Wednesday
Aug242016

Grabbing the ear of government in 2016

Two days and 70 policy resolutions to debate; this is the task ahead of delegates at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Annual General Meeting next month.  It is through adopting, defeating or referring resolutions to the Board of Directors that the Chamber Network sets the policy agenda for the CCC.  

What is a policy resolution?  A policy resolution is a discussion paper that identifies an issue impacting the business community, presents the case for how the issue could be resolved and concludes by providing recommendations to government.  

The policy debates highlight the issues on the collective mind of businesses across the country and the end result is a script that the Canadian Chamber can use in its dialogue with the federal government. 

There are eight main areas of focus: finance and taxation, special issues, natural resources and environment, transportation and infrastructure, industry, international affairs, social policy, and human resources.   

For the most part these resolutions are written by chambers just like the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.  This year, our policy committee and board of directors submitted two policy resolutions: Advancing Canadian Competitiveness Using Shortline Rail (Transportation and Infrastructure) and Restoring Canada’s Innovation Competitiveness (Industry).  

In the rail resolution, the federal government is being asked to create a dedicated shortline capital funding program that is accessible to all shortline companies, and to establish a tax credit program to assist
shortline rail companies in making capital investments.    

The innovation resolution is asking the federal government to: 

  • Rename the SR&ED tax credit the Innovation Tax Credit and start it at 20% of eligible expenses
  • Simplify the process of the Innovation Tax Credit application, using the following as a base: improving the pre-claim project review service, simplifying the base on which the credits are calculated, and introducing incentives that encourage SME growth – so that Canadian companies of all sizes and across all industries can move forward with confidence to bring their innovation to market
  • Create an innovation environment that encourages private sector investment in R&D and technology across all industries focusing on the following factors for success: ease of use for businesses, consultation with the business community to ensure programs are in line with the real time needs of business, achieved and sustainable growth of participating businesses, export readiness, and help with operational scale-up.

Other resolutions of note include Addressing Barriers to Indigenous Participation in Canada’s Economy, Canada as a Global Leader in Venture Capital Financing, the Risks of Cyber Crime, Expanding Canada’s Export Capacity through Harmonizing Agri-Food Cross-Border Trade Regulations, and Improving the Express Entry System for 

International Student Graduates.   

Broader issues from pension reform to marijuana to infrastructure asset management to broadband to scaling up to recruiting talent will also be discussed.  

The goal of the delegates in debating and refining these recommendations is to provide clear direction to the Canadian Chamber as to the thoughts and needs of the Canadian business community, through the membership of chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the country.

You can find the proposed 2016 resolutions on our website peterboroughchamber.ca/policy-report-cards--resolutions.html

Ontario Chamber Network role in policy process

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce policy debates are often lively as delegates debate issues that have different impacts across the country. 

In an effort to ensure that the Ontario perspective is not lost, a group of chambers and boards of trade review all of the resolutions to be discussed.  This allows the group to have a good understanding of the issues and to pass that information on to their volunteers attending the event.  It also allows for local Chambers to receive feedback on resolutions from members and present the case for support of their resolution to the group.  What we bring to the AGM is an informed group of delegates focussed on ensuring Ontario's voice is heard at the national level. 

This year's co-chairs of the caucus are Sandra Dueck from the Peterborough Chamber and Joyce Mankarios of the Sudbury Chamber.

Tuesday
Aug232016

What we heard: being in business is tough

In 2016, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism have partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to bring the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign to our members.  This campaign will highlight the important contributions of small business to our economy and
communities, and actively engage small businesses in investigating the top barriers to small business growth - and identify solutions to overcome those challenges. 

In June two roundtable events were held and we spoke to and received feedback from about 30 businesses.   The content from those sessions has been captured in an easy to read report that can be found on the Chamber website at peterboroughchamber.ca/small-business-too-big-to-ignore.html. 

In addition to those roundtable events the Chambers also put together a short survey for the business community.  The survey was designed to help us reach and gather feedback from as many businesses as possible.  Hearing from our Peterborough and area business community is important because the information provided will help advance the provincial dialogue around small business. 

The survey consisted of eight questions:

  1. How many paid employees does your business have (including part-time staff as a .5)?
  2. In which industry is your business based?
  3. Where is your company located?
  4. Does your company perform transactions online? (i.e. e-commerce, selling tickets to events)
  5. Have you experienced difficulty filling a vacant staffing position in the last year?
  6. If yes to #5, what were the greatest challenges that you experienced in filling that position?
  7. What are the most significant barrier(s) impacting the success of your business?
  8. How can we, as a business community, work together to ensure government responds to these challenges?

The responses represent close to 50 employers with over 300 employees across a variety of sectors, including  business and financial services, engineering, construction, infrastructure and hospitality industries healthcare, retail, manufacturing, tourism and distribution industries.  The businesses were located both in the City and County of Peterborough.

At the outset of the campaign, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identified three areas of focus: access to talent, infrastructure gap and the cost of doing business.  The survey was designed to follow these focus areas.  

One of the more interesting results can be found in the access to talent bucket.  The survey revealed that of the employers who responded almost half expressed challenges in filling vacant positions at their business.  The main challenges were finding people with the right skills and work ethic to fit their needs.  Access to internet, work for partners, and lack of incentives to hire students were also mentioned as challenges by employers when it comes to hiring. 

Question 7 asked business owners, "What are the barriers impacting the success of your business?"

The overall theme that emerged was the impact of navigating “the overwhelming and complex layers of provincial legislation” from energy costs to licensing to the rules around hiring and borrowing money.  There is also a general concern about more legislation being added. 

Infrastructure needs appeared as a concern of employers alongside the issue of the internet; it's cost, access, and options for business.

Most of the employers indicated they were not using the internet to perform transactions online, including e-commerce.  

When it came to how we can ensure government hears the concerns of business, the benefit of speaking as one voice was stressed along with the importance of advocacy and having a defined focus in two or three areas to put forward to government. Some areas suggested in the survey were taxes, the need to recognize the difference between rural and urban issues, and taking a team approach to our region.   

We thank those business that took the time to answer the survey and if you would like to weigh in, contact us
at sandra@peterboroughchamber.ca or 705.748.9771. 

Wednesday
Aug102016

Let's not miss Opportunity Drive on infrastructure

Strong infrastructure to move our goods = a strong economy.

Canada is the second largest country in the world with 9.985 million km2 to its credit.  The vastness and
geographical variety across the country and from province to province are what make Canada unique; are a source of pride to Canadians', are an economic driver, and yet present a constant challenge.  

98% of businesses in Canada are categorized as small business.  These businesses have products that need to get to market, to other businesses and to consumers in their own communities, and they need the
infrastructure to do it, stay competitive and reach their growth potential.  

As found in the provincial Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Freight Guidelines, “freight movement plays a major role in the provincial economy, generating large revenues and supplying jobs for hundreds of thousands of employees. According to Transport Canada, in the year 2011, trade between Ontario and the United States amounted to over $284 billion. 38% of Ontario’s economy comes from freight-intensive industries. In that same year, Ontario led Canada in exports to countries other than the United States, with approximately $40 billion in goods exported. Ontario’s economy is multi-faceted, ranging from farming to manufacturing to 21st century knowledge economy businesses. All  of these depend on the movement of freight in some way.”

The MTO defines freight movement as “the transportation of goods by road, rail, air, water and even pipeline. It includes: the movement of raw natural resources; the movement of refined goods for manufacturing, like steel, or auto parts; and the movement of finished products for markets like furniture or food products.”

It’s why businesses and business groups such as the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce are advocating loudly for infrastructure, to be precise - trade-enabling infrastructure.  Trade-enabling infrastructure is roads, rail, and waterways that can move the goods our businesses produce and receive the goods that are needed to keep local economies moving forward.

Infrastructure funding was a large part of the 2016 federal budget, and it’s been said that Ontario and Canada are approaching a crucial infrastructure juncture in that much of the built infrastructure from post World War II (roads, bridges, etc) is reaching the end of life and requires a major overhaul.  With tens of
millions in projects required in the City and County of Peterborough alone, never mind across the country, and the limited ability of municipalities to responsibly foot the bill, it is imperative that policies and programs are developed to provide focused, timely and innovative solutions.   

Next month chambers of commerce and boards of trade will be gathering at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM to make suggestions to government around various issues including infrastructure
and how to power forward the Canadian economy.  One way is a coordinated infrastructure strategy that incorporates all of the tools in the toolkit, including all levels of government and the private sector, uses funding models, is consistent in its application and recognizes the importance of all modalities: road, rail, water and air. 

There is a lot of ground to cover to move goods in Canada.  We need to be at the leading edge of
infrastructure innovation in order to meet and conquer our challenges and ensure Canada is ready to move the world through our borders. 

Wednesday
Aug032016

Changing Workplaces Review important to all

The 300+ page interim report on the Changing Workplaces Review has now been released.  What does it mean and how will it impact employers and employees?  The review is the mechanism through which the Ontario Ministry of Labour is currently examining the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act; two pieces of legislation that impact all workplaces in Ontario.  The Review has been tasked with examining key workplace trends, including the increase in non-standard working relationships such as temporary jobs, involuntary part-time work, and self-employment.

The interim report contains hundreds of options to the legislation. The options laid out and that are presently being considered by the Special Advisors will impact nearly every aspect of the relationship between employers and employees, as well as the ability of Ontario businesses to create jobs and grow the economy.

It’s for this reason that employers and employees must have an active interest in any changes to legislation.  Keep Ontario Working is an initiative of the leading employer and sector associations in the province, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and is designed to provide information about how you can ensure that government is improving legislation to support workers’ rights, create jobs and grow the economy.

The employer groups believe that, “At a time when the costs to consumers and the cost of doing business in Ontario is rising, government must consider the impact that these changes will have on Ontario’s competitiveness and workers.  Any changes to labour and employment legislation will have implications for Ontario’s economy, and that’s why it’s time for all Ontarians to identify barriers to growth and recommend changes that will give businesses and their workers room to grow.”

In particular, Keep Ontario Working will focus on several policy options in the interim report that the
government is considering, including: 

 

  1. Labour Certification Rules: The requirement for a secret ballot vote must be maintained. Certification simply by signing a union card diminishes employees’ rights and transparency. 
  2. Scheduling Provisions:  Options that would create rigid and universal requirements and a one-size-fits-all approach to scheduling fail to recognize the diverse needs of Ontario’s workforce.
  3. Sector Exemptions: The interim report includes options that would provide for changes to sectoral exemptions. Doing so would ignore the unique needs of important industries like agriculture and information technology when it comes to flexible scheduling and compensation.

 

The group goes on to say:

“In an effort to solve one problem, we don’t want to impose more issues. One-size-fits-all solutions, like many outlined in the interim report, could remove the flexibility that many of Ontario’s employers and employees enjoy. We deserve evidence-based policy and the Government of Ontario should conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess the impact on jobs and the economy for any changes to labour and employment legislation that they accept from the Changing Workplaces Review.”

For their part, the special advisors leading the review have recognized “the diversity of the Ontario economy, its businesses, and the competition they face.  A “one-size-fits-all” regulatory solution to a problem in a sector or an industry could have negative consequences if applied to all employers. The unique requirements of some businesses and/or of some employees may – in appropriate circumstances – support differentiation by sector or by industry rather than province-wide regulation.”  

There is a constant call for us to be innovative to move the economy forward.  To that end innovation must be found in all aspects of our economy, from how we build products and services, to how our workforce is supported and encouraged, to how we get those products and services to market.  

Wednesday
Jul272016

Chamber highlights the business case for broadband 

Let’s talk about broadband and why we are calling on the province for more investment in this area.   

As technology continues to evolve broadband is an important piece of business infrastructure – similar to roads, bridges and electricity.  

“Local businesses in Peterborough and area are becoming increasingly dependent on internet access for their everyday business practices,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “High-speed internet access has become a necessity for doing business in today’s economy and it is critical that all regions across Ontario have access to this essential infrastructure.” 

While the Peterborough Chamber and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce acknowledge broadband investments made by the Government of Canada in the recent federal budget, internet access continues to be an issue in parts of Ontario. 

“EORN [Eastern Ontario Regional Network] fully supports the Chamber’s call for more provincial investment in high speed internet and mobile broadband services,” said Dave Burton, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “While we have made significant progress in expanding access to high speed services across Eastern Ontario over the past few years we know there are still gaps and capacity issues to be resolved.  We also know that our economic future is tied to the ability of our local businesses to grow their markets and customer base through the Internet.  Helping local small businesses prosper will strengthen not only our communities but help the Province as a whole prosper,” added Burton.

The Chamber Network has identified three key recommendations that have been presented to the
provincial government:

 

  1. Develop a broadband investment strategy that acknowledges that broadband is an essential infrastructure investment and creates space for continued private sector investment
  2. Build partnerships across all levels of government in order to leverage funding and respond to local need. 
  3. Benchmark Ontario’s internet speeds and access to ensure that we keep pace with other jurisdictions.

 

Universal access to high speed internet is becoming more important than ever for business and government operations, with government services increasingly shifting to online platforms. By working with the Peterborough and the Ontario business community, government can develop broadband policy that is responsive to existing and future needs. 

To date we have seen extensive private sector investment in fibre and a supportive government policy can help amplify the opportunity for further investment. 

For more information:

http://www.peterboroughchamber.ca/news--events-blog/july-21st-2016