Entries in lobbying (3)


Peterborough Chamber of Commerce helps set lobbying agenda at Ontario Chamber AGM









The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is in business to help strengthen your business.  That’s exactly what was happening in Cornwall this past weekend when over 120 Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade gathered for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting (OCC AGM).  The delegates were gathered to debate the recommendationsto government from over 40 policy resolutions. 

Board Chair Pat Marren, President & CEO Stuart Harrison and Policy Analyst Sandra Dueck brought forward two resolutions on behalf of the Peterborough Chamber membership.  

The first resolution was in partnership with the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce and calls on the provincial government to bring the "Heads and Beds Levy" more in-line with today's costs. The payment in lieu of taxes from post-secondary institutions, hospitals and correctional facilities has not changed from the current value of $75 since 1987, which puts a significant strain on local residential and commercial tax rates.  It’s estimated that adjusting the heads and beds levy to reflect inflation would provide approximately $1.1 million in additional funds to the City of Peterborough’s annual budget. The resolution passed.  

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce also brought forward a resolution asking for support of the Energy East Project. The Chamber Network had great debate on this issue including two very close votes on several amendments. In the end, the Network supported the project with a recommendation to the National Energy Board to carefully investigate the impact on natural gas supply and prices.  

"This conference is where the local Chambers are able to bring their issues to the provincial level," says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. "The Energy East resolution brought forward by the Peterborough Chamber was relevant and fostered an informative conversation on a project that will have significant and positive economic impact on Peterborough, the province and Canada." 

Through the policy resolution process, the Chamber Network has officially identified the Energy East project as a major economic driver for the province of Ontario and here at home.  GE Peterborough has been awarded the contract to build the motors that will move the oil through the pipeline.  This contract will bring 250 jobs to the city and is a positive reflection of government strategically investing in our business community.  The Chamber Network has included strategic business investment in its “Emerging Stronger” lobbying platform for the past four years.  The National Energy Board will be assessing the project based on economic impact, safety and environmental concerns.    

Board Chair Pat Marren also spoke in favour of a resolution from the Tillsonburg Chamber of Commerce calling for a one-permit system for trucking companies in the province.   “As someone who is in this business and actually deals with the permit renewal process in my company I would like to see this resolution remain on the books,” Marren told the delegates. “My company is required to get an Ontario permit for all Kings’ highways plus 20-25 townships or municipalities separately throughout the year.  Each permit requires Certificates of Insurance, WSIB Clearance certificates plus the application for each municipality which is slightly different in each case.  One annual permit that covers the entire province would save countless man hours and help us improve productivity.”  

A resolution on WSIB reform also received approval from the delegates.  Of particular note was a call for
exemption from WSIB coverage for those construction employers who have obtained comprehensive 24/7 insurance coverage.

Chambers from across the province also debated and approved a suggested course of action for a mental health strategy in the workplace.  In all four recommendations were made including asking the Government of Ontario to develop a comprehensive workplace mental health strategy that emphasizes mental health awareness, education and rehabilitation for employees.  The strategy must not be prescriptive or place an additional burden on businesses but should instead be focused on improving mental health awareness.

Reducing the growing cumulative regulatory burden on business was also an issue of high priority for the Chamber Network and one that will take centre stage in the coming months.

The Ontario Chamber Network also passed recommendations to government on the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, electricity, the College of Trades, agri-business and installing and developing a province-wide broadband strategy. 

As a result of the policy work the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is channeling the collective strength of the business community in Peterborough.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.


Businesses concerned about proposed pension policy

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce recently had the opportunity to be at the table when Associate Minister of Finance Mitzie Hunter stopped in Peterborough as part of province-wide consultations on the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).  A seat at the table is one way the Chamber of Commerce is able to bring the business message to political leaders.  

The Ontario government lays out the current parameters of the retirement savings plan in its Key Design Questions document:

  • Require equal contributions to be shared between employers and employees not exceeding 1.9 per cent eachOffer a predictable stream of income in retirement for life, and index benefits to inflation
  • Pool longevity and investment risk
  • Aim to replace 15 per cent of an individual’s earnings
  • Require benefits to be earned as contributions are made
  • Require “locked-in” contributions and accumulated benefits

Until February 13, 2015, the Government is looking for feedback on three areas:

  1. The Right Minimum Earnings Threshold
  2. Addressing the Needs of the Self-Employed
  3. Definition of Comparable Workplace Pension Plan

The Chamber Network has serious concerns about what is deemed a “Comparable Workplace Pension Plan”.  Current practice has many private sector businesses offering plans that would be considered incompatible because of how they are set up and managed.  

The Chamber Network has responded to this proposed legislation in a number of ways including the presentation during the consultation process.  To date there have been two conference calls, a letter to Minister Hunter, a Day of Advocacy and a press release asking the legislation be deferred until further information on the economic impact of the plan is acquired. An OCC survey revealed that only 23 per cent of businesses believe they can afford the costs associated with increased employer pension contributions.    

The Peterborough Chamber made three points to the consultation committee:

What it would take an average business to make the money needed to fund the ORPP

For example, a company with 25 employees, each making $40,000 has a payroll of $1,000,000.  The ORPP will add another $19,000 annually to the company’s payroll.  If the company has a profit margin of 4 per cent (which is an average across industry and various sectors), the company will need to sell/provide another $475,000 in products/services to earn that $19,000.  

This leads to other questions such as what happens to businesses that are not able to afford the increase.  Will this force them to consider how they grow, if they grow, and their overall viability?  

The importance of financial literacy 

Future generations must understand the importance of saving for the future.  They must have a fundamental
understanding of financial matters.  The Chamber Network has been lobbying the provincial government to create and add a business course to the curriculum which includes making financial literacy a requirement of high school graduation. This concept is comparable to the graduation requirement of 40 volunteer hours. 

The Chamber Network also has policy recommendations dealing with adult literacy and essential skills. 

Minister Hunter has explained that the issue of improving financial literacy was included in her mandate letter on developing the ORPP from the Premier, so it is on the provincial radar. 

The ORPP is not an isolated cost

The example above dealing with profit margins and what it takes to absorb an increase relates to one increase.  It doesn’t reflect the fact that electricity prices are anticipated to go up 42 per cent over the next several years, that Ontario has high WSIB premiums, that there is slow growth for the foreseeable future, and that municipal taxes go up each year.  While 1.9 per cent employer contribution doesn’t sound
unreasonable on its own, the truth of the matter is that it’s not an increase that is
happening on its own.   

The ORPP has businesses, especially those categorized as small and medium enterprises, very wary.  This is not to say that employers don’t recognize that there is a serious problem at hand.  In a survey by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) over 70% of Ontario businesses believe pension reform should be a priority.  The concern is how pension reform is achieved and the effect it will have on Ontario’s economy and future growth.  

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.


A policy "road" win for the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce

When the provincial government recently announced the preferred bidder for the second phase of the Highway 407 project, it was the culmination of more than a decade of lobbying to see the new highway extend to the 35/115.

Blackbird Infrastructure Group will design, build, finance and maintain the Highway 407 East Phase 2 project.

The Blackbird Infrastructure Group team includes: Holcim Canada Inc., which owns Dufferin Construction and Aggregates. There are several Dufferin locations in and around the Kawarthas. 

The recommendation to government was first introduced at the 2004 Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Thunder Bay.  At that time, Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Stuart Harrison stood to ask that the policy recommendation include that the road be extended to the 35/115. 

The lobbying continued with a number of Chamber members writing letters to then Minister of Transportation Harinder Takhar.  The letters were in support of the extension of the 35/115 and came from members in the tourism, manufacturing, consulting, and retail sectors.  The member spoke of how the extension would open up the area to new markets, in that more people will be able to access Peterborough and the
Kawarthas, and businesses in this area can move their goods and services through the GTA in a more timely fashion.  

A tip of the hat to the efforts of our MPP Jeff Leal on this important file.

Construction is anticipated to begin in fall 2015.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.