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Canada Small Business Financing Act (CSBFA) Employment Impacts

Subject Matter

Industry Canada wanted to undertake a survey among current Canada Small Business Financing Act (CSBFA) borrowers. CSBFA loans provide financing to small and medium size business that have difficulty obtaining financing. The purpose of the research was to identify the employment impacts of CSBFA loans, both within the borrowing firm and outside of it, based on factual figures and on perceptions. A range of other issues related to the impact of the loan were also explored. The data from this survey were used as an essential element within an employment impact study being conducted as part of a five-year evaluation of the CSBFA program. The research provided direct support for the evaluation of this program.


The research used a paper-based, self-administered survey, provided to a random sample of companies that had received CSBFA loans between January and July 2000. The surveys were sent by mail, accompanied by a letter on Industry Canada letterhead. The purpose of the letter was to identify the study objectives, offer assurances of confidentiality, and encourage participation. A total of 3,200 surveys were sent out, of which 343 were returned due to incorrect addresses. In total, 603 completed surveys were returned by mail or fax, representing a response rate of 21%. Results were weighted by region and size of company (by revenue) to reflect the distribution of those characteristics in the original population lists. The margin of error on a sample of this size is +/- 3.6%, 19 times out of 20. This was a national study, involving all regions of the country. A pre-test was conducted in French and English, where respondents were recruited by phone, faxed the questionnaire, and asked to complete it and return it by fax. The completed questionnaires were reviewed for accuracy, omissions, etc., and respondents were called for a 15-20 minute interview to discuss the questionnaire’s contents and clarity. Pre-test participants were paid an incentive of $75 to take part in the pre-test. The survey was self-administered because of the complexity and detail of the information being sought, and the need for reflection and even internal discussions or reference to company records in some cases.

This study involved numerous challenges, including:

  • The survey was complex both in terms of structure and subject matter. In order to ensure clarity regarding its contents, a more elaborate pre-test was used (described above) to more fully assess the performance of the questionnaire. In addition to the careful review of the completed questionnaires and detailed debrief interviews with participants of the pre-test, potential respondents (not just pre-test participants) were provided with a toll-free number to call in case they required clarification on any aspect of the questionnaire (the toll-free number was used).
  • Previous research indicated that many CSBFA borrowers are not aware of the loan program under which they received financing (the loans are administered by financial institutions). Potential respondents were sent a letter on Industry Canada letterhead, which in addition to its other purposes (i.e. identify objectives, assure confidentiality, encourage participation, etc.) clearly informed recipients that their business received a loan under the program, and identified the time period of the loan, to minimize potential confusion with other loans that the business may have obtained.
  • In order to help respondents assess employment impacts of their CSBFA loan, they were provided with clear definitions for types of positions, i.e. full-time (30 hrs./week or more), part-time (less than 30 hrs./week), seasonal (only certain months of the year), and permanent (not for a limited length of time). Other aspects of the survey also required the provision of very clear instructions and clear definitions. As well, since this was a complex self-administered survey, with numerous skip patterns, extreme care was taken in the formatting and presentation of the survey (was also reviewed in pre-tests).
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