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Update: Changing Workplaces

 

 

 

Update: Changing Workplaces

 

Review Final Report

This morning the Ontario Government's Special Advisors released their final report in the Changing Workplaces Review, outlining 173 recommendations to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Labour Relations Act (LRA). See below for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's statement on the report and more information on how these recommendations could affect Ontario's business community. 

 

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STATEMENT FROM ONTARIO CHAMBER OF

COMMERCE AND KEEP ONTARIO WORKING

COALITION

For more than two years, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Keep Ontario Working coalition have been productive partners in working with the government and Special Advisors to ensure that the employer voice is represented in this report. The Changing Workplaces Review has been based on academic and legal analyses, and now it is the responsibility of the Government of Ontario to decide which among these recommendations should be adopted.

The employer community reiterates our call that it is reasonable and appropriate that recommendations only be adopted following a comprehensive economic impact analysis. This analysis should have clear acceptability thresholds, and the reforms implemented should be limited to those that pass such thresholds or are being implemented with a commensurate economic offset measure, in order to help businesses transition into any regulatory changes.

An economic impact analysis is the only way that the Government of Ontario can protect jobs and workers against the unintended consequences that may come as a result of implementing these recommendations.

In the coming days, many will seek feedback on our perspective as it relates to the recommendations in the report, including the expansion of personal emergency leave and vacation time. While we would urge caution on those specific recommendations, it is fundamental that government understands the associated impact on our economy of those and all recommendations before deciding how to proceed. These standards come at a cost to employers, and consumers, and will impact our economic health and the ability of employers to create jobs. The Government of Ontario should not proceed to invoke changes until they can fully identify the scale of the impact.

Employers are acutely aware of what it takes to create good jobs and train the next generation of workers. That is why we are so concerned about potential unintended consequences. For example, many of our members have told us that they will be far less inclined to hire 15, 16 and 17-year-old workers if the student minimum wage is removed. Employers often see themselves as doing a public good in hiring young people who have no previous experience, often giving Ontario’s youth basic skills that enable them to grow into more productive members of our society. If all monetary incentive is removed from employers to ‘take a chance’ on a young person that has no previous work experience, they will be far less inclined to do so.

Removing certain sectoral exemptions will also be extremely challenging for certain industries, whose entire planning has been developed around these exemptions for generations. Another theme we have spoken to in great detail is the need for better education and enforcement around existing regulations before the layering in new regulations.

These are the types of issues that need to stand up to economic analyses and require broader research in order to protect against our concern that heavier regulation will cause lower labour force participation and higher unemployment, especially among the young. We are pleased that the Government has withheld comment at this time and hope that they will signal that the appropriate research will be conducted in advance of any legislation being introduced. Any and all of the costs associated with these recommendations would be compounded in a dramatic way by expanding the minimum wage. Given that changes to the minimum wage were explicitly left outside of the terms of this Review, we cannot help but wonder if the recommendations would have been different if the advisors would have been permitted to consider an increase to the minimum wage as an alternative to these recommendations. As employers, our members believe that increasing the minimum wage and fully implementing these recommendations would have the perverse effect of discouraging investment and eliminating jobs, thereby diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario.

 

 

 

 

Read the full report of the Changing Workplaces Review Final Report. 
 

 

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Burden Reduction for Small Business

Ontario's Business Advocate

 

OCC's Statement regarding today's announcement on burden reduction for small business

 

Today the Ontario Government announced their new measures to help small businesses and cut unnecessary Red Tape. The proposed measures will be introduced this fall, they include:

  • Reducing regulatory costs: Requiring all ministries to offset every dollar of new administrative costs to business, by removing $1.25 of old and unnecessary costs.
  • Streamlining compliance for small business: Ensuring that undue burdens aren't placed on small businesses when new or amended regulations are introduced, while maintaining robust environmental, health and safety requirements and other public interest protections.
  • International or national standards alignment: Increasing harmonization with other jurisdictions and adopting international or national standards, where appropriate, when developing or reviewing regulations.
  • Rewarding good actors: Recognizing businesses that have a good compliance record and lowering their costs by reducing the requirements, such as the number of inspections, without compromising the environment health and safety, and other protections.
  • Electronic transmission guarantee: Providing businesses the option to electronically submit any required documentation to the Government of Ontario instead of more costly paper submissions.
  • Government procurement: Introducing a preferred procurement policy for small businesses that would help provide better access to government contracts.
  • One-window service: Developing a new program that would help small businesses access support, information and resources by phone, online and in person.
  • Reducing fees and other costs: Reviewing licence and registration fees paid with a goal of providing relief to small- and medium-sized businesses.

 

For more information, please contact Karl Baldauf, Vice President, Policy & Government Relations.

 

NEWS

Ministry of Economic Development and Growth

 

Ontario Helping Businesses Save Time and Money

Province to Introduce Measures to Help Small Businesses and New Legislation to Cut Unnecessary Red Tape

May 19, 2017 6:00 A.M.

 

Ontario is working to make it easier for businesses to grow and create more jobs. 

Proposed measures to help small businesses grow and cut red tape, to be introduced this fall, include:

  1. Reducing regulatory costs: Requiring all ministries to offset every dollar of new administrative costs to business, by removing $1.25 of old and unnecessary costs.
  2. Streamlining compliance for small business: Ensuring that undue burdens aren't placed on small businesses when new or amended regulations are introduced, while maintaining robust environmental, health and safety requirements and other public interest protections.
  3. International or national standards alignment: Increasing harmonization with other jurisdictions and adopting international or national standards, where appropriate, when developing or reviewing regulations.
  4. Rewarding good actors: Recognizing businesses that have a good compliance record and lowering their costs by reducing the requirements, such as the number of inspections, without compromising the environment health and safety, and other protections.
  5. Electronic transmission guarantee: Providing businesses the option to electronically submit any required documentation to the Government of Ontario instead of more costly paper submissions.
  6. Government procurement: Introducing a preferred procurement policy for small businesses that would help provide better access to government contracts.
  7. One-window service: Developing a new program that would help small businesses access support, information and resources by phone, online and in person.
  8. Reducing fees and other costs: Reviewing licence and registration fees paid with a goal of providing relief to small- and medium-sized businesses. 

These proposed changes support Ontario's five-year, $650-million Business Growth Initiative that is helping to grow the economy and create jobs by promoting an innovation-based economy, helping small companies scale-up and modernizing regulations for businesses. 

Supporting businesses is part of Ontario's plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

 

QUOTES

" Cutting unnecessary red tape helps keep Ontario businesses competitive in a fast-changing global economy. These changes reflect our commitment to developing modern, evidence-based regulations that will save businesses and taxpayers both time and money."
- Brad Duguid
Minister of Economic Development and Growth

" Small businesses are critical for vibrant main streets across Ontario. These business owners contribute by creating jobs and strengthening local economies. Supporting these business owners by streamlining their dealings with the province and providing new opportunities for growth will help Ontario prosper."
- Jeff Leal
Minister Responsible for Small Business

 

QUICK FACTS

  • Ontario is committed to reducing business costs and burdens while maintaining a competitive tax environment. The government's recent business tax reforms have cut taxes and lowered compliance costs to encourage investment and job creation.
  • Ontario has introduced legislation that would, if passed, lower electricity bills by 25 per cent on average, with rates being held to inflation for four years. The proposed Fair Hydro Act, 2017, would result in lower electricity bills for all residential consumers and as many as half a million small businesses and farms, starting this summer.
  • Ontario’s 2016 Burden Reduction Report highlighted significant progress, featuring 26 initiatives across government and identified that the government’s burden reduction efforts have saved businesses a total of $122 million since 2011, surpassing the province’s goal to save businesses $100 million by 2017.
  • The Red Tape Challenge is part of Ontario’s five-year Business Growth Initiative.
  • Ontario will introduce legislation to implement recommendations from the Business Law Advisory Council to update and reform Ontario’s corporate and commercial law statutes, as well as reforms to reduce burden for not-for-profit corporations.

 

LEARN MORE

 

Daniel Bitonti Minister’s Office
Daniel.Bitonti@ontario.ca
416-325-7569

Jessica Hume Communications Branch
Jessica.Hume@ontario.ca
416-325-2479

 

Available Online

Disponible en Français

 
 
 
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Potential Labour and Employment Standards Reform

 

 

The Brockville & District Chamber of Commerce strongly objects to Potential Labour and Employment Standards Reforms  

Changes would discourage investment, eliminate jobs and diminish economic opportunities in Ontario, especially among small business owners 

 

The Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) have sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne warning against potential changes to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including the introduction of a $15 minimum wage. The letter is cautioning that these reforms may have unintended consequences impacting job creation and competitiveness, as well discouraging investment in the province. 

 

The potential reforms are coming at a time when costs for consumers and the cost of doing business is high and putting Ontario at a competitive disadvantage. Ontario has experienced slower growth in GDP and job creation than in the past and drastic reforms to labour and employment run the risk of causing serious damage to the future prosperity of the province.  

 

“These sweeping changes could seriously impact job creation and the health of our local economy,” in Brockville, said Pat Markovich, PRESIDENT of the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce. “We need to get the message out that the proposed changes would discourage investment in Ontario, thereby discouraging investment and diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario. 

 

On issues of non-standard and part-time work, Statistics Canada data shows that part-time work has risen 22 percent since 2003, down from the 36 percent increase in the previous 12-year period. Recent studies show that 76 percent of part-timer workers voluntarily choose part-time work to better accommodate schooling or personal life.   

 

“We are urging Premier Wynne to complete an economic impact analysis of the proposed reforms to limit potential consequences that could seriously jeopardize our future growth,” said Richard Koroscil, Interim-President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We support reform where and when it is needed, but we caution against change for change’s sake.” 

 

The OCC’s letter reminds the Premier that Ontario's employer community is doing its part to create better jobs and working conditions in the province. Budget 2017 points out that 98% of all new jobs created since the recession have been full time, and 78% have been above-average wage for their respective industries.  

 

The letter notes that the goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive. The OCC believes that what supports the competitiveness of Ontario’s economy can also help enhance quality of work. Increased education and enforcement may assist with compliance to Government regulations and can improve worker environments. Regulatory reform that raises costs for business, only to reduce the ability of business to invest in and grow the labour force is counterproductive. 

 

 

Read the OCC’s (Ontario Chamber of Commerce)  letter to Premier Wynne. 

 

 

May 15, 2017


Premier Wynne
Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1


Premier Wynne,


I am writing to you with regard to media reports over the weekend of impending changes to the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including the potential increase in minimum wage to $15 an hour.


On behalf of Ontario’s employer community, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce objects in the strongest terms to many of the reforms that are potentially being considered. These sweeping changes will tip our economic balance in a profoundly negative way. We are concerned that these rumoured policy changes would make it more difficult for Ontario businesses to grow and create good jobs. The changes would further restrict the flexibility of part-time and contract employees, diminish transparency and informed employee choice in the union certification process, and institute “paperwork provisions” that will add new layers of red tape to the existing regulatory framework. We remind you that good jobs are the direct result of a strong and growing economy. According to an 85-country analysis, heavier regulation of labor is associated with lower labor force participation and higher unemployment, especially of the young.


Government cannot legislate prosperity. Rather, the implementation of some of the policy options being considered would have the perverse effect of discouraging investment and eliminating jobs, thereby diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario. Politics cannot drive decision-making, evidence must.


Over the last two years, Ontario’s employer community has been a contributing partner to your government’s Changing Workplaces Review. While the labour community has used the Review as an opportunity to advocate for fundamental changes in labour relations, we have moved beyond the position of “status quo” and acknowledged that meaningful reforms that respond to a changing workplace can be adopted if done so responsibly. However, there is the potential for many of these proposed changes to do more to help organized labour than to help the workers themselves.


Despite this two year review, we have no reason to believe that the work that was done by your Special Advisors have been subjected to a structured and publicly reported economic impact analysis. Such broad reforms must be evidence-based. Workplace law reform conducted in absence of an economic risk assessment will discourage investment and compromise the competitiveness of businesses in the province which are already struggling to maintain profitability amidst rising input costs. There is a sense amongst the employer community that politicians are either unaware or significantly underestimating the cumulative financial burden of recent policies that have increased the cost of doing business in
the province.


Employers stress that the resulting cost escalation would act as a direct constraint on their ability to invest in the human and physical capital required to ensure the future prosperity of the province.


We urge you to consider the economic consequences of these policy options. Long-term economic projections for Ontario are for modest growth, as global pressures continue to strain our status as an investment destination of choice, high electricity prices will continue for the foreseeable future, and the pending economic implications associated with the introduction of a new cap and trade system are already being felt. Combined, these add up to an increased cost-of-doing business in Ontario. Small businesses, in particular, are expressing concern about economic viability.


The Economic Context


In Budget 2017, your government acknowledged that business investment spending slowed in 2016, though expects firms to increase investment by 3.1 percent, annually, to 2020 – an amount that would outpace growth in real GDP growth and household spending. We are skeptical of these assumptions as they depend upon business confidence – which has fallen precipitously in recent years according to the Ontario Economic Report – and U.S. demand, which is subject to considerable risk given recent comments by American President Donald Trump.


These reforms would only aggravate the situation. The Ministry of Finance’s forecast of average annual GDP growth in Ontario is only 2.1 percent between 2014 and 2035. This rate of growth is significantly less than the 2.6 percent average from 1982 to 2013. In the same report, the Ministry notes that Ontario’s cost competitiveness has already declined due to considerable growth in unit labour costs. The cost of producing a unit of output in Ontario has increased by 69 percent in the last 13 years. The Ministry estimates that comparable costs in the United States have grown by 28 percent.2 Regrettably, this pressure appears to be contributing to a pronounced slowdown in employment growth. In the 1980s, Ontario added 24.7 percent more jobs. In the 1990s, it created 11.9 percent more jobs. But from 2005 to 2015, employment in Ontario rose just 8.5 percent. Although the recent recession has been a contributing factor to our economic challenges, all three of the periods referenced were hit with recession. In fact, the loss of jobs in 2008-2009 was markedly less than in the 1990-1992 recession.


The Challenge


We need to be honest about the size of the problem that these reforms would be seeking to address, as issues of non-standard work in the economy are often misunderstood and overstated. For example, recent studies show that 76 percent of part-time workers in Canada voluntarily choose part-time work due to factors such as schooling or a need for flexibility in their personal life.


With respect to claims that there has been an unprecedented spike in the number of people holding multiple part-time jobs, the evidence is non-supportive. According to Statistics Canada labour market data, the number of Ontarians working multiple jobs has risen only 22 percent since 2003. This number is down from the 36 percent increase in the previous 12-year period.4 Perhaps surprisingly to some, the share of part-time employment in all jobs actually shrank in 2015 as compared to 25 years ago. This slight drop in part-time work is all the more remarkable because of the growing number of older workers who prefer part-time work. Job tenure in Ontario is another feature of the labour market that undermines claims of precariousness, with tenure increasing steadily over time. By 2015, the average employee in Ontario had worked for the same employer for a record, nearly 9 years. This data indicates that at no time in Ontario’s history have employees in this province enjoyed such stable employment.


While there are workplaces in Ontario that are not meeting basic employment standards, these non-compliant employers are the minority. We are concerned that your government will tackle tailored policy problems with blunt policy instruments. Temporary agency workers, part-time employees, contractors and other contingent and non-standard workers are positive and legitimate parts of the workforce that enable the kind of flexibility that all workers and employers need to balance their economic and
family objectives.


Our Ask


Our ask is simple: spend the coming months appropriately subjecting the proposed reforms in the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review to an economic impact analysis. This analysis should have clear acceptability thresholds, and the reforms implemented should be limited to those that pass such thresholds or are being implemented with a commensurate economic offset measure. We support reform where and when it is needed, but caution against change for change’s sake.


Ontario’s employer community is doing its part. As you point out in Budget 2017, 98 percent of all new jobs since the recession in Ontario have been full time, and 78 percent in above-average wage industries. This positive economic activity by Ontario’s private sector demonstrates a clear commitment to good jobs throughout our province and challenges many recent comments about so-called “precarious” work.


Ultimately, we believe that many of the workplace challenges that you are seeking to address can be solved by improving employer and employee awareness of workplace rights and subsequently redressing violations of those rights. Those businesses that are not complying with Ontario’s labour laws should face serious consequences. We see education and enforcement measures as an important area of common ground for government, employees, and employers.


The goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive. What supports the competiveness of Ontario’s economy will help enhance quality of work. At the same time, regulatory reform that raises thresholds only to reduce the ability of business to invest in and grow the labour force is counterproductive.


In the coming weeks and months, we will be a productive partner with government, but we will continue to vigorously defend against public policies that we believe to be harmful to economic growth and job creation in Ontario.


Sincerely,
Richard Koroscil
Interim President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce


CC
The Ontario Cabinet


Steve Orsini
Secretary of Cabinet


Patrick Brown
Leader, Ontario PC Party


Andrew Horwath
Leader, Ontario NDP

 

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Ontario Budget 2017

 

OCC RAPID POLICY UPDATE

Ontario Budget 2017

The Government of Ontario tabled its 2017 Budget, A Stronger, Healthier Ontario. What follows is a summary of key highlights from Ontario’s business perspective.

Wins for Ontario Business:

  • Funding for the Connecting Links program will increase to $30 million per year by 2018-9.
  • Budget 2017 includes an expansion of the Business Growth Initiative by $650 million over five years.
  • The Government is investing a further $15 million to create new, or expand existing, interprofessional  care teams.
 

Infrastructure

In Budget 2017, the Government indicates it will invest $13.5 billion through Moving Ontario Forward to enable faster and more frequent service on the GO network and Union-Pearson Express In addition, the Government announced that funding for the Connecting Links program will increase to $30 million per year by 2018-9.

OCC Analysis

In our 2017 Pre-Budget Submission, we called for a one-time, $30-million enhancement of the Connecting Links fund as a transitional measure to assist affected communities in addressing the two-year gap in which the program was discontinued. We are pleased to see that investment will be made beginning 2018-9. However, the OCC expected to see more dedicated infrastructure investment announcements, particularly outside of transit and roads.

 

Business Growth Initiative

The Business Growth Initiative was announced in Budget 2016 as a plan to support Ontario’s transition to a new economy. Budget 2017 includes an expansion of the BGI by $650 million over five years.
 

OCC Analysis

  • The OCC is encouraged by the Business Growth Initiative and welcomes further investment in the plan. The challenges faced by small businesses seeking to scale into medium- and large-sized firms is one we identified in Breaking Barriers: Ontario’s Scale-Up Challenge.
 

Cap and Trade

In Budget 2017, the Government indicates it is working on a separate system of Ontario-based voluntary carbon offsets to support the government’s carbon-neutral commitment. The proceeds of the carbon allowance auctions are expected to be $1.8 billion in 2017-8 and $1.4 billion in 2018-9. Projected spends of those proceeds include:

  • $800 million towards helping homes and businesses adopt low-carbon technologies
  • $55 million towards municipal partnerships to achieve emission reduction targets
  • $420 million towards modernizing transit towards low-carbon goals (i.e. rail, cycling infrastructure)
  • $410 million towards implementation of Green Investment Fund initiative.

 

OCC Analysis

The OCC has become increasingly concerned that increased input costs imposed on the private sector mean that Ontario risks losing out on jobs and investment. However, we are encouraged that the government has developed a plan for the next two years of carbon allowance auction proceeds.

 

Financial Literacy and Skills for the Knowledge Economy

In Budget 2017, the Government reiterated its support for injecting financial literacy into the secondary school curriculum. In addition, the Government has committed to invest nearly $190 million over three years in the Career Kick-Start program which will create more opportunities for high school and post-secondary students, along with recent graduates, to develop job relevant skills.
 

OCC Analysis

We support government’s efforts to modernize the secondary school curriculum and provide students with hands-on opportunities to develop the skills they need to compete and succeed in a technology-driven, knowledge-based and ever-changing economy. Hiring challenges were identified as a top priority by OCC members in the recent Business Confidence Survey.

 

Health Care Booster Shot

The government is providing for greater health care spending in the form of a $7 billion “booster shot” over the next three years. In budget 2017 the government also plans to spend an additional $11.5 billion over the next three years, including the cost of the new children and youth pharma care program with annual growth in health care spending is projected to be 3.3. percent on average.
 

OCC Analysis

While the OCC is pleased to see that healthcare is a priority for this government, we do not believe that spending more money is a sustainable solution.In recent advocacy efforts the OCC has encouraged government to shift towards a value based health care system and modernize procurement and supply chain processes.

 

OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare

The Government plans to provide universal drug coverage to all children and youth aged 24 and under, regardless of family income. Beginning in 2018, OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare will cover the costs of medicines funded through the existing Ontario Drug Benefit Program. The preliminary estimate of the cost of OHIP+ is $465 million per year.

OCC Analysis

While the goal of providing drug coverage to all Ontario children and youth is a laudable one, we are concerned that the costs of the pharmacare plan will further contribute to the unsustainable health care spend Furthermore, we are concerned that OHIP+ may disrupt current workplace drug benefit plans, many of which already fill needed prescriptions for young Ontarians.

We encourage the government to work with insurance firms and employers to determine the best way to ensure Ontario children and youth have access to the medicines they need, without duplicating or disrupting current coverage. We hope to work with government to design a plan that works in tandem with private drug benefit programs.

 

Interprofessional Primary Care Teams

The Government is investing a further $15 million to create new, or expand existing, interprofessional care teams.

OCC Analysis

In Transformation Through Value And Innovation: Revitalizing Health Care in Ontario, the OCC called for greater use of interprofessional care teams to better co-ordinate holistic care and to ensure patient needs are consistently and effectively addressed.

 

Business Investment

In Budget 2017, the Government projects that business investment will outstrip real GDP growth and household spending, rising by an average 3.1 percent between 2017 and 2020. Government attributes this growth to a competitive Canadian dollar, strong U.S. demand, and improving domestic opportunities.

OCC Analysis

In the Ontario Economic Report, we found that business investment is slowing due to a high perception of risk in the Ontario economy. Given the uncertainties surrounding existing free trade agreements with the U.S., as well as an on-going lack of business confidence in the province’s economic outlook, it is unclear how business investment could be prompted to reach such levels of growth.

 

Housing Affordability

Previously, the Ontario government released a set of 16 comprehensive measures aimed at helping Ontarians find affordable homes and bring stability to the real estate market. In Budget 2017, they detailed their plans to address the complex network of factors influencing the Ontario real estate market.

OCC Analysis

The OCC appreciates that the Province is “collecting more precise data on the real estate market”. It is concerning that the Government’s own projections show projected housing starts in 2017 through 2020 to be lower than those in 2016. This indicates that their 16-point housing affordability plan may have negative unintended consequences. Given the importance of increasing supply to improving affordability, these projections do not bode well for the success of the Government’s plans.

 
 

Read the Ontario Budget 2017

 

Questions or comments?

Contact Karl Baldauf, Vice President of Policy & Government Relations

Ontario Chamber of Commerce

 

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First Impressions Community Exchange

What is a First Impressions Community Exchange?

The First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE) provides an opportunity for communities to gain a fresh perspective on how they are seen through the eyes of first-time visitors. The program provides a structured opportunity for communities to learn about the first impressions they convey to visitors.

Volunteer teams from partnered exchange communities each conduct an unannouncecd visit and record their observations on a variety of topics such as community entrances, downtown amenities, services available in the community, and tourist attractions. The observations from the visit serve as the basis of a report back to that community. The report can assist decision makers with economic development planning.

For more information, click here.

To review our report, done by members of the Pembroke community, see the downloadable file below

/photos/custom/Report Back for Brockville by Pembroke.pdf

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Canadian Free Trade Agreement

Ontario Chamber of Commerce

2017 Federal Budget

OCC RAPID POLICY UPDATE

Canadian Free Trade Agreement

(CFTA)

The federal, provincial and territorial governments formally released the details surrounding the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). The announcement aligns with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) continued advocacy for the removal of inter-provincial trade barriers to further enhance Ontario’s competitiveness. Inter-provincial trade makes up one-fifth of Canada’s GDP, a total of $385 billion.

Background on CFTA

In December 2014 a comprehensive renewal of the 1995 Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) was launched with the aim of modernizing and strengthening Canada’s internal regulatory trade framework. In the summer of 2016, under the direction of Canada’s premiers and the federal government, an agreement in principle was reached on the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). Today the details of that agreement were released with the CFTA to enter effect July 1, 2017 replacing the previous AIT.

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Our Position

Ontario’s ability to trade with other provinces has historically been hindered by complex regulatory obstacles. The OCC has long advocated to ensure greater policy harmonization and cooperation in all areas of intergovernmental relations, specifically identifying the need for the removal of interprovincial trade barriers. In advance of the 2015 federal election, the OCC further championed the need to eliminate restrictions on internal trade and labour mobility within Canada. Today’s announcement of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) demonstrates significant progress towards the goal of removing restrictive barriers, and will serve to strengthen Ontario’s competitiveness while better enabling all Canadian businesses to grow.

Key Details of the Announcement

 

Comprehensive free trade rules

The CFTA replaces the existing AIT and will employ a “negative-list” approach, covering nearly all sectors of the economy. CFTA’s rules will automatically apply to almost all areas of economic activity in Canada, with any exceptions being clearly identified, meaning the default status of intra-provincial trade is “free”

 

Government procurement that is more open to Canadian business

The CFTA will implement a single electronic portal, which will make it easier for Canadian businesses, especially small and medium-sized companies, to find procurement opportunities across the country.

 

Alignment with international obligations

The CFTA will better align with Canada’s commitments under international trade agreements such as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which will reduce compliance costs for Canadian firms.

 

Resolving regulatory barriers

The CFTA will establish a regulatory reconciliation process to address regulatory differences across jurisdictions that act as a barrier to trade. The CFTA will also introduce a mechanism to promote regulatory cooperation, which will equip governments with the ability to develop common regulatory approaches for emerging sectors.

 

Next Steps: Enhancing interprovincial trade in the future

The CFTA creates several forward-looking processes and working groups to help strengthen Canada’s economic union into the future. This includes a commitment to establish a working group to evaluate options for liberalizing trade in alcohol, allows for future negotiations on the financial services sector, and includes a commitment to enhance the territorial food sector.

 
 

Questions or comments?
Contact Karl Baldauf, Vice President of Policy & Government Relations.

Ontario Chamber of Commerce

 

See the full copy of the CFTA

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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OCC RAPID POLICY UPDATE - 2017 FEDERAL BUDGET ANALYSIS



2017 Federal Budget

 
 

OCC RAPID POLICY UPDATE

2017 Federal Budget Analysis

Today, the Government of Canada tabled its 2017 Budget. What follows is a summary of the key highlights from Ontario’s business perspective.

 

SKILLS

  • Budget 2017 increases federal funding through the Labour Market Transfer Agreements by $2.7 billion over six years.
  • The Government also intends to establish a body that will collaborate with employers and other stakeholders across the country to identify skills gaps.
  • The Budget provides for more grants for adults who wish to return to school, more work-integrated learning placements for students and resources that increase flexibility for those individuals on Employment Insurance who also wish to pursue job training.

OCC Analysis

The spotlight placed on skills in Budget 2017 is an important acknowledgment from the federal government of one of the top concerns to the business community: finding the right people with the right skills. The critical importance of this issue to our members is why Skills & Workforce Development is one of the OCC’s key priorities for 2017. While the commitment to skills training in the budget is welcome, we urge the federal government to do more to tackle this issue through all appropriate tools and policy levers - including immigration, as discussed in Passport to Prosperity: Ontario’s Priorities for Immigration Reform

 

INNOVATION & BUSINESS GROWTH

  • The Government intends to invest up to $950 million over five years in business-led “superclusters” that are driving innovation and have the potential to accelerate economic growth.
  • Budget 2017 also makes allowance for an additional $400 million in funding through the Business Development Bank of Canada over three years.
  • A new Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative, dedicated to increasing late stage venture capital, is also part of a plan to grow innovative start-ups.
  • Investments in Budget 2017 will support Canada’s earlier pledge to double its investments in clean energy research
  • The Budget overall is focused on key growth industries such as clean technology, agri-food and digital.

OCC Analysis

The OCC has placed an emphasis on clusters as a key feature of innovative, high-growth sectors, most recently in Adopting Our Advantage: Supporting a Thriving Health Sector in Ontario. In that report, we also called for improved venture capital funding, particularly to help innovative businesses surpass the commercialization valley of death, and then successfully scale.

Specifically, in our Federal Pre-Budget Submission, we called on the government to renew the Venture Capital Action Plan or to consider encouraging or incentivizing investment in this sector through a dedicated VCAP fund. The Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative is an important effort to address the need for this kind of funding among innovative Canadian entrepreneurs.

The recognition of agri-food as an innovative, key growth industry is welcome, as the OCC highlighted the importance of this sector in our recent report, Fertile Ground: Growing the Competitiveness of Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

  • Budget 2017 formalizes the creation of the Canada Infrastructure Bank which will be responsible for investing at least $35 billion over 11 years, using loans, loan guarantees and equity investment through public and private sector capital.
  • Through Canada’s Trade and Transportation Corridors Initiative government intends to invest $10.1 billion over 11 years to modernize Canada’s transportation system.
  • To advance Canada’s efforts to build a clean economy, the Government will invest $21.9 billion in green infrastructure, including initiatives that will support the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
  • The federal government will invest more than $11.2 billion in a National Housing Strategy, which focuses on a range of initiatives designed to build, renew and repair Canada’s affordable housing stock. This also includes a 225 million dollar investment to improve social housing conditions for Indigenous Peoples not living on-reserve.

 

OCC Analysis

While we recognize the critical importance of investments in social infrastructure, Canada’s export economy relies upon its roads, ports, waterways, railways, airports and pipelines to move Canadian products and services to the markets of its trading partners.

As highlighted in the Ontario Economic Report, both the price and availability of appropriate shelter impacts the ability of Ontario business to attract global talent, reducing our competitiveness. Therefore, an investment in social infrastructure is essential to the business community. However, the OCC is concerned that not enough of the dedicated federal infrastructure spending will go towards the trade-enabling infrastructure that improves productivity and promotes economic growth.

In our Federal Pre-budget Submission, the OCC asked that the Government of Canada demonstrate a greater commitment to investment in trade-enabling infrastructure.The establishment of a Canada Infrastructure Bank is therefore a positive development, as alternative financing and funding of infrastructure is an important component of this commitment. Throughout 2017, the OCC will be actively engaged on this file through our Environment & Infrastructure policy program.

Previously, the OCC has called on the federal government to allocate infrastructure funds on a per capita basis, potentially increasing the amount of federal infrastructure funds Ontario receives by $1 billion every year. Like many of our concerns regarding the fiscal gap, this was unaddressed in the 2017 Budget.

 

Other notable announcements:

  • The federal government has formally reached new health funding agreements with the provinces and territories: $11 billion over 10 years, with dedicated funding for increasing home care and mental health resources. Budget 2017 provides for hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding.
  • The Budget provides funding for the launch of a new Development Finance Institution that will promote economic growth, create jobs, advance women’s economic empowerment and reduce poverty in areas where alternative financing is scarce.
  • Budget 2017 also includes further investment in the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy program, as well as funding for improved health care services, infrastructure investment (including housing), and increasing the capacity for self-government.
 

Questions or comments?
Contact Karl Baldauf, Vice President of Policy & Government Relations.

Read the Full 2017 Federal Budget

 

Read the OCC's media release

 
 
 
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Ontario's Cap and Trade Program

 

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Government Announces New Energy Strategy: Ontario's Fair Hydro Plan

 
 
 

Government Announces New Energy

Strategy: Ontario's Fair Hydro Plan

 
 

The Government of Ontario responded to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's (OCC) call to support the growth of the provincial economy through the reduction of electricity rates. The Fair Hydro Plan will seek to mitigate the rising cost of electricity in Ontario. Expected to take effect in summer 2017, the Plan will provide an approximate savings of 17% (25% when including the previously announced 8% HST rebate) to consumer's hydro bills. Ontario's Fair Hydro Plan will also link future rate increases to the rate of inflation over the next four years and provide further rate relief to the province's most vulnerable citizens.

 

Key Details of the Announcement


1. Refinancing the Global Adjustment (GA)
The proposed plan will refinance the costs associated with the Global Adjustment (GA), providing immediate relief to consumers by “smoothing out” the payment of energy contracts over a longer time period. The Ontario government predicts that this refinancing will achieve an average of 17% savings for the individual ratepayer (25% when including the previously announced 8% HST rebate). The government intends to introduce legislation that would, if passed enable the Independent Electricity Operator (IESO) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to refinance the GA over a longer period of time, ultimately lowering the current cost paid by consumers. Under current forecasts, the immediate reduction in the GA would be approximately $2.5 billion per year on average over the first 10 years, with annual interest costs not exceeding $1.4 billion.


2. Helping Vulnerable Consumers
The Fair Hydro Plan includes initiatives to help Ontario’s most vulnerable consumers. The province plans to pass legislation to enable these new measures. Together these new initiatives will cost the government up to $2.5 billion over the next three years to be funded through provincial revenue. These initiatives include:


Broadening Rural or Remote Electricity Rate Protection (RRRP)
Currently, the RRRP provides a rate subsidy to rural/remote customers who are faced with higher distribution costs compared to urban areas. The new program will increase the number of qualifying customers from approximately 350,000 customers to 800,000 customers.

Enhancing the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP)
The proposed OESP enhancement would see monthly credits increased by 50%, expanded to cover more low-income Ontarians and increase uptake to as close 100%.


First Nations On-Reserve Delivery Credit
The on-reserve credit will remove the monthly service charge for customers saving approximately 21,500 on-reserve First Nations a monthly amount of $85.

Establishing a New Affordability Fund
The proposed affordability fund will provide Local Distribution Companies (LDC’s) an additional tool to help customers in need. The province will work with Hydro One, in consultation with other LDC’s to establish a Trust to serve as the administrator of the Affordability Fund.

3. Enhancing Competitiveness for Small Manufacturers and Industrials
Due to our ongoing advocacy work, the OCC is pleased to see that the Fair Hydro plan will expand the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) extending eligibility to small manufactures and industrials with an average peak demand of over 500 kilowatts.

Our Position

The OCC has repeatedly heard from Ontario's business community that energy rates are unsustainable. In fact, 51% of businesses ranked energy concerns among their top three policy priorities.

Once implemented, Ontario's Fair Hydro Plan will bring immediate relief to the business community by “smoothing” the GA rate over a longer time period and tying rate increases to inflation over the next four years. While this will alleviate challenges associated with the cost of electricity in the near-term, the Ontario Chamber Network advocates for further amendments to the province's energy strategy in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of our energy system.


Later this year, the OCC will release a report that will provide recommendations to further enhance the long-term sustainability of the energy sector

What’s Next?

As part of the Fair Hydro Plan, the OCC will partner with the Ministry of Energy to deliver a targeted outreach campaign to help business better understand and participate in provincial programs such as the ICI.
In spring 2017, the government is expected to release its Long-term Energy Plan. The OCC will continue to advocate for the reduction of input costs on businesses and looks forward to working with the government to deliver on its energy priorities. In addition, we encourage the government to continue to find ways to update provincial legislation in a way that supports Ontario's economic growth.

 

 
 

 

 

 

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OCC Pre Budget Submission

 

Ontario Chamber of Commerce Pre Budget Submission

 

 

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce made its Provincial Pre Budget Submission today. Your Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce is a proud member of the OCC (Ontario Chamber of Commerce)

The document makes recommendations to the Provincial Government to focus on four key areas

 1.  Fiscal prudence and budget management.

 2. Address the infrastructure deficit within the Province and Municipalities.

 3. Foster business competitiveness

 4. Improve conditions to allow Municipalities to thrive

We will continue to monitor and report on the upcoming budget from Minister of Finance Charles Sousa and welcome your comments.

 

 

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Ontario Economic Report

 

 

Ontario Economic Report

 

 

 

What is the Ontario Economic Report (OER) all about? The OER details the state of the province using innovative research published for the first time. The OER includes the Business Confidence Survey (BCS), the Business Prosperity Index (BPI), and the 2017 Economic Outlook.

 

What does the Business Confidence Survey (BCS) reveal? The data shows that there is a considerable confidence gap between our members’ organizational and provincial economic outlooks. This trend continues in 2017.

·        Day-to-day challenges: hiring and electricity costs are directly impacting their ability to invest and grow.  

·        Among those who attempted to recruit a new staff member in the past 6 months, only 14% did not encounter any challenges in the process.

·        Only 24% of businesses surveyed are confident in Ontario’s economic outlook

What does the Business Prosperity Index (BPI) reveal? The BPI looks at income generation from business production and investment activities, and measures the excess resources business have after meeting their operational needs. For this version of the BPI, we track business prosperity in Ontario from 2000 to 2015. Moving forward, this index will be updated annually.

·        The BPI reveals that the share of prosperity derived from the production of goods and services has declined substantially over the past 15 years.

·        The contribution of the production of goods and services to Ontario business prosperity has fallen by 24%, even as business prosperity generally rose by 39% over the same period.       

·        A hesitation to grow or invest in the face of growing financial resources indicates that Ontario possesses a higher risk operating environment.

·        Ontario businesses are holding onto liquid capital rather than re-investing in their businesses (i.e. purchasing new equipment, expanding their footprint, or hiring new labour).

·        Cost of living, especially the cost of housing, is high, which means households have less disposable income and businesses have difficulty attracting new talent.Without strong household spending, market activity is weak, and with weak market activity business profitability suffers.

What does the Economic Outlook for 2017 tell us?

·        In 2017, Ontario is predicted to see increases in population size, labour force size, and positive net migration, while the rate of unemployment will continue to decline.

·        The unemployment rate is expected to continue its multi-year decline, with a projected rate of 6.5% in 2017.

·        Labour market participation will hold steady at 65%. Median residential housing prices will rise in all regions across the province.

Because of the challenges identified in the OER, the OCC will focus on three key policy priorities in the coming year:

·        Health Transformation

·        Skills and Workforce Development

·        Environment and Infrastructure 

In addition to these key policy areas, the OCC will continue advocacy on the energy file in order to reduce costs businesses in Ontario face. 

Ontario Economic Full Report

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Young Professionals Update

 

 

*NEW* for 2017, the Brockville & District Chamber of Commerce would like to keep our members up to date by providing you with a monthly blog. For our first submission, we would like to highlight our Young Professionals Network with a brief overview of 2016 and a snapshot of what's ahead.

 

 

Looking back on 2016, I can't help but be inspired and so proud of what the Brockville Young Professionals Network accomplished.

Although it has expanded and branched off into its own entity, the YPN is proud to support and be involved in the Brockville Winter Classic Weekend! We are so proud of what the weekend accomplished in 2016 - the success of the second annual tournament; the alumni game; and the top ten spot in Kraft Hockeyville all supported the continued improvements to Rotary Park.

2016 was a year of trying new events and finding new ways to connect with our members and community. From bus trips, to murder mystery nights, and our inaugural gala, we were overwhelmed by the support we received and how fun each event was! Through listening to feedback from our members, we will strive to ensure that every event planned for 2017 is engaging, meaningful, and provides valuable opportunities for our members to connect with each other & the community.

The young professionals in this area are an impressive and engaged group, dedicated to Brockville’s future. Having worked with many of them, I know how bright the future looks! 2016 was incredible, but we aren’t going to stop there - we've got some exciting events and opportunities planned for 2017, and would love to have you join us! Sign up for our newsletter or like us on Facebook to stay up to date with the YPN.

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