A list of sources of help and information for businesses in Canada


Business and trade associations provide an excellent means of staying current on legislation, market factors, and trends affecting your industry. Other benefits of belonging to an association include access to free or nominal cost publications, regular meetings, conferences, seminars, trade fairs, newsletters, contacts and assistance to new business owners. There are usually national, provincial and local associations or chapters. Two directories to help you locate them are Directory of Associations in Canada (Micromedia) and Encyclopedia of Associations (Gale Research Company). The latter includes Canadian, American and International associations. In addition, check your yellow pages under “Associations”. Here are some of the main small business associations.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, with offices in Ottowa, Toronto and Montreal, has a small business committee and an active body that lobbies the federal government on various issues. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or board of trade regarding membership benefits.

Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus

Businesses may join at the national or local division. With 17 offices throughout Canada, local divisons assist businesses with various services, including arbitration of customer complaints.

Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB)

With offices in major Canadian cities and over 80,000 members nationally, this is the largest political action group for small and medium sized businesses in Canada. The CFIB provides services and library access for members only.

Canadian Organization of Small Businesses (COSB)

The COSB represents small independent businesses by lobbying government and provides services for members only.

Consulting / Counselling Services

Many sources of free or low cost counselling are available. To gain the most benefit from the assistance you receive, be certain to prepare a list of specific questions in advance. Here are some of the sources to explore:

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)

Regarding raising financing, the BDC can provide advice, a financial matchmaking service, database services and other forms of assistance. Check your phone book for a BDC office.

Community Colleges / Institutes of Technology

Many commerce or business management departments have clinics set up for the public to provide small business assistance, staffed by students with guidance from their instructors.

Community Futures

In many smaller communities there are community futures offices. These provide counselling and other assistance to those starting small business ventures.

Local Economic Development Commission

Many communities have an economic development department or enterprise development centre that provides free advice and counselling to prospective and existing small business owners. They can also assist you in cutting through government bureaucracy and provide you with information on current government funding assistance procedures, local community initiatives or incentives as well as statistical information and future growth trends in the community.

Provincial Government Small Business Ministries

All provincial governments have a free counselling program that provides small business assistance ranging from start up to management and financing. You can obtain the advice in person or over the telephone via a toll free small business hotline. Many provinces also have an excellent business resource library, which includes videotapes and computer based business information and analysis. For provincial contact addresses and phone numbers refer to “Web sites of Interests”.


The students of business schools of many universities provide a low cost or free consulting service to small business owners. The students benefit through practical real world business experience. Backup assistance is provided by their instructor to ensure that quality service is given to the business owner. Assistance provided can include preparation of a business plan, market research study, feasibility study and financial analysis.