Uncertainty lingers among Canadian Business leaders: CPA Canada Business Monitor

A significant number of Canadian business leaders are pessimistic about the prospects of the national economy over the next 12 months, according to a new survey conducted for Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

Toronto, January 23, 2020 – A significant number of Canadian business leaders are pessimistic about the prospects of the national economy over the next 12 months, according to a new survey conducted for Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

Roughly three-in-ten (29 per cent) of the professional accountants in leadership positions surveyed for the latest CPA Canada Business Monitor (Q4 2019) are pessimistic, basically unchanged from the previous quarter. Optimism among those surveyed sits at 26 per cent. The largest group – 45 per cent – are neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

Asked for their views on the top challenges to the country’s economic growth, uncertainty surrounding the Canadian economy is the top concern, cited by 19 per cent of respondents. Other issues mentioned include protectionist trade sentiments in U.S. (13 per cent), a lack of skilled workers and the state of the U.S. economy (both 10 per cent).

“It’s clear that Canadian business leaders are concerned about the economic challenges that Canada faces at home and abroad,” says Joy Thomas, president and CEO, CPA Canada. “In particular, the fourth quarter of 2019 was a tumultuous time, dominated by the escalating trade war between the US and China, elections in both Canada and Britain,  as well as continued economic difficulties faced by the Prairie provinces. Even with election outcomes decided in Canada and Britain and signs of easing of international trade tensions, uncertainty remains.”

Company-specific findings

As is often the case with the CPA Canada Business Monitor, respondents continue to be more confident in the outlook for their own organization as opposed to the national economy. Half of those surveyed are optimistic about the prospects for their business over the next 12 months, up slightly from the previous quarter. Only 21 per cent report pessimism about their organization’s prospects in 2020 and 28 per cent report feeling neutral.

When assessing the next year, 64 per cent are predicting their businesses will see increased revenues, 60 per cent are foreseeing increased profits and 39 per cent anticipate an increase in employee numbers.

As for the 2020 priorities of their respective organizations, increasing sales in Canada was most often cited as a first priority, referenced by 23 per cent of the respondents. Other actions cited as a top priority included improving productivity (16 per cent); attracting/retaining employees, (10 per cent); and reducing costs (9 per cent).

Data Governance

The future of data and its governance is a major focus for CPA Canada as it assesses the future of the accounting profession. According to this survey, business leaders agree that, heading into the next decade, data governance is a key concern for Canadian organizations. When asked how important the analysis and use of data is to organizations, 56 per cent indicated it was a high (49 per cent) or even the top priority (six per cent), with a further 30 per cent stating it was a moderate priority. Only 12 per cent suggested it was a low priority with a further two per cent saying it wasn’t a priority at all.

Despite 86 per cent of the Business Monitor respondents indicating the use of data is a moderate to a number one priority, organizational roles do not necessarily reflect that viewpoint. Eleven  per cent of respondents said data governance was overseen by one person, with 42 per cent indicating it was a shared responsibility and 44 per cent noting that no one was responsible for it. Three per cent indicated they didn’t know or were not sure who was in charge of data governance at their organization.


The CPA Canada Business Monitor is issued quarterly, based on a survey commissioned by CPA Canada and conducted by Nielsen. The report draws upon business insights of professional accountants in leadership positions in privately and publicly held companies.

For the Q4 2019 study, emailed surveys were completed by 365 of 4,070 people identified by CPA Canada as holding senior positions in industry (CFOs, CEOs, COOs and other leadership roles). The response rate was 12.5 per cent, with a margin of error associated with this type of study ±5.0 per cent, with a confidence level of 95 per cent. The survey was conducted from December 6 to December 20, 2019. The survey background document is available online at cpacanada.ca/businessmonitorQ42019.