The business community is driving the economic agenda for Ontario

The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to release Emerging Stronger 2015.  This is the fourth edition of the document which is a business-driven economic agenda for Ontario.  

The report identifies the immediate steps that government and the private sector must take to enhance Ontario’s economic competitiveness and spur job creation in the province including: 

  • Make Ontario’s regulatory system more open and responsive
  • Develop a targeted and coherent intergovernmental strategy for Ontario’s manufacturing sector
  • Create an entrepreneurship advantage in Ontario
  • Modernize Ontario’s apprenticeship system and the regulation of skilled trades
  • Ease the fiscal burden on municipalities by fixing outdated labour legislation
  • Provide information and support to enable Ontario businesses to take full advantage of the Canada-E.U. Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA)
  • Mitigate the impact of pension reform on the business climate 
  • Bend the electricity cost curve

“The recommendations in Emerging Stronger 2015 speak directly to issues affecting Peterborough businesses”, says Stuart Harrison, President and CEO, Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “They encourage improvements for manufacturing, trades, entrepreneurs, as well as changes to the regulatory framework for business and the interest arbitration and tendering processes for municipalities."

Create an entrepreneurship advantage in Ontario

Ontarians start fewer businesses per capita than any of their provincial peers. Many point to a lack of entrepreneurial culture in Ontario to account for this trend. Government can take corrective action by creating a grade 11 ‘Introduction to Business and Commerce’ course. Further, the province should consider emulating
successful programs from elsewhere that pair students with local business people to create a business, design a product, and sell it. Businesses also have a role to play. Business leaders need to invest more time mentoring.

Ease the fiscal burden on municipalities by fixing outdated labour legislation

Many municipalities face ballooning costs as a result of faulty labour legislation and processes. This fiscal burden can be eased in two ways: 1. Reform the interest arbitration system. Partly as a result of Ontario’s broken interest arbitration system, emergency service costs are outpacing inflation. Last year, we recommended that, among other things, arbitrator decisions consider municipalities’ ability to pay. Unfortunately, little progress has been made. We urge the government to reform this system so that arbitrator decisions consider a municipality’s economic and fiscal environment. Further, disincentives should be put in place that discourage negotiators from relying on the interest arbitration mechanism. 2. Reform tendering of
municipal contracts. Ontario should reform its tendering rules by leveling the playing field for all qualified
construction companies when competing for public contracts. Municipalities are treated as businesses under Ontario’s Labour Relations Act. As a result, the Ontario Labour Board has been applying collective-bargaining rules for construction companies to municipalities. This has forced a growing number of municipalities to restrict tendering, resulting in higher costs for taxpayer-funded construction projects. Closing this loophole would ensure municipalities make the most of their infrastructure and taxpayer dollars.

Modernize Ontario’s apprenticeship system and the regulation of skilled trades

Ontario continues to have some of the highest apprenticeship ratios in the country.  The ratio is the number of
apprentices allowed per journeyman.  Although some progress has been made by the Ontario College of Trades to reduce ratios, more can be done. Lowering ratios will allow businesses, particularly SMEs, to hire more
apprentices and contribute to higher apprenticeship completion rates (which currently stand at 50 percent on average).  In 2014, the Government of Ontario commissioned a review of some aspects of the Ontario College of Trades. This is a positive step. However, the review must be comprehensive and include the decision-making processes on apprenticeship ratios. To ensure that the apprenticeship system is more flexible and responsive to local labour markets, Ontario should transfer government apprenticeship administration to colleges. In addition, colleges should work more closely with local employers to determine the best mix of apprentices locally and how best to fill the need for apprenticeship positions.

Develop a targeted and coherent intergovernmental strategy for Ontario’s manufacturing sector

Ontario’s days as a manufacturing hub are far from over. The province is home to an ever-growing number of specialized and niche manufacturers. Further, some manufacturing is reshoring from emerging markets. However, American and Mexican jurisdictions are increasingly aggressive in attracting investment. The provincial and federal governments need to develop a shared and targeted strategy focused on attracting and fostering manufacturing investments in areas where Ontario can be globally competitive. For their part, Ontario businesses need to invest more in productivity-enhancing technology.  A previous Emerging Stronger recommendation is worth repeating: firms and sector organizations need to benchmark their productivity relative to their global peers and, where they fall behind, invest more in productivity-enhancing technology.

The Emerging Stronger brand is based on five priorities: 

  1. Fostering a culture of innovation and smart risk-taking in order to become a productivity leader
  2. Building a 21st century workforce
  3. Restoring fiscal balance by improving the way government works
  4. Taking advantage of new opportunities in the global economy
  5. Identifying, championing, and strategically investing in our competitive advantages in the global economy

Thanks to our research partners, the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto and Leger Marketing.

What the provincial leaders are saying about Emerging Stronger 2015

Andrea Horwath Leader of Ontario’s New Democrats – “People are the economy. New Democrats believe that Ontario’s economy can only emerge stronger if hardworking families are doing well. Like the authors of Emerging Stronger, New Democrats believe that by investing in people, and putting a strategic focus on research and innovation, we can lay the groundwork for a sound economic future. By targeting tax incentives, government can help business across sectors to create and protect good-paying jobs here at home in Ontario.”

Jim Wilson, Interim Leader of the Ontario PC Party - “Emerging Stronger is a leader in promoting pragmatic public policy to create more private sector jobs. The Ontario PC Party will always stand by your side in supporting innovative ideas to drive economic growth. On behalf of the Ontario PC Caucus, I thank you for your valuable and thoughtful contributions to building a stronger Ontario.”

Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario -  “As our economy continues to create more opportunities for people, our
government is focused on completing the transition from recovery to growth by delivering our four-part economic plan. And once again, Emerging Stronger has valuable insights for government, business and not-for-profits, as we work together to build Ontario up. In a federal election year, these insights are particularly important. Ontarians have an opportunity to choose a federal government that helps our province and our country reach its full economic potential. I recommend they review the valuable recommendations contained in Emerging Stronger 2015.”

Read the full report

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