A survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business finds small business confidence rose in December to 65.0 – almost a point and a half higher than in November.
Ted Mallett, the CFIB's vice-president and chief economist, says the Business Barometer index typically hovers between 65 and 70 when the economy is expanding.
He says the return to "near normal" is good news for Canada's economic performance.
Provincially, business owners in Alberta and Saskatchewan were Canada's most optimistic in December at 73.6 and 72.2 respectively, while British Columbia scored a 68 on the 0-to-100 scale.
Heading east, optimism wanes some, with Quebec businesses at 65.3, Manitoba firms at 64.8, and Ontario businesses at 63.5.
The confidence scores drop even further in Atlantic Canada, with Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick all at 59.8. Small businesses in Nova Scotia were the least optimistic of all, at an index level of 55.6.
In terms of types of business, the services sector was the most optimistic, led by the arts, information and recreation industry at 72.0.
The wholesale goods sector was just under 68, while confidence in the construction and manufacturing sectors rose in December to 60.6 and 63.6 respectively.
Cautious consumers, however, sent the retail and hospitality sector indices down below 60.
The December 2011 findings are based on 900 responses from a random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey.
Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.3 per cent 19 times in 20.