Canada Small Business Financing Program: Ultimate Guide to the CSBFP for Ontario Businesses

The Canada Small Business Financing Program (also known as CSBFP) is one of the most popular financing programs for small business provided by the Government in Canada.  

In this comprehensive guide, we cover: 

  • What the CSBFP is
  • Who is eligible
  • How you can get it
  • Costs of a loan
  • How to apply

But first, here’s a quick summary of the CSBFP:

Summary of the Canada Small Business Financing Program


The Canada Small Business Financing Program makes it easier for small businesses to obtain loans from financial institutions because the government shares the risk with the lenders.

Comments on Funding:

The maximum loan amount a borrower can access under this program is $1 million, of which no more than $350,000 can be used to finance the purchase or improvement of new or used equipment and the purchase of leasehold improvements.

Interest rates are determined by the applicant’s financial institution and may be variable or fixed.

  1. Variable: The maximum chargeable is the lender’s prime lending rate plus 3%.
  2. Fixed: The maximum chargeable is the lender’s single family residential mortgage rate for the term of the loan plus 3%.

A registration fee of 2% of the total amount loaned under the program must also be paid by the borrower to the lender. It can be financed as part of the loan.


Applicants must:

  • be start-ups or small businesses operating in Canada
  • have gross revenues of $10 million or less.
  • On June 30, 2021, the coming into force of legislative changes to the Canada Small Business Financing Program removed the restriction excluding not-for-profit, charitable and religious enterprises as eligible borrowers.
  • Not eligible under this program: farming businesses.

Applications Steps:

Documentation Needed:

No specific documentation has been identified. The documentation is the one required by the funding institution (any bank, caisse populaire, or credit union in Canada).

In the sections below we cover the CSBFP in more detail…

What is the Canada Small Business Financing Program?

The short answer: the CSBFP is a financing program geared towards small businesses with the end goal of aiding these businesses in expanding and modernizing themselves.

The long answer: the CSBFP is a collaborative program between the government and private lending institutions, including chartered banks, credit unions, and caisse populaire.

The idea is that the government shoulders some of the risk involved in giving out these loans, and should a borrower default, the ISED reimburses the lender for a large chunk of their losses, 85 percent to be exact. As a result, lenders have an easier time giving out loans as they aren’t exposed to as much as risk as they normally would be.

Since 1999, the CSBFP has managed to fund over 148,000 businesses, bringing the total amount of the loans given out to around $15 billion. And, this program is active all over Canada, not just in Ontario.

Why does the CSBFP exist?

For starters, the CSBFP makes it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to get much-needed loans. Additionally, some of the riskier businesses, the ones that would normally be ineligible for a loan such as start-ups and companies operating in volatile industries, can gain access to capital that can help them expand.

You should also bear in mind that when giving out a loan, lenders will scrutinize what the borrower plans to do with the money. For instance, when a business plans to buy a certain asset with a loan, the lender will be able to secure their money with said asset until they are paid back in full, reducing their overall risk.

However, some activities, such as leasehold improvements, have no value whatsoever in case of default by the borrower, making it very risky for the lender. Ergo, lenders prefer to finance such activities through the CSBFP.

Who is eligible for the Canada Small Business Financing Program?

When talking about eligibility, we have to break the conversation into two parts:

  1. Who is eligible for applying for the loan?
  2. What activities are eligible for being financed by the loan?

Who is eligible for applying for the loan?

The CSBFP is mainly for small and medium-sized businesses. Hence, any start-up or for profit organization that operates within Canada is eligible so long as their maximum gross annual revenue doesn’t exceed $10 million.With regard to business structures, applying businesses can be any of the following: As for who isn’t eligible for this program, here are the main types of entities:If you or someone you know has a farming business that needs funding, the Canadian government offers a program similar to the CSBFP that is specifically geared towards businesses in the agriculture industry. The loan is offered by Agriculture Canada courtesy of the Canada Agriculture Loans Act Program. This program also serves other businesses that are incidental to agriculture such as veterinary services.

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership
  • A corporation
  • A cooperative
  • Farming businesses
  • Religious and charitable organizations
  • Non-profit organizations

What activities are eligible for being financed by the loan?

The CSBFP can be used to finance different aspects of a business.With regards to assets, these are the main ones that can be financed by the CSBFP:Furthermore, the CSBFP enables businesses to purchase the eligible assets of another, already existing business.However, there are also a few activities and assets that are ineligible for financing by the CSBFP, and these include the following:

  • Real property, which includes lands and buildings. This means that businesses can purchase or improve pieces of land and buildings that are used for commercial purposes.
  • Leasehold improvements. This means that businesses can renovate or improve property they are currently leasing.
  • Equipment. This means that businesses can purchase or improve equipment, both used and new.
  • Franchise fees
  • Goodwill
  • Inventories
  • Advertising
  • Labor, which includes a business’s operating expense
  • Permits
  • Working capital

How much money does the CSBFP provide?

The first thing you need to know is that the maximum available amount for any one business is one million dollars in total. This means that a business can have multiple CSBFP loans so long as all the loans combined do not exceed one million dollars outstanding.

Of the million dollars, businesses can only use $350,000 for leasehold improvements and equipment. The rest of the available loan may be directed towards real property. So, if a business wants to finance $600,000 worth of equipment, it will get no more than $350,000 through the CSBFP.

That said, it should be pointed out that the percentage of financing provided for any single endeavor as well as the initial investment required from the borrower are both negotiable and are decided between the borrower and the lender on a case-by-case basis.

How much does a loan from the CSBFP cost?

The main costs of the loan can be divided into the following:

  1. The interest charged by the lender
  2. The registration feeThe administration fee
  3. Other fees charged by the lender

Let’s look at each one of those separately:

  1. The interest charged by the lender

Even though the interest rate is negotiable between the lender and the borrower, there is a maximum:

a.  For a floating rate, the maximum rate cannot exceed the lender’s prime rate by more than 3 percent, and this includes the 1.25 percent for the annual administration fee (more on this later).

b.  For a fixed rate, the maximum rate cannot exceed the lender’s posted single-family residential mortgage rate by more than 3 percent, and, again, this takes into account the 1.25 percent for the annual administration fee.

  1. The registration fee

This is a one-time registration fee that is equal to 2 percent of the entire loan amount. The borrower has to pay this fee, but it can be financed as part of the loan they are taking.

  1. The administration fee

In addition to the annual interest rate, the borrower has to pay a 1.25 percent annual administration fee that goes to the CSBFP to make up for the cost of the claims. The fee to be paid depends on the outstanding loan balance at the end of every month, and it must be paid on any and all loans held by a business, which even includes loans that are in default or are in the realization process. As you might have noticed, this fee is usually charged along with the lender’s interest rate.

  1. Other fees charged by the lender

Aside from the interest rate, the annual fee, and the registration fee, borrowers might have to pay other fees, depending on who is lending them the money and what deal both parties have negotiated. You should also know that, unlike the administration fees mentioned above, these separate lender fees may not be financed by the loan.

Here are some of the fees a lender may charge a business:

a.  Lenders may charge fees for the preparations and registration of the security documents. The fee here is usually less than what the lender would typically charge for similar loans that aren’t under the CSBFP. Among the charges a borrower could incur are the costs that come with hiring a third party to inspect the borrower’s business premises and to ensure that both the business’s operations and assets are as stated.

b.  Lenders also charge premiums for life insurance as well as disability insurance. This is especially pertinent when life and/or disability insurance are conditions for receiving the loan.

c.   Lenders charge fees for converting a fixed-rate loan to a floating one or vice-versa.

d.  Lenders may charge additional fees, including fees for setting up the loan, fees for reviewing the loan annually, and fees for renewing the loan.

What about security?

When securing a CSBFP loan, borrowers can offer one of three types of securities:

  1. Primary security.
  2. Additional security
  3. Guarantees and suretyships

Before disbursing any part of the CSBF loan, lenders need to make sure that the security offered by the borrower is valid as well as enforceable and that this is the case for the entire period of the loan.

This is a quick breakdown of the different types of securities, telling you all you need to know:

  1. Primary security

This type of security is compulsory and can be broken down into first ranking security and alternate security.

First ranking security applies when the CSBF loan is used to finance a real property. You can think of it this way: When a bank gives out a mortgage, it uses the house being finances as collateral in case of default by the borrower. Similarly, when a lender finances the purchase or improvement of an asset, said asset can be used as security against the loan.

However, if the CSBF loan finances leasehold improvements, then there might not be any direct assets to be held as collateral. In such a scenario, the lender will accept alternate security, which boils down to security on other business assets. The problem here is that these assets might be subject to prior charges, which can create a ranking problem.

In simpler terms, if the business defaults on its loans, several lenders will try to claim the collateralized assets, creating an ordering problem of who gets to cover their losses first. This is why financing leasehold improvements can be so risky.

  1. Additional security

In short, this is when the lender decides to secure the loan more assets of the business than the one being financed. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that lenders cannot use personal assets to secure a CSBF loan.

  1. Guarantees and Suretyships

Lenders can take an unsecured personal guarantee up to the original amount of the loan. In the event of there being more than one borrower, the lender may take a joint personal guarantee, drawing on the different borrowers. Consequently, all borrowers will become guarantors of the loan, and they will be accountable should the business default on its obligation.

How can you apply for the Canada Small Business Financing Program?

If you feel that the CSBFP is for you, then you might want to consider applying. First of all, you should find a financial institution near you that is eligible for this loan; you can find a list of lenders already working with ISED and offering CSBF loans on the official website of the Government of Canada.

Once you’ve found an appropriate lender, you need to present them with a business proposal that details how much money you need, what the money will be used for, and how you intend to repay the loan.

After that, the financial institution, aka the lender, will look over your proposal and decide whether they will go forward with the loan. If approved, the terms of the loan, including the interest rate and the term of the loan, will be negotiated between you and the lender.

Assuming that all goes well, you should be clear to get a loan and expand your business.

However, there are a few things you should be aware of here:

  • The financial institution will be responsible for the due diligence part, and they will treat this just as they would any other loan. They will check the viability of your business against a list of criteria, and if your business does not hold up, the institution may reject your proposal.

Consequently, getting rejected by a specific financial institution does not have to deter you; you can apply to a different financial institution with different lending criteria.

  •  If your proposal is approved, you will be taking the financial institution’s money, not the government’s.
  • If you default on your loan at some point, the financial institution will claim the security and use it to cover their losses. However, it is entirely possible that once the collateral is sold, it won’t cover the total amount of the outstanding loan, in which case the institution will reach out to ISED and report its resultant losses. In return, ISED will reimburse the institution/ lender for 85 percent of their realized losses, leaving them to absorb the remaining 15 percent.
  • At no point throughout this entire process are you, the borrower, expected to communicate with ISED. The CSBFP is a partnership between financial institutions and the government, yet it is the financial institutions, not the government, who get the final say in which applications get approved and which don’t. You can find more information provided by the Small Business Financing Directorate at ISED.
  • It is possible that when presenting your business proposal, the commercial loan officer reviewing your application may not be aware of the CSBFP and its criteria, in which case you should notify them of the program and guide them to the appropriate web page.

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