Wednesday
Jul202016

What we're hearing: Small Business Too Big to Ignore 

Policy advocacy on behalf of our members and business in our communities is a core priority of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. We want to know the policy issues that are important to you so that we can effectively represent your interests.

To that end, two roundtable events were held on Thursday, June 23, 2016 in Lakefield at the Marshland Centre and in the Station Boardroom at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.   

Twenty-eight business owners and business advocates attended the two hour sessions discussing issues relevant to small business in our communities.  The roundtables were part of the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign launched in May 2016 in partnership with these two local chambers, other chambers and boards of trades across the province, and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.  

Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success 

This introductory report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce lays out three obstacles that are common across the province:

1. Lack of Access to the Workers We Need

2. Key Infrastructure Gaps

3. The Rising Cost of Doing Business

The campaign is designed to highlight the importance and contributions of small business in Ontario.  The feedback from our local roundtables and others across the province will inform a final report on the factors critical to the success of small businesses. The final report will be released during Small Business Week in October 2016.

The participants of the roundtables were divided into small groups and talked about the challenges for small business.  Both groups identified the following as the top challenges:

 

  • education for employees and the workforce
  • compliance with legislation
  • procurement
  • workplace attitudes
  • succession planning
  • sustainability

 

In discussing solutions for the challenges the number one suggestion was:

 

  • removing red tape 

 

followed by:

 

  • understanding the government’s expectations around enforcement and inter-ministerial awareness 
  • improved education programs for apprentices and retraining for current employees 
  • grant programs for small and medium enterprises

 

Both groups felt the role of the Chamber was to be the voice of business and that there was strength in numbers.  There were suggestions for increasing collaboration between the Peterborough and Kawartha
Chambers and identifying how a mid-size city region such as Peterborough can bridge the policy gap between rural and urban issues.  

Read our roundtable report and add your voice to the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign by filling out a short survey, found on our website peterboroughchamber.ca/small-business-too-big-to-ignore.html

Wednesday
Jul132016

We can't become battle weary over red tape

It’s one of, if not the most common gripe from the business community – red tape.  Business owners and chamber members run into it every day.  Red tape has the ability to turn what should be one of the more simple tasks into an administrative nightmare.  The impact is real in that we see productivity levels drop as time and money are spent wading through forms, phone calls and emails. 

In 2015, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce through the ‘Emerging Stronger’ policy document suggested the Government of Ontario undertake a Red Tape Challenge.   There was a similar exercise completed in Britain which resulted in 3,000 regulations being scrapped or amended.  The savings to businesses will be over 850 million pounds every single year. 

In 2016, the provincial government decided to take on a Red Tape Challenge.  The program will look at six industry areas over the span of two years.  At the end of March 2016, the comments were opened for the automotive manufacturing industry. Over the next three months, the government received over 180 comments and private messages on 36 different pieces of legislation. In the ‘Summary of Participation’ on the government’s Red Tape Challenge website the most comments were received on the following three pieces of legislation:

 

  • Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act
  • Employment Standards Act
  • Measuring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions

 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth recently announced that since 2011, burden reduction initiatives have saved businesses $122.3 million and 5.4 million hours.  The Ministry renewed its commitment to continuing its aggressive approach to cutting red tape to provide cost and time savings to business.   

The province’s 2016 Burden Reduction Report highlights three actions that have helped businesses over the past four years:

 

  • BizPal, an online tool that provides a customized list of all permits, licences and requirements needed to register a business in Ontario, saving entrepreneurs $27 million and 700,000 hours over four years.
  • Automating Clearance Certificates for construction contractors, saving contractors and their employers $13 million and 545,000 hours over five years.
  • Simplifying vendor reporting and registration under the Assistive Devices Program, saving businesses $2 million and 70,400 hours over one year.

 

“The acknowledgement by government of the negative impact of red tape on business is why it’s imperative for businesses to continually talk about these pieces of legislation that weigh down their processes and productivity,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is committed to bringing those concerns to elected officials.”

The next industry area the government will be seeking feedback on will be the food processing industry. The comment period starts August 2nd, 2016 with comments will be welcomed until September 30th, 2016.   We encourage all businesses in this sector to provide feedback to the government.  

The Red Tape Challenge website is: ontario.ca/page/red-tape-challenge  

If you don’t see your industry sector listed, please let us know by contacting the Chamber at
sandra@peterboroughchamber.ca or 705.748.9771.  

Thursday
Jul072016

How infrastructure drives our economy

The importance of solid built infrastructure to our economy cannot be ignored.  Earlier this week, the Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli joined our MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal in Peterborough County to announce a top-up fund for small, rural and northern municipalities.  

In announcing the program, which will be distributed as part of the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF), the Ministers spoke to how roads and bridges are critical pieces of ensuring a strong economy.  The challenge is the cost of repairing the current infrastructure to ensure our economy moves forward.  

“Peterborough County has about $75 million in infrastructure repair needs,” said Warden J. Murray Jones, while Mayor Daryl Bennett emphasized the need in the City.   

The top-up application component will allow municipalities to submit proposals for specific infrastructure projects.  This application-based funding is aimed at allowing smaller communities to bring their total OCIF funding up to $2 million over two years to ensure all communities have opportunities to address larger, critical infrastructure projects.  

“By expanding the OCIF, our government has shown municipalities that we are committed to working with them to address critical infrastructure needs in their communities through predictable, stable funding,” said Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and MPP for Peterborough.  

Over the next three years, $670 million will be invested in the fund.  Infrastructure and the gap associated with the needs versus the ability to fix have been highlighted as a barrier to success for business. A recent report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identifies that about half of the infrastructure gap is accounted for by road and bridge assets.  The report encourages the government to spend infrastructure dollars wisely and on projects that are considered trade enabling, from roads and bridges to rail and ports. 

The announcement comes at an opportune time.  Last week Stuart Harrison and I joined a tour of two large operations in Havelock-Belmont-Methuen Township: the ethanol plant and quarry owned and operated by Drain Bros. and the Unimin mine.  Both are doing really neat innovative projects with their businesses.  In the case of Drain Bros. they have found and/or developed uses for many of the materials or by-products so that there is little wasted in their processes.   

Unimin is planning a modernization of its plant to increase efficiency and capability of producing their product, nepheline syenite.  

These types of infrastructure announcements help municipalities ensure that roads and bridges are in good working condition so that companies such as Drain Bros. and Unimin can grow, reach new markets, and offer jobs in their communities.   

Wednesday
Jun292016

Peterborough rallies around a mindset close to its heart

Monday night Peterborough City Council endorsed the actions of a pilot project that is examining mid-size cities.  The focus of the remainder of the project will be to “strategically position Peterborough as a green/sustainable community and economy”. It's a mindset that connects Peterborough and its residents to the natural beauty of the area.  We pride ourselves on being a community close to nature in a number of ways.  This mindset is used to sell our community to businesses, professionals and tourists.  It's a mindset that makes Peterborough a great place in which to live, work and play. 

The project, led by Evergreen, a national charitable organization, and a local steering committee of John Good, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough, Ken Doherty, Director of Community Services for the City of Peterborough, Sandra Dueck, Policy Analyst for the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, and  more recently Rhonda Keenan, President & CEO of Peterborough Economic Development, has been working over the past year to examine Peterborough's role as a mid-size city and how its needs could potentially influence provincial policy. 

The Evergreen Group received provincial funding for the project from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and chose to examine Peterborough, Sudbury and London to determine the needs of mid-size cities.  Mid-size cities for the purpose of the pilot program were defined as urban areas with a population of 50-500,000 people.  It was also recognized that mid-size cities play varying roles. In Peterborough's case, it is a city centre with its own autonomous economy, while providing services in health care, employment and education to the region. 

How did the stakeholder group decide to hone in on a regional area of focus around Peterborough as a green/sustainable community and economy?

Three meetings were held in Peterborough between March and April 2016.  The groups were put through a series of asset mapping and visioning exercises around 12 opportunities for action that could be applied to mid-size cities.  Out of those meetings, participants gravitated toward three opportunities for action:

 

  1. Develop Programs And Strategies to Better Leverage Underutilized Human Capital
  2. Build on Existing Municipal And Community Leadership to Drive Action
  3. Develop a Regional & Economic Roadmap Around an Area of Focus

 

It was felt that opportunity number one was already being serviced by the new Local Employment Planning Council and that number two would require an advisory committee of sorts and Peterborough “is flush with committees”. 

Further discussion led the conversation to a number of projects starting or underway in Peterborough relating to the green and/or sustainable economy.  Sustainable Peterborough is the lead organization helping to develop climate change action plans for the city, county, 12 townships and three First Nations.  The planned Trent Research & Innovation Park is aiming to have a green tech focus and the City of Peterborough is working on a new shaping the future document based on four pillars including sustainability.  Part of Peterborough Economic Development’s mandate is sustainability and the Chamber of Commerce and GreenUP have teamed up for the Green Business Peterborough program.  There is also a group led by GreenUP putting together a proposal to be designated a UNESCO Region of Expertise for Environmental Education.  

The next steps in the project are to continue mapping out all of the green and/or sustainable projects that are happening in Peterborough city and county and to examine other jurisdictions that have adopted this area of focus.  

The work of the Peterborough group does not stop at this opportunity for action.  Participants in the three stakeholder meetings also discussed the role of the province in ensuring that mid-size cities have the
opportunity to thrive.  The outcomes of this discussion included a desire for more flexibility and opportunity to recognize the unique role of mid-size cities.  The next steps in this part of the process will culminate in a mid-size cities forum to be held in the spring of 2017. 

The exciting part of this mid-size cities project is the realization that Peterborough, through the uncoordinated actions of many, has been travelling down the same pathway to a similar goal.  The challenge will be to use that momentum to our advantage at the provincial level. 

Wednesday
Jun222016

CPP enhancement could spell the end of the ORPP

From the Ontario perspective, the agreement in principle to enhance the Canada Pension Plan is a good thing for business.  The solution is one that will still have impact, but less so than what we were facing here in Ontario. 

According to Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, this will be the end of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), should the agreement be ratified by July 15, 2016.  If that happens, there will not be a new 1.9 percent payroll tax.  It means the government administration required to manage the ORPP will no longer be needed.  It means that small businesses in Ontario will not have to add a line to their payroll deductions.  It means that a province-by-province approach to pension reform is avoided and that would have been a costly venture.  

“A province-by-province approach would have increased regulatory fragmentation and thus administrative burden.  Ontario is doing the right thing by moving away from the ORPP in order to support a coordinated solution,” said Allan O’Dette, President & CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce.  

The devil is in the details.  The nine ministers have agreed in principal to the following: 

  • The income replacement level will be increased to one third of income
  • The upper earnings limit will be targeted at $82,700 upon full implementation in 2025
  • There will be a gradual 7-year phase-in beginning on January 1, 2019 consisting of:
    • A 5-year contribution rate phase-in below the Yearly Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE), followed by:
    • A 2-year phase-in of the upper earnings limit
  • An increase to the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) to help low-income earners
  • Tax deductibility for the enhanced portion of the employee CPP contributions 

The Peterborough Chamber was very vocal in presenting the impact of ORPP to the provincial government through presentations to the Associate Minister of Finance and letters to the Minister of Finance.  Through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber Network was able to delay proposed implementation of the ORPP by one year to 2018.  

Both the Peterborough and Kingston Chambers of Commerce were at the leading edge of pension reform when recommendations were submitted to government in 2015 asking that employees be allowed to contribute up to 1.9% more to CPP.  The goal of the recommendations was to see an enhanced CPP in order to avoid a piecemeal province-by-province approach.  

When the CPP enhancement is fully phased-in by 2025 the total increase in CPP contributions by employees and employers will be 1%, which is almost half the ORPP.

“While we were hoping to see little or no impact on businesses, we are glad to see that consideration has been given to the need for a long phase-in period,” said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “The ability for businesses to prepare and understand changes is paramount to ensuring Ontario stays competitive.”

The ministers also agreed to three measures for implementation: 

  • introducing a long and gradual phase-in starting on January 1, 2019 that will allow more time for businesses to adjust
  • enhancing the federal Working Income Benefit as a means of offsetting the impact of increased contributions on low-income workers
  • providing a tax deduction - instead of a tax credit - for employee contributions associated with the enhanced portion of CPP in order to avoid increasing the after-tax cost of saving for Canadians

 The Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) still has concerns about the cost of the program and impact the plan will have on cash flow and business investment.  However, because the business community has been at the table for the breadth of the discussion around pension reform, we hope to continue to work with the federal and provincial governments as they move forward.  

Quebec and Manitoba are the only provinces not to sign on.  Quebec is interested in some enhancement that works better with the Quebec Pension Plan.   

The goal is to have the plan ratified by Friday, July 15, 2016.