Since our last newsletter, there have been the following legislative initiatives worth noting:

1. Changes to the Canada Small Business Financing (CSBF) Program

Certain changes to the CSBF Program are in effect as of April 1, 2009. Notably, the new maximum loan amount is $500,000 of which the maximum amount of $350,000 can be used to finance the purchase or improvement of equipment and the purchase of leasehold improvements; this is an increase from the previous amount of $250,000. Additionally, the names of shareholders and guarantors of incorporated borrowers must be collected in a database to make it easier to track different incorporated borrowers with the same shareholders/guarantors and thereby detect and prevent potential abuse of the CSBF Program.

2. Competition Act Changes Come into Force

Sweeping changes to the federal Competition Act came into effect on March 12, 2009. The amendments repeal the criminal provisions of the Act that deal with a number of pricing offences such as price discrimination, predatory pricing and discriminatory promotional allowances. From now on, these practices will be subject to review only under the civil abuse of dominance provisions of the Act.

The amendments also replace the price maintenance provision with a new provision that will permit the Competition Tribunal to issue orders on application of the Commissioner of Competition, or a private party with leave, where the resale price maintenance is likely to have an adverse effect on competition.

These changes will affect franchisors and distributors in their dealings with franchisees, retailers and competitors.

3. Green Energy and Green Economy Act

The Ontario government recently introduced the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. The Act targets 3 main areas: 1) renewable power generation; 2) energy efficiency; and 3) the smart grid.

The Act not only maintains the previous government policies of establishing a framework for the provision of affordable and reliable energy but has added requirements for the maximization of environmental and economic objectives as well.

Three aspects of the legislation are worth noting for small businesses:

  • no real property will be able to be sold – or leased for extended periods of time without undergoing an energy audit;
  • it has been suggested by the opposition party that the cost of electricity will rise as a direct result of the legislation; and
  • investment and business opportunities have been identified resulting from the introduction of the legislation.