A record-breaking 88% of Canadian CEOs are optimistic about their companies’ prospects for revenue growth, and 72% believe global economic growth will improve over the next 12 months, finds PwC’s CEO survey.

Despite NAFTA concerns, 88% of Canadian CEOs say they still consider the U.S. a top choice for growth, followed by China (53%), the U.K. (30%) and Germany (19%).

Key threats to growth include geopolitical uncertainty (88%), protectionism (84%) and cyber threats (81%).

About two-thirds of Canadian CEOs (67% versus 64% globally) believe that core technologies such as AI, robotics and blockchain will disrupt their business models. However, fewer than one in three Canadian CEOs (47% globally) say they understand how these technologies can improve their customer experience and create competitive advantage.

Canadian CEOs also expressed concerns about the availability of digital skills within their own industries and among their senior leadership teams. On digital skills specifically, 65% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of those skills in their workforces, and 60% felt there is a shortage in the Canadian labour market.

Client trust not an issue?

In contrast, CEOs aren’t so concerned about maintaining trust with clients, with one-third citing this as an issue compared to 60% globally. Only 14% feel the trust they have with their employees today is being questioned.

“Few cite declining trust with their customers as a challenge,” says the report. “The question could be asked: are Canadian CEOs overconfident or are they not listening?”

For full details on Canadian CEOs’ outlook, and for suggestions on ways to improve their businesses, download the PwC survey.

Small business wish list for federal budget

In comparison to the PwC survey, the annual economic report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce found that declining revenues are forecast by one-quarter of small businesses in Ontario—twice the rate of large firms.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says top federal budget priorities for small business owners are fairer tax measures and incentives for innovation and youth hiring.

“There is not enough clarity on the new income-sprinkling rules, and we remain concerned that the proposed passive rules will hurt owners’ ability to save and reinvest in their business,” says Dan Kelly, CFIB’s president, in a release. “We’re urging the government to listen to the Senate’s recommendations and put off implementing any tax changes until they fully analyze the impacts of these changes on the economy.”

Read: Tax questions for business owners in 2018

CFIB is calling for the government to help spur innovation and productivity in the small-business sector by introducing an expense deduction for investments in new technology or equipment, similar to a $1,000,000 deduction already available to small firms in the U.S.

Read: How the new U.S. tax law complicates life for U.S. business owners

Small businesses are also looking to the federal government to provide some relief for rising labour costs, resulting from CPP and minimum wage increases.

“With so many payroll costs going up, youth hiring plans are the first thing on the chopping block,” says Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB’s senior vice-president of national affairs, in the release. “We’re looking to government to help offset those costs and reinstate their promise to provide an ‘EI holiday’ for youth workers to help small businesses continue to hire more young Canadians.”

CFIB is meeting with government officials as well as key critics and MPs from the opposition parties to present small businesses’ recommendations for the budget.

Also read:

Why you shouldn’t overreact to January’s labour market slump