The CFIB's Richard Dunn says many small businesses wouldn't be able to afford the extra expense of the drug plan. (CBC)

A group representing small business is concerned about a proposed government-run prescription drug program that would ensure everyone in the province is covered.

Richard Dunn, a policy analyst for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, doubts many small businesses could afford the extra expense of the plan, which would have employees pay two-thirds of the cost and the employer, one-third.

The province said the plan is meant to help 150,000 workers in the province who currently have no coverage.

'Small business owners don't have an endless supply of gold bars sitting around that they can just do whatever the government comes along and wishes for them to do.' —Richard Dunn, CFIB

But some business owners call the proposals crippling.

"It’s a difficult pill to swallow for business owners who are just struggling to get by," said Dunn.

"It seems like what the intent is, is to pass on the cost of prescription drugs from those who can’t afford it to others who maybe also cannot afford it. So, it’s a difficult position to be in."

Dunn said seven out of 10 business members in the CFIB has fewer than five employees. He argues the plan would create a large amount of paperwork for business owners, especially if their staff changes frequently.

And the costs would be onerous.

"Small business owners unfortunately don't have an endless supply of gold bars sitting around that they can just do whatever the government comes along and wishes for them to do," said Dunn

Taking care of employees


Luke Randall thinks small business owners should take care of their employees. (CBC)

Luke Randall, owner of Think Play in Fredericton and a CFIB member, doesn't agree with the organization's position.

Three of Randall’s eight employees — including Randall himself — do not have drug coverage.

"I think it’s important for small business to take care of its employees," Randall said.

"You have to look at the overall burden of cost. If you have an employee who does end up having a long-term chronic illness, someone will bear that burden. I think it’s better to bear it amongst the group of us as New Brunswickers rather than to put it onto one family or one individual to bear that cost," Randall said.

Meanwhile, employee Kathy Corey loves her job, but not the lack of drug coverage. It’s something she can't afford on her own.

"Knowing that the employer is being a part of that would certainly help, and I think that would be a real benefit to me," said Corey.

The province said any employee that can't afford to pay into the plan would be subsidized.

The CFIB questions why there would be no help for businesses who also can't afford it.