Finance Minister Graham Steele made the unusual move Thursday of telling a business group it should look into ousting its leadership.
Steele said the confrontational style by the heads of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is reducing its influence and hurting its members.
The latest round of salvos between Steele and the CFIB began when the business group issued a release Thursday slamming Steele for holding “closed- door” meetings about cross-border shopping in Cumberland County.
The CFIB say it wasn’t invited to attend. Steele said the CFIB never tried to call him.
“I’m not planning to meet with the CFIB. They haven’t contacted me, they just issued a vitriolic news release, which I don’t find terribly helpful,” Steele said.
The minister said he does talk to many small businesses, but thinks they should be questioning their representation.
Steele said of all the groups he works with, the CFIB is the most difficult.
“The CFIB spokespeople in Halifax have this thing that I find just completely unconstructive, and I don’t think they’re serving their members very well,” Steele told reporters.
“Frankly, I think their members should start questioning whether the people in the Halifax office are really serving them well.
“Because of their very unconstructive approach they really have very little influence. I don’t think that’s what CFIB members expect when they pay their dues.”
CFIB spokesperson Judith Andrew insisted her organization brings forward the concerns of businesses and said Steele is trying to “bully” them and “shoot the messenger.”
“He knows that we’ve done detailed analysis on tax situation and budget situation.
“You just have to look at our documents to know what we’ve done,” she said.
“Our careful analysis is that he doesn’t need to do these tax increases.
“And he’s angry at us for pointing this out … We’re not letting him get away with pretending to be fiscally responsible when he isn’t.”