Entries in Advocacy (2)

Wednesday
Apr062016

Mrs. Dueck & Mr. Harrison go to Queen's Park

Stuart Harrison and I are just back from a whirlwind 9 hour Advocacy Day at Queen's Park. It was a day of meetings with senior government officials on selected policy issues, a panel discussion on the benefits of advocacy with Secretary of Cabinet and Head of the Public Service, town halls with four cabinet ministers, and a reception with all three party leaders.   

The most important takeaway for me was that the work of the Chamber Network at Queen’s Park through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and in our home communities does not go unnoticed by our elected and senior government officials.   The ministers, senior government officials and party leaders all made a point of saying that the thoughtful, solutions-based reports and campaigns by the business community are key information pieces in setting policy.   

“The Chamber is very well respected at Queens Park,” said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “There was a lot of ground covered on behalf of Peterborough Chamber members, and business across Ontario.”

The Chamber Network has seen many successes over the years with this approach including recent advocacy wins with the delay of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) by one year and the removal of the debt retirement charge on commercial electricity bills nine months early.

In 2015, the Chamber Network’s Emerging Stronger: Ontario’s Path from Recovery to Growth document detailed a “Red Tape Challenge” program out of the United Kingdom.  Just last week, the Government of Ontario launched its own program based on the UK example. Businesses please take advantage of the opportunity as the program rolls out over the next two years. More information can be found here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/red-tape-challenge

Stuart Harrison also took the opportunity to remind Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development that a part of red tape is not necessarily the regulation itself, but how a regulation is enforced that can have a negative impact on economic competitiveness. The Minister agreed and went on to tell the story of a hauling company from his riding that was fined, along with its driver, for a form with one field filled out incorrectly by their client. The Minister recognized that the time and money it would take the hauling company to fight or pay that ticket would have a negative economic impact on their business. 

The morning sessions with senior government officials took me through the tunnel linking the legislature with ministry offices to a boardroom on the third floor of one of the ministry “blocks”.  Four of us, including representatives from Kingston and Barrie Chambers of Commerce met with Sheldon Levy, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.  Our discussions focused on challenges with apprenticeship ratios and the urban/rural divide.  The continued importance of an effective pathway for skilled trades opportunities will only grow as provinces and the federal government move toward meeting their infrastructure mandates.  The group also discussed the tools and pathways for employers to access skilled talent, and maximizing connectivity between education institutions and their host communities.  Overall, the conversation was positive and recognized that the issue of skills has ties to a number of other ministries, such as immigration and economic development.

Stuart represented members of the Peterborough Chamber in a meeting with the Deputy Minister for Transportation Stephen Rhodes where the group encouraged the government to use the Chamber Network to disseminate information about projects with economic impacts for the business community. The group also talked about the need for a plan that explores intermodal connectivity (that’s essentially trains, planes and automobiles) and the balance between money for the GTHA ($16 billion) and the rest of the province ($15 billion).  The group stressed there is a difference between transit and transportation infrastructure which includes roads, bridges and broadband.  

The event wrapped up with a reception and words from all three party leaders. I had the opportunity to speak directly with the Premier about transportation and agriculture needs for the Peterborough area before her remarks to the group.

So what is advocacy? It’s about listening to our members and learning their needs and then building relationships with all parties and government officials, having an understanding of the issues, and then being able to effectively communicate the issues through various platforms to those that need to hear the message.

Our Peterborough business community is poised for great things in a variety of sectors.  Celebrating our successes, recognizing the positive elements of the framework put in place at all levels of governments and presenting solutions to inform government about the needs of the business community is a worthwhile exercise that leads to success, change, and prosperity.

 

Wednesday
Oct082014

Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce says businesses are concerned about Ontario pension plan

The provincial Liberals are moving ahead with plans to install the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).  Businesses are concerned with the immediate and long term implications of such a program and chambers across the province, including the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, took part in a “Pension Advocacy Day” on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.   

The Peterborough Chamber and 50 other chambers across Ontario also recently signed a letter expressing the concerns of the business community.  The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), on behalf of the provincial Chamber Network, sent a letter to the Honourable Mitzie Hunter, Associate Minister of Finance. Minister Hunter has been charged with developing the framework for the ORPP.  The provincial government chose to develop this plan after the federal government refused to make any changes to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).     

As stated in the letter, the business community is very aware that a section of the population that is not prepared for retirement and acknowledges that “significant number of retirees, who lack sufficient income to maintain their standards of living, would have serious implications on the fiscal health of Ontario.”

However, many employers believe a standalone provincial pension plan is not the best route for Ontario.  As expressed in the letter, the concern lies in the cumulative effect of a number of expected increases for employers over the next few years from soaring electricity costs to very high WSIB premiums and yet Ontario’s Ministry of Finance projects the real annual GDP to be at 2.1% for the next twenty years.  This would be down from 2.6% growth seen in the previous twenty years. 

The provincial government is still in the very early design stages of the ORPP.  Here’s what we know so far:  

  • The ORPP will require equal contributions to be shared between employers and employees, not exceeding 1.9 per cent each (3.8 per cent combined) on earnings up to a maximum annual earnings threshold of $90,000. The ORPP maximum earnings threshold would increase each year, consistent with increases to the CPP maximum earnings threshold. 

Here are some illustrative examples of how much businesses will end up paying using the known parameters: 

  • A business has five employees, all of whom make $50,000.00 annually.
    • The business will need to pay $883.50 (1.9%) per employee per year in ORPP contributions
    • The business will be paying $4,417.50 in total, per year, in ORPP contributions for its 5 employees
  • A business has 20 employees, 10 of whom make $90,000 annually, five of whom make $50,000 annually, and five of whom make $30,000 annually. 
    • The business will need to make ORPP contributions of $1,643.50 for each employee that makes $90,000, $883.50 for each employee that makes $50,000, and $503.50 for each employee that makes $30,000.
    • The business will be paying $23,370 in total, per year, in ORPP contributions for its 20 employees. (OCC Backgrounder 2014)
  • Businesses already participating in a comparable workplace pension plan would not be required to enrol in the ORPP. The government has not yet defined what it means by “comparable plan”.
  • The ORPP would be publicly administered at arm’s length from government and have a strong governance model. 

Increased costs are not the only concerns of business:   

  • Unnecessary bureaucracy
  • Fragmentation of the pension landscape 
  • Ontario is moving in a different direction on pension while other provinces are looking at using Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs) (OCC letter to Minister Hunter September 2014) 

According to the OCC survey Emerging Stronger 2014 employers are overwhelmingly in favour of Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs). These plans allow for greater flexibility in terms of employer contribution and would not be mandatory.

Starting in 2017, the ORPP will be phased in and coincide with expected reductions in Employment Insurance premiums.  The largest employers would be enrolled first and contribution rates would be phased in over two years.  

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn.