Starting a Business in Canada

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Aug 21, 2019 - 1 minute read - business planning

Saskatoon School For Startups

Saskatoon’s School For Startups is a 12 night course that is designed to deliver practical knowledge to entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business. The course will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship
  • Business Plan Preparation
  • Financial Literacy
  • Branding
  • Digital Marketing
  • Marketing & Communications
  • Legal
  • Accounting & Bookkeeping
  • Human Resources
  • Online Tools
  • Financing, Credit and Banking
  • Entrepreneurship Resources and Associations

The next class starts September 3, 2019 and runs through November 19, 2019. The class is every Tuesday evening from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The program fee is $900. This is a good deal for a course that would typically cost a lot more. The course is sponsored by:

  • Affinity Credit Union
  • MGM
  • Ideas Inc.

If this is of interest, you need to move quickly. The deadline for applications is August 27, 2019.

Jul 25, 2019 - 4 minute read - government

Understanding the CRA's My Business Account Service

The Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) My Business Account service is a self-serve website that allows you to perform a number of actions on behalf of your business. The website includes the ability to deal with the following topics.

  • Payroll
  • Corporation Income Tax
  • Excise duty
  • Excise tax
  • Excise tax on insurance premiums
  • Air Travellers Security Charge
  • Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge
  • Registered charity
  • Information Returns
  • TFSA
  • Partnerships
  • Contract Payments (T5018)

It’s possible to file returns through the website and to provide other information to CRA. There is a message centre that gives up to date status information on your recent filings.

If you have multiple corporations, you can access them all from within the site by using a single set of login credentials. There will be a select box inside the site that allows you to go between businesses without having to log out and log back in again.

I’ve used the website and it is a significant improvement over dealing with CRA by fax, mail or over the phone.

The most difficult part of using the website is signing up to use it. It can be a bit confusing when trying to figure it out from CRA’s instructions on their website but it isn’t really that hard.

The first step is to create a set of user credentials. You have two options:

  1. Create a CRA user id and password
  2. Use a sign-in partner

You will want to use a sign-in partner, if at all possible. It’s the easiest option to use and maintain in the long term. This lets you use your login information at your bank or credit union to access the CRA’s website. SecureKey Concierge provides the service that brokers your credentials between your financial institution and the CRA. You can learn more about SecureKey Concierge in our previous blog post.

Creating CRA Credentials

If you choose the option to create credentials directly with CRA, click the CRA register button. This will take you through a series of forms that ask for information about you and your business. The CRA needs to ask these questions to determine your identity. You will need to provide:

  • Your social insurance number
  • Your postal code
  • Your date of birth
  • An amount from a previously filed tax return

The next step will be to create a user ID and password. You will then be asked to select and answer 5 security questions.

If you have done everything successfully you’ll get limited access to the CRA site. To get full access, you’ll need a CRA security code. This can be sent to you by mail or by email. If you choose mail you’ll have to verify your postal code against what they have on file for you. If you choose email, you will have to call CRA and they will email you a code. I recommend choosing email as the code can take a while to come by mail.

Once you have the security code, you can log into the site and provide your security code. Once you provide your business number, you will have full access to the services of the My Business Account service.

The CRA has summarized this in the video below.

Using a Sign In Partner

You can use a sign-in partner if your financial institution appears in the list of participating institutions. At the moment, the participating financial institutions are shown in the screenshot below.

List of Participating Financial Institutions

Click on your financial institution’s logo and you’ll be taken to a login page on their site. Enter your normal online banking credentials and answer the security question. You will then be redirected back to the CRA where you will have to provide:

  • Your social insurance number
  • Your postal code
  • Your date of birth
  • An amount from a previously filed tax Returns

If you have done everything successfully you’ll get limited access to the CRA site. To get full access, you’ll need a CRA security code. This can be sent to you by mail or by email. If you choose mail you’ll have to verify your postal code against what they have on file for you. If you choose email, you will have to call CRA and they will email you a code. I recommend choosing email as the code can take a while to come by mail.

Once you have the security code, you can log into the site and provide your security code. Once you provide your business number, you will have full access to the services of the My Business Account service.

The CRA has summarized this in the video below.

The CRA’s My Business Account service is a good tool that can save you a lot of time. It’s well worth going through the small amount of time and effort to set up an account.

Jun 26, 2019 - 2 minute read - government

What Is Securekey Concierge?

SecureKey is a Canadian company that provides Concierge, which is a credential brokerage service. A credential brokerage service allows someone who wants to access a website to use the credentials of another, trusted third party to access the website.

In SecureKey’s case, the trusted third parties that provide the credentials are Canadian banks and credit unions. These financial institutions allow the use of their online banking credentials to allow access to websites that Concierge supports. SecureKey’s role in the process is to make sure that your financial institution doesn’t know which website you are logging into and the website doesn’t know which financial institution is providing the login credentials. This preserves the privacy of the person using the service.

The current list of credential providers is shown in the figure below.

Participating Financial Institutions

The websites that allow access to their services using SecureKey are a wide variety of federal and provincial government websites. The benefit of using SecureKey is that there is no need to create and keep track of separate credentials for each government website that you need to access.

Tax preparation software like TurboTax has a feature called Auto-Fill My Return. This allows for the import of your tax information such as T4 or T5 slips from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The import of data is authorized by using your bank or credit union login credentials with SecureKey. This is a handy feature and it can save a lot of time when preparing your tax return. This feature requires a one-time set up with CRA so that full access is available to your tax information.

SecureKey Concierge is a service that is unique to Canada in that it has widespread adoption among financial institutions and government departments. This makes it a convenient way to access government websites using credentials you have already in place at your financial institution.

Jun 9, 2019 - 1 minute read - immigration

Saskatchewan Immigration Consultant List

We write business plans for provincial nominee programs (PNP) but we are not immigration consultants. We often partner with immigration consultants to write a business plan for a client’s PNP application.

In Saskatchwan Immigration Consultants and Foreign Worker Recruiters must be licensed under The Foreign Worker and Recruitment Services Act (FWRISA) before they can practise in Saskatchewan.

The government has helpfully provided a list of licensed immigration consultants that can be downloaded in PDF format.

Mar 24, 2015 - 2 minute read - government immigration

SINP Accepting Entrepreneurs

The Saskatchewan Government has announced changes to the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). The five previous applicant streams - entrepreneur, science and technology, farm, large scale investor and young farmer - have been consolidated into entrepreneur and farmer owner/operator streams.

The SINP login page

The previous guidelines required a nominee in the Entrepreneural stream to have a $300,000 net worth and make an investment of $150,000 in a business in Saskatchewan. These requirements have increased so that a net worth of $500,000 is required and an investment of $300,000 must be made if the business is to be located in Regina or Saskatoon. The investment requirement outside of the province’s two major cities is $200,000. The nominee must own at least 33% of the business unless the investment in the business is $1 million or higher. The nominee must be active in the day to day mangement of the business.

The requirement to put $75,000 on deposit as a sign of good faith has been removed. Under the new program, an entrepreneur won’t be nominated until he or she has established a business in Saskatchewan.

There is a new job creation requirement that states that a nominee must create or maintain two jobs for a non-family member if a new business is to be located in Saskatoon or Regina. These employees must be Canadian or permanent residents. If the nominee is purchasing an existing business, the staff in place at the time of purchase must be maintained.

Under the previous program, applicants had been dealt with on a first come, first serve basis. With the changes, the program has switched to a two stage, points based system. All applications must now be submitted online. Those passing the first round of point scoring will be selected to move on to a formal evaluation process. The goal is to shorten the waiting time for highly qualified applicants.

The SINP has begun accepting new applications for the entrepreneural stream. There is no longer a quota or threshold for entreprenural applicants. Any interested entrepreneur can file a statement of interest today by following the instructions online at the [SINP’s website.](

Jul 16, 2014 - 4 minute read - government

Understanding Canada's Anti-spam Legislation (CASL)

On July 1, 2014 the Canada’s Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect. This law was put into place to help prevent a number of problems that spam creates.

  • it impairs the use of electronic channels to carry out legitimate commercial activity
  • dealing with spam imposes additional costs on businesses and consumers
  • spam can lead to compromises of privacy and security threats to confidential information
  • it undermines the general confidence of the public in the use of electronic communications for commercial activities
Image of Spam

This law applies to email, SMS, social media or instant messaging that is used to send promotional or commercial messages. This is a law with teeth with penalties of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses. As a business owner if you want to be on the right side of the law you need to ensure you meet the following:

There are two forms of consent; express and implied consent.

The definition of this form of consent is fairly simple. In order for this consent to exist, the recipient of your email must have given you permission to send email either verbally or in writing. The important thing to remember is it is up to you to prove that the consent exists. For this purpose you will want to keep records of how you obtained consent. Obviously, this will be much easier to deal with if you obtain consent in writing.

There is no time limit to this kind of consent. Consent is deemed to exist until the recipient withdraws his or her consent.

Implied consent is more of a gray area. The following categories are where implied consent can exist.

Existing Business Relationship

In this situation, the recipient of the email would be someone who has either bought goods and services from you or has inquired about your goods or services.

Existing Non-Business Relationship

This would apply to charities or political parties where the recipient of the email has provided you with a gift, donation or volunteer work. This would also apply to recipients who are members of your club or non-profit organization.

Recipient’s E-Mail Address Was Conspicuously Published Or Sent To You

The key point to remember with this situation is that the email must relate to a recipient’s functions or activities in a business or official capacity. In essence this means that if someone publishes their email address on their website and does not indicate that they don’t want unsolicited emails, you can send them an email, provided it is related to their business.

Implied consent is time limited. It is typically a period of 2 years after the event that starts the relationship (e.g. purchase of a good). For subscriptions or memberships, the period starts on the day the relationship ends.

Clearly Identify Yourself And Your Organization

The government’s website explains this one well:

You must include your mailing address. You must also include a phone number for accessing an agent or a voice messaging system, an email address, or a web address for you or the person on whose behalf you are sending the message.

Provide An Unsubscribe Mechanism That Is Functional For 60 Days

The unsubscribe mechanism must be consumer friendly and easily performed. Hiding or making unsubscribing difficult isn’t going to cut it under the guidelines. A simple link in an email that takes the recipient to a page where they can click a button to unsubscribe would work. Responding to a text message with “stop” or “unsubscribe” would also work. Make it simple for people to unsubscribe should they choose to do so.

Your Messages Must Not Be False Or Misleading

You have to be straight up about who is sending the information and what you are selling. Pretending to be Paypal with a link to a fake website is going to get you in a lot of trouble. This provision is designed to prevent phishing attacks, which have become a pain for all email users.

The Bottom Line

If you have used email to market your goods and services in the past and you have been respectful of your recipient’s time and attention, you won’t have to do much to comply with the new law. This law seems to be designed to prevent the big time spammers that send out tens of thousands of emails to individuals to sell them products they aren’t interested in or to trick them into clicking on a link to steal their personal information. Be a good email citizen, follow the rules and you should be fine.

Mar 24, 2014 - 2 minute read - websites

More Than Half of Canadian Businesses Still Don't Have A Website

According to a recent study released by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA)^1 only 45.5% of Canadian businesses have a website. Among small businesses, only 41.1% have a website.

ComScore reported that e-commerce spending in Canada increased by 10% to $22.3 billion. The number of transactions were up 17% and 50% of Canadians used the internet to purchase a good or service online.

What do all of these numbers mean? The internet is a very important tool for consumers. If Canada follows the trend set by the United States and Great Britain, this will only increase.

Even if your product or service doesn’t lend itself to being sold over the internet, 74% of Canadians have used the internet to research a purchase that they eventually physically went into a store to purchase.

With services like Hover to register your domain name and Squarespace to build and host your website there really isn’t an excuse to not have a website. A simple one page website that lists your location and store hours is better than nothing. This can be had for less than $150/year. Those of you that have more complex needs may need to spend more to hire a website developer to get you the site you need. This is no longer something than can be ignored.

The world continues to change. I haven’t looked in the Yellow Pages to find a business in years. I’ll bet I’m not the only one. Don’t get left behind.

Mar 10, 2014 - 3 minute read - government banking

New Guidelines For The CSBFP

The Canadian Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP) has been revamped by Industry Canada. The changes will go into effect April 1, 2014.

The CSBFP is a a program whereby Industry Canada provides a level of insurance against loan losses to banks and credit unions. The idea behind this is that these lenders will be more willing to lend money to startups and existing businesses if they can be protected against loan losses.

To qualify for this program, the business must have less than $5 million in revenue per year. Eligible loan purposes include:

  • equipment
  • leasehold improvements
  • real property (real estate)

The maximum about of financing continues to be $500,000 per borrower. Leaseholds and equipment can be financed to a maximum of $350,000 per borrower. The maximum loan guarantee is 10 years. If a loan is amortized over more than 10 years, it will be uninsured past the 10 year period if payments continue.

Interest rates remain the same. Lenders can charge a maximum of prime plus 3.0% or the residential mortgage rate plus 3.0%. The insurance premium remains the same at 2.0% of the loan amount.

Program Changes

Lenders were unable to charge loan fees. With the new changes, they will be able to charge loan fees, provided they do not charge fees in excess of what they would charge on their other business loans. These fees cannot be financed as part of the loan.

Lenders had been restricted to financing a maximum of 90% of the cost of eligible assets. Under the new program, they will be able to finance up to 100% of the cost of the eligible assets. It is important to note that while they will be able to finance assets at this level, they are under no obligation to do so. Lenders can finance assets at any percentage of cost that they are comfortable with.

These loans had required extensive documentation of purchases by way of receipts and proof of payment. This documentation is still required but the lender will only need to prove expenditures for the amount of the loan outstanding at the point of default when making a claim for loss. The effect of this will be that the lender needs to worry less about documenting every cent. Lenders may deem the receipts for small items financed under the program as being no longer necessary.

Appraisals will be required when assets or a service intended to improve the assets are performed by a person who is not at arms length from the borrower.

Personal guarantees used to be limited to 25% of the loan amount. This restriction has now been removed and the lender can require personal guarantees from the shareholders in an amount equal to 100% of the loan amount.

The Bottom Line

The net effect of these changes is to make the program more attractive to lenders. The number and amount of loans financed under this program has been falling in recent years. Industry Canada would like to get banks and credit unions lending to more businesses by making this program more attractive to them.

The program still remains a viable option for borrowers. It can be more costly than regular financing due to the premium but it might provide an option to get financing in situations where the lenders would not provide a loan without the added protection of the loan guarantee.

Full details of the program will be available on the Canadian Small Business Financing Program’s website on April 1, 2014.

Feb 15, 2014 - 1 minute read - government legal

Saskatoon Business Licensing Now Online

Saskatoon business owners can now renew their business licenses online. New business owners can also apply for their business license through this online service.( This convenience comes at no cost. Business license fees have not increased.

The website has some issues but it works. It doesn’t seem to work well with Safari or Chrome. You’ll want to use Firefox. Load times are quite slow but be patient. It will eventually render the next page.

This is a nice, convenient service. Hopefully the city’s website redesign will address some of of the compatibility issues.

Jun 13, 2013 - 1 minute read - business news

Empower Business Program Opens For Applications

The Empower Business Program, which is run by Saskatoon Ideas Inc. and is supported by BHP Billiton as its title sponsor, has opened to another 10 aspiring entrepreneurs. The program provides mentoring to First Nations and Métis entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan.

The program will provide mentoring to assist to assist in all parts of starting your business. They will help you determine your business model and a plan to implement it. They will assist in marketing as well as financial, market and competitor analysis.

If you meet the requirements and are planning to start a business or have recently started one, this program is well worth applying to. You’ll get a lot of assistance in starting your business that you might not be able to easily get elsewhere. The program can be delivered remotely over video so if you are rural Saskatchewan and can’t make frequent trips into the city, you should still apply. The deadline for applications is August 16, 2013 so you’ll want to move quickly.

The application process is simple. There is a short application form in Word format that can be found at the the Ideas Inc. website