TORONTO, January 28, 2016 – Pessimism about the prospects of the Canadian economy among professional accountants in leadership positions climbed sharply, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).\nHalf of the business leaders surveyed in the final quarter of 2015, as part of the latest CPA Canada Business Monitor, were pessimistic about how the national economy will perform over the next 12 months. In the previous quarter, 40 per cent of the professional accountants surveyed expressed a pessimistic outlook. To put things into perspective, pessimism hasn’t been running this high in the quarterly research since the first quarter of 2009 when it stood at 83 per cent. \nOptimism levels were 13 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year compared with 17 per cent the previous quarter. Almost four in ten respondents (38 per cent) were neutral about the prospects for the Canadian economy over the coming months. \nOil prices remained the number one challenge to the Canadian economy cited by 39 per cent of survey participants. The next highest response was uncertainty about the Canadian economy referenced by 21 per cent of the respondents.\n“Uncertainty dominates,” said Kevin Dancey, president and CEO, CPA Canada. “For many respondents, that uncertainty represents strengthening storm clouds. It’s hard to chart a course for success without clarity and right now there is no clear indication when the ramifications associated with low oil prices and the resulting insecurity will ease.”\nCompany specific \nCompany optimism was 38 per cent in Q4 2015 but pessimism was close behind at 31 per cent. These findings are how the professional accountants surveyed view the prospects for their own companies over the next 12 months. Previously, company optimism had ranged between 46 and 53 per cent for the last four quarters\nFocusing on revenues, 51 per cent of the respondents were projecting growth over the next 12 months, compared with 57 per cent in the third quarter of 2015. For profits, 48 per cent of those surveyed anticipate an increase. This marks the first time since Q2 2009 that fewer than 50 per cent of those surveyed were forecasting a rise in profits. \nTurning to employee numbers, the percentage of those who expect an increase is basically identical to the number of respondents anticipating a decrease. Thirty-one per cent of the survey participants are predicting growth at their company over the next 12 months while 30 per cent are expecting a decline. Thirty-eight per cent of the respondents forecast no change while the rest did not know.\nIn terms of priorities for their companies, the top response was increasing sales within Canada, identified by 25 per cent of respondents. The next two most referenced priorities were reducing costs (18 per cent) and improving productivity (12 per cent). \nMethodology\nThe CPA Canada Business Monitor is issued quarterly, based on a survey commissioned by CPA Canada and conducted by Harris Poll. The report draws upon business insights of professional accountants in leadership positions in privately and publicly held companies.\nFor the Q4 2015 study, emailed surveys were completed by 512 of 5,760 members identified by CPA Canada as holding senior positions in industry (CFOs, CEOs, COOs and other leadership roles). The response rate was 9 per cent, with a margin of error associated with this type of study at ± 4.2 per cent, with a confidence level of 95 per cent. The survey was conducted from December 9 to December 23, 2015.