Amid Alberta’s election campaign, small businesses say they’re the canaries in the coal mine — and things aren’t going well

A going-out-of-business sign in Calgary. In downtown Calgary, high property taxes have helped close some businesses and pushed others to leave, putting pressure on businesses elsewhere in the city.Lyle Aspinall/Postmedia Network

The Alberta election on April 16 is top of mind for Terry Steinkey, co-owner of Map Town in downtown Calgary. Like many small businesses in Alberta, the travel store has struggled since prices for Western Canada Select crude oil plummeted to about US$30 per barrel in 2015, pushing the provincial economy deep into recession.

In order to keep Map Town’s doors open, Steinkey has reduced the number of employees to two full-timers and three part-timers from 12 full-timers when he purchased the business in 2011, increased prices and expanded an online presence. He has also stopped paying himself.

Big picture, according to Steinkey: “We need to get investment back in Alberta. Whichever party wins the election needs to focus on policies that will get American companies wanting to drill in Alberta again. That’s what will help small businesses.”

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