Entries in Electricity (6)

Wednesday
Feb252015

Business challenges? Here's your chance to tell Premier Wynne

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has a number of advocacy and policy events in the coming months. 

First, the Chamber Annual General Meeting will be held at the end of March.  Watch for more details and the release of the 2014 Annual Report and Policy Report Card. 

Second, on May 1st, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce will be welcoming Premier Kathleen Wynne to Peterborough.  More details on her visit will be forthcoming, but it gives the Chamber the opportunity to bring the concerns of the Peterborough business community directly to the elected CEO of Ontario.   

Provincial issues and policy positions have been at the forefront of many discussions with business owners over the past few months.  The impact of current provincial policy decisions will reverberate for years.  

Current Top 5 Issues provincially for the Chamber Network:

Debt and Deficit

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Josh Hjartarson spoke in Lindsay recently on this topic.  When comparing Ontario to other places, whether it is Europe or other provinces within Canada, we are in a more stable position.  But that doesn’t mean Ontario is without risk.  Hjartarson stressed the point that in the past 25 years, in which all three major parties have held the lead role in government, Ontario has seen surpluses in only a handful of those years.  The concern is that this should not be a pattern of which to be proud. “In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the Government of Ontario spent $10.5 billion more than it collected in revenue, increasing its net debt to $267.2 billion. Over eight percent of the province’s total spending is now devoted to interest charges on the debt.” (Emerging Stronger, 2015).  

Servicing the debt costs Ontarian’s more than what the government spends on post-secondary institutions.  The OCC and the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce as part of the provincial network are asking the government to take a hard look at this fact and make some decisions that can push servicing the debt down on the expenses list.  The less we are paying and sitting on debt, the healthier the economy can be for businesses and residents.

Electricity Costs 

Rising electricity prices are often cited as the main barrier to competitiveness by Ontario businesses. The OCC has been conducting in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in the province’s electricity sector on ways to bend the electricity cost curve.  Ontario’s decision to phase out the use of coal-fired generation facilities has branded the province as a leader in modern, clean energy. Ontario’s energy supply now consists of a strong mix of nuclear, hydro, gas, and renewables. 

However, this path has not been without its challenges. The province’s competitiveness suffers from its
relatively high electricity prices for industrial users. While minor steps have been taken since the release of the 2013 Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP) to mitigate costs, further system-wide cost savings should be explored within the province’s existing energy landscape. Further, Ontario should focus its investments in areas such as nuclear and data analytics where Ontario can be an innovation and export leader and that, at the same time, can lower long-term costs to consumers.  The full report on this issue is expected to be released at the end of March (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

We also know that competitor markets are emphasizing their lower electricity costs as a reason to locate south of the border.  As a result of these targeted campaigns almost 20 Ontario Chambers of Commerce, including Peterborough, co-sponsored a policy resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce asking the 
government to be aware of this movement and develop a strategy to help Canadian communities compete.  

Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP)

The provincial government is moving forward with a mandatory pension plan, the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP). Many businesses are worried about the costs it will impose. The government must conduct and publish an economic analysis of the impact of this new pension plan on business competitiveness, investment, and employment. In addition, pension reform must leverage the expertise of Ontario’s world leading financial services industry (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to the consultation panel last month, has
participated in several teleconference calls with Minister Mitzie Hunter, and signed a letter as part of the OCC’s submission to the government on design details.   Furthermore, it is anticipated that the Chamber Network will be formalizing its position at the network AGM at the beginning of May.  

As part of its argument, the Peterborough Chamber has consistently encouraged the government to consider that part of the problem can be traced back to financial literacy.  Our MPP Minister Jeff Leal is very aware of an OCC policy resolution calling for a curriculum change to make a business course, including financial literacy topics, a requirement of high school graduation.

Lack of a Manufacturing Strategy

In the Emerging Stronger document, the OCC believes Ontario can once again be a stable manufacturing hub. The province is home to an ever-growing number of specialized and niche manufacturers.  Peterborough is a shining example of this with no sign of slowing down.  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 (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

Entrepreneurship Strategy

The business course requirement for high school graduation is also important to this issue.  The belief is that if we are encouraging entrepreneurship as a viable career choice, then we should also ensure that these individuals have the tools for success. 

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. 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 new entrepreneurs and small business owners (Emerging Stronger, 2015).

In Peterborough, we know that entrepreneurs hold a special place with support from Peterborough Economic Development, Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster, competitions such as Bears’ Lair and the upcoming
Business Summit hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. 

With Premier Wynne coming to Peterborough on May 1st, what would you want her to know about the
challenges facing your business?  

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

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