Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses today who have come to provide testimony.
I want to say, Ms. Benson, in reply to something you said to one of my colleagues, that it's not a race to the bottom. But it's not a race to the top, either.
I think it's about fairness and competitiveness, and that's why you have to look at the private sector. I'm from Fort McMurray. I've lived in Fort McMurray my entire life. I've operated and owned about 15 businesses there, everything from car washes to a law firm. I was a lawyer there for 11 years, and I've never seen more money paid for less work in my life than what I've seen generally around here. I'm not saying it's everybody. I'm not saying that at all, because some people work like dogs, bluntly, as was said by Mr. Stroud, and provide a tremendous service.
I find that, frankly, it's the exception rather than the rule who are not providing what they need to provide. I think that exception should be dealt with differently.
I do have some questions for Mr. Thomas. In particular, Mr. Thomas, I want to talk about the private sector because I think that's the only fair comparison for the public sector, not just on work but on basically what they provide to the economy.
I asked some questions like this yesterday.
There are about 1.1 million small businesses in Canada; 48% of the people in Canada are employed by small businesses, just over 5.1 million people; 86% of Canadian exporters were small businesses; 42% of the country's private sector GDP are small businesses; and 28% of the country's total GDP came from businesses employing fewer than 50 people. It's a very significant impact.
The most startling thing is—and I think, Ms. Benson, you should be aware of this—the average wage of these small business owners is $38,000 a year. In most cases, they can't collect EI or maternity benefits. They don't get sick days. They pay their taxes, they do what's necessary. I've heard some people say that they take cash under the table. I frankly find it astonishing that people believe that, because I've never found that. I find that small business owners are the most honest people that I've dealt with, because they understand how hard it is to make a buck, and they want to utilize taxes or what taxes give you, roads, bridges, streets, hospitals, etc.
Can you comment on that, in relation to competitiveness? I, bluntly, am astonished at the wages. As a lawyer, I had people in Fort McMurray with the highest income in Canada at $185,000 per household. As a lawyer, I had people make much less money than what the public service starts people at, for less experience.