff.” Daimler has since hired another three workers from the Philippines through the TFW Program, and is in the process of hiring seven more from Belize. It will likely take him seven months or more to get those workers in place. “It’s frustrating,” he says. “Because we see stories on the news about some big companies apparently using TFWs to replace Canadian workers, and we know that it doesn’t represent what is really happening on the ground for small business. There are no Canadians clamouring for these jobs. If anything, Canadians around here are clamouring for my restaurant to be open longer, which I can’t do right now, because I just don’t have the staff.” ...we’ve gone to extraordinary lengths, especially in Fernie, to make sure we’re maxing out the local talent... We leave no stone unturned, but it’s still not enough.
  12. 12. Winnie the Pooh and TFWs too in northern Ontario If you’re ever in White River, Ontario, you may want to visit Winnie-the- Pooh Park, where the origins of the legendary children’s book character are celebrated every August with a week-long festival. You see, the character was named after a real black bear, bought in White River during WWI by a soldier on his way to England. That bear, named after the soldier’s hometown of Winnipeg (“Winnie” for short) later became a favourite of visitors to the London Zoo, including the young son of author A.A. Milne. Across the street from the park, less famous but equally vital to the town, is the White River Motel, offering year-round accommodation in the form of 29 clean and comfortable rooms and seven housekeeping cabins for visitors coming for the fishing, the snowmobiling, the hiking, or maybe to delve into the history of a certain famous bear. Jeanne Morgan, who owns and runs the motel, does so in spite of being severely understaffed for most of the last seven years.
  13. 13. “Across the street is Winnie the Pooh. You can just call me, Jeanne, the pooped,” she only half-jokes. “I’m running a 29-unit motel right now with about one third the staff I really need to do the job effectively.” Morgan says the problem is part geographic, and part economic. “White River’s primary employer for a long time was the lumber mill, and that closed in 2007. After that, the population went from about 1,200 down to about 500, and lots of those people are seniors. That’s really all we have to draw on in terms of local staff, because the next closest town is an hour away.” That’s when the White River Motel first began to access the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program. “In 2007 we employed TFWs from Mexico. In 2008 we were turned down for TFWs because they said there were too many people in White River on EI. But none of those people applied, and we were forced to work short staffed with the local people that were available from 2008 to 2010. We survived because business was slow with the recession. But when things picked up again in 2011, we really needed more help. It’s been near impossible to get it locally.” In 2011 and again in 2012, it took Morgan less than five weeks to get work permits approved. This year it took more than 12 weeks. It’s been very difficult, because she had to try to do the spring cleaning while the motel was very busy, with a skeleton staff. They worked hard, they were happy to have the jobs, and they always had a smile on their faces. Right now, the local staff I do have are all tired and overworked, and would give anything for the extra help, but we just don’t know when it’s coming.
  14. 14. “It’s not fair to me, but mostly, it’s not fair to the staff that I do have, because I can’t give them a day off sometimes when they really need one. My office manager has been cleaning rooms and making beds and I have been doing the laundry many days. That means the office work doesn’t get done. I’ve had a kidney infection for the last little while, and I can’t take a day off. It’s completely ridiculous,” says Morgan. Morgan raves about the Temporary Foreign Workers that have worked with her over the years. “I’ve had foreign workers from Mexico and Jamaica. They work hard, they’re happy to have the jobs, and they always have a smile on their faces. Right now, the local staff I do have are all tired and overworked, and would give anything for the needed help. The situation is very precarious.” Asked if she thinks that Temporary Foreign Workers are taking Canadian jobs, she laughs. “Not in White River, they’re not. You bring me a Canadian that wants to work here, they’ll be hired on the spot. You think I want to pay extra for the flights, the 400 kilometre trip to and from Thunder Bay, health insurance, and housing? If there were Canadians applying, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Morgan has three new LMOs currently under consideration and one extension. With recent changes that promise to make the TFW process even more difficult and costly to small business, Morgan isn’t sure how she’ll be able to continue running her business. “They keep making it harder and harder for me to keep my Canadian workers employed, and they’re supposed to be protecting Canadian jobs, not trying to put small businesses out of business.” To quote Pooh Bear himself, “oh, bother”. You bring me a Canadian that wants to work here, they’ll be hired on the spot. You think I want to pay extra for the flight, the 400 kilometre trip from Thunder Bay, health insurance, housing? If there were Canadians applying, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
  15. 15. Some people look at this job as a temporary fix, and lately, a lot of Nova Scotians have been leaving for Alberta or Saskatchewan, to higher- paying jobs in the resource sector. Nova Scotia garment workers share in benefits of TFW Program WearWell Garments Limited of Stellarton, Nova Scotia manufactures and sells work apparel and other specialty garments to companies across Canada. They employ about 100 people in Stellarton, a town of 4,700 in the northern part of the province. There was a time, says company owner and President Stirling MacLean, when you could find workers with experience making garments. Not any more, he says. “Essentially, when we’re hiring a new worker, we need to assume that we’re training them from scratch,” says MacLean. “And that process takes six months to a year, until that worker is really up-to-speed and working at the level they need to, for the company to be successful, and for them to be successful.” Machine operators at WearWell Garments start out earning an hourly wage, but then transition to getting paid by the piece, which MacLean says is significantly to the worker’s advantage. “Let’s put it this way,” he says. “Once they’re properly trained, they don’t want to go back to getting paid hourly. They can make a much better living getting paid by the piece.”
  16. 16. The problem that WearWell Garments has encountered in recent years is trouble retaining staff once they’ve been trained. “Some people look at this job as a temporary fix, and lately, a lot of Nova Scotians have been leaving for Alberta or Saskatchewan, to higher- paying jobs in the resource sector.” But because of the amount of training required, MacLean says that his company simply can’t afford to continually be training new people, only to lose them after a year. In 2011, the company hired three Temporary Foreign Workers from the Philippines, as machine operators. They have since hired eight more, and all 11 are still with the company, and applying for permanent residence under the Provincial Nominee Program. MacLean calls them “a Godsend”. “We care about our employees and we didn’t undertake this lightly,” says MacLean. “In fact, before we did it, we had a meeting and discussed it with all of our Canadian staff, and truly they’ve been very supportive from the start. They’ve helped the new workers to settle in, and have had a great attitude about it.” Not only that, but WearWell Garments has done its part as well, establishing three residences, close to the plant, where the Temporary Foreign Workers reside. The firm is also offering assistance with the immigration process. For their part, the foreign workers have been model employees, and have become active members of the community, many volunteering at the local church. This is a true success story for the TFW Program in that everyone working for WearWell Garments is making more today than they were in 2010. “In 2010, we had an absentee rate of 10.8%. That’s gone down to 4.9%. Our TFWs have a tremendous work ethic, and that’s infectious. But it’s not just them. Everyone is pulling together, and we’re doing great!” So is Stirling MacLean looking to hire more TFWs? “Probably not,” he says. “We have an LMO approved for one more foreign worker, but after that, I think we have a pretty good balance right now, and it’s certainly not a simple process to bring people over. We still hire local people if they apply, and that’s always our preference. But if I needed to hire more foreign workers, I certainly would, and I don’t know what we would have done without the program.”
  17. 17. Our TFWs have a tremendous work ethic, and that’s infectious. But it’s not just them. Everyone is pulling together, and we’re doing great! Foreign worker profile: Julieta When Julieta came to Canada two years ago as a Temporary Foreign Worker, she did it thinking of a better life for her daughter, Ella. Julieta, a single mother, did not have much hope to offer young Ella in their native Philippines. “It is very difficult to find work back home, and even if you do work, it’s hard to live on what you earn,” she says. When the opportunity presented itself to work for WearWell Garments in Nova Scotia, she jumped at the chance. “Everyone here has been very nice to me and this is a great place to work. If you work hard, you can succeed.” Julieta, who had previous experience working in the garment industry in Japan, says that she prefers Canada, hands down. “Every time I go to church, I thank God for bringing me here.” She plans to apply for permanent residence and would love to stay, and eventually bring her daughter. In the meantime, however, the money Julieta earns here is allowing Ella to go to a good school back home. “Already, this opportunity has made a big difference in my daughter’s life, and I am very thankful.”
  18. 18. The stories in this book come from CFIB member businesses. Many thanks to the hard-working small business owners and their employees who took time out of already busy schedules to share their stories with us. Your contributions make a difference. Dan Kelly President and CEO CFIB CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.
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