Uncertainty Lingers Among Canadian Business Leaders


A significant number of Canadian business leaders are pessimistic about the prospects of the national economy over the next 12 months, says a survey by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

Roughly three-in-10 (29 per cent) professional accountants in leadership positions are pessimistic, basically unchanged from the previous quarter. Optimism among those surveyed sits at 26 per cent. The largest group – 45 per cent – are neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

Asked for their views on the top challenges to the country’s economic growth, uncertainty surrounding the Canadian economy is the top concern, cited by 19 per cent of respondents. Other issues mentioned include protectionist trade sentiments in U.S. (13 per cent), a lack of skilled workers, and the state of the U.S. economy (both 10 per cent).

“It’s clear that Canadian business leaders are concerned about the economic challenges that Canada faces at home and abroad,” says Joy Thomas, president and CEO, CPA Canada. “In particular, the fourth quarter of 2019 was a tumultuous time, dominated by the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, elections in both Canada and Britain, as well as continued economic difficulties faced by the Prairie provinces. Even with election outcomes decided in Canada and Britain and signs of easing of international trade tensions, uncertainty remains.”

Confident In Own Organizations

Respondents continue to be more confident in the outlook for their own organization as opposed to the national economy. Half of those surveyed are optimistic about the prospects for their business over the next 12 months, up slightly from the previous quarter. Only 21 per cent report pessimism about their organization’s prospects in 2020 and 28 per cent report feeling neutral.

When assessing the next year, 64 per cent predict their businesses will see increased revenues, 60 per cent foresee increased profits, and 39 per cent anticipate an increase in employee numbers.

As for the 2020 priorities of their respective organizations, increasing sales in Canada was most often cited as a first priority, referenced by 23 per cent of the respondents. Other actions cited as a top priority included improving productivity (16 per cent), attracting/retaining employees (10 per cent), and reducing costs (nine per cent).

Data Governance Major Focus

The future of data and its governance is a major focus for CPA Canada as it assesses the future of the accounting profession. According to this survey, business leaders agree that, heading into the next decade, data governance is a key concern for Canadian organizations. When asked how important the analysis and use of data is to organizations, 56 per cent indicate it was a high (49 per cent) or even the top priority (six per cent), with a further 30 per cent stating it is a moderate priority. Only 12 per cent suggest it is a low priority with a further two per cent saying it isn’t a priority at all.

Despite 86 per cent of respondents indicating the use of data is a moderate to a number one priority, organizational roles do not necessarily reflect that viewpoint. Eleven per cent of respondents say data governance is overseen by one person, with 42 per cent indicating it is a shared responsibility and 44 per cent noting that no one is responsible for it. Three per cent indicate they don’t know or are not sure who is in charge of data governance at their organization.