Entries in OCC (12)


A funny thing happened on the way to a trade agreement

As Canada negotiates the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, it is also setting, consciously or subconsciously a framework that has the potential to improve trade barriers between this country’s provinces and territories. 

Internal trade barriers have been a concern for many years by many groups, including local chambers such as the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, provincial chambers such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Chamber Network’s federal arm the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. 

At the provincial level, delegates at the OCC’s Annual General Meeting in May voted in favour of a policy resolution called “Eliminating Inter-Provincial Trade Barriers before CETA takes effect.” 

As explicit tariffs between provinces are forbidden under section 121 of the Constitution Act of 1867, most interprovincial barriers are the result of differing rules, regulations, licensing requirements and regional programs. These barriers to internal trade are often enforced by provincial legislation in attempts to protect local interests (OCC Policy Resolution, 2014). 

The resolution asks the provincial government to: 


  • Pursue trade liberalizing agreements with other Canadian jurisdictions through the use of Article 1800 of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), that allows interested parties to move forward when consensus is not possible. 
  • Encourage all the parties of the AIT to conduct a full review and renegotiation of that agreement in order to eliminate barriers to trade, investment and labour mobility by 2015. A new agreement should: Cover all sections of the economy including ministries, crown corporations and regional and local governments. 
  • Institute a dispute resolution mechanism that includes access to a panel with binding and enforceable powers and contain significant fines for non-compliance. 


The Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has identified internal trade barriers as one of the Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness. “Over the years, we have been calling on the government to significantly improve the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT),” says Perrin Beatty, President & CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce in a recent blog. “We are encouraged that the federal government is now committed to eliminating remaining barriers to internal trade—an issue that has been costing Canadian companies billions of dollars over the years. We are ready to work with the various levels of governments to advance this issue and improve the competitiveness of the Canadian economy.” 

The Voice of Business continues to ring loud and clear as the CCC and a number of provincial chambers including the OCC wrote a letter to the Premiers. The letter was sent before the Premiers met in PEI recently. 

“While Canada faces many economic and social challenges, we believe that there is one issue that must be given significant attention by our governments: the removal of barriers to internal trade and mobility. 

Internal trade barriers continue to impede the free movement of people and goods between Canada’s provinces. Such barriers often arise as a result of minor differences in standards, certifications or regulations. The red tape that these differences impose on businesses and the economic toll they place on our competitiveness have become intolerable. 

The Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) was negotiated twenty years ago and does not respond to today’s economic and commercial realities. While there have been some helpful changes over the years - in particular to the chapter on labour mobility- the agreement as currently written no longer does our economy justice. 

As Canada continues to remove the barriers between our country and the rest of the world, it is time to make the creation of an integrated, efficient Canadian economy a priority. In particular, as we move closer to a final agreement with the European Union, we run the risk of having a more open trading relationship with Europe than we have internally. How can we expect our businesses to be able to compete with the twenty-eight countries in the European Union if they are unable to efficiently access markets closer to home? 

The costs imposed by these internal barriers limit consumer choice, complicate unnecessarily the process for Canadians wanting to work in other regions of Canada, and impose a multi-billion dollar drag on Canada’s economy. These costs are being recognised both here at home and, increasingly, abroad. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently urged Canadian governments to harmonize certification requirements for apprenticeship programs as a means to improve interprovincial mobility. 

We urgently call on you and the federal government to adopt a renewed commitment to break down the remaining barriers to internal trade and mobility in Canada. We believe that all of Canada’s governments should strive for a more modern agreement on internal trade. At a minimum, the existing agreement should be strengthened and updated to reflect the realities of our modern, trade dependent economy, with the onus being placed on those proposing impediments to the ability to do business throughout Canada to justify these barriers and with the ability to resolve disputes in a timely manner. 

Together, our network of Chambers of Commerce is comprised of more than 450 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade representing more than 200,000 businesses and industry associations of all sizes and sectors in every region of Canada. We wish you every success as you prepare for your important deliberations and we stand ready to work with you and the Government of Canada to create an efficient and competitive Canadian economy.” 

Not only is there a cohesive attitude amongst the Chamber Network in Canada, but the letter and follow-up discussion at the Premiers meeting in PEI may be “very good news, if they mean what they say,” says Beatty in his blog. “For years, Canadian businesses have struggled to navigate the complex system of differing rules, regulations and standards. These minor differences increase costs, reduce our efficiency and warn foreign investors away from our country.” 

It also appears the government of Canada is truly taking notice and has issued One Canada, One National Economy: Modernizing Internal Trade in Canada. “Persistent barriers to internal trade, including regulatory differences, inconsistent standards, and restrictions on the free movement of people, goods and services, fragment our economy and put Canadian firms at a disadvantage,” James Moore, Minister of Industry. “The result is a weaker Canadian economy, lost jobs, and a less united Canada.” 

The proposal examines two ways Canada can develop a solution to the problem:  

  • Option One: Focus on priority areas for improvement 
  • Option Two: Completely redesign the internal trade framework for Canada  

The report concludes with a promise to Canadians and Canadian business: 

“These two pathways are each legitimate and viable routes to a renewed AIT and a stronger Canadian economy. They form a sound basis on which to move forward and represent approaches we can pursue over time to achieve meaningful outcomes. Going forward, the Government of Canada is committed to working with provinces and territories to forge agreement on a path forward and begin the essential work of renewing internal trade to the benefit of all Canadians.” 

With the business community, the province and the federal government having an eye to reform, the time is now to get it done. 

**More about the Industry Canada proposal can be found at:
http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/081.nsf/ eng/00001.html 

To comment on this article please go to the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.


Training the workforce: the employer's role


It’s not a stretch to say that job creation and employment are issues on the minds of the Peterborough business community. Both will most likely highlight the upcoming municipal election campaign. The role of government is to create the environment or framework within which a business can succeed and grow. Employers are also part of the equation. They are not only the beneficiaries of any government programs; they need to use them. 

Part of employment and job creation revolves around employee training. If you are able to train and improve the knowledge of current employees, thereby making them more productive, the chances are greatly increased that your business will need to expand its human capital to meet demand. In Peterborough, Economic Development officials have said that any new job growth will come from companies with five employees or less. This statement lends even more importance to effective employee training programs that employers can easily tap into. 

A new report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), Essential Skills Ontario (ESO) and co-released with the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce encourages that training programs funded by the federal government and designed and implemented by the province in the form of the Canada Job Grant must adhere to the following five principles: 

  1. Strike a balance between program integrity and emloyer usability 
  2. Facilitate efficiency and effectiveness in the provider market 
  3. Encourage flexibility with respect to how training is delivered 
  4. Encourage sector-based approaches to training 
  5. Drive awareness of training programs within the business community 

The OCC policy group held consultations in eight Ontario communities and met with small and medium enterprises, multi-national firms, industry associations, human resource professionals, training service providers and post-secondary institutions (Report, September 2014). The OCC also used data collected from the membership survey completed earlier this year. 

Since the announcement of the Canada Job Grant program in the 2013 federal budget, a lot has happened. The report from the OCC and ESO details the parameters the Government of Ontario will follow in rolling out upcoming programs: 


  • Available to businesses and non-profit organizations to train workers and unemployed Ontarians in need of skills upgrading 
  • Up to $10,000 provided from government for training costs per person, including tuition and training materials 
  • Requirements for employers to contribute one-third of total training costs, up to $5,000 (with some flexibility for small employers) 
  • Eligible training is limited to short-duration training provided by a third party trainer 


Ontario and many other jurisdictions are in the midst of change, as many sectors of the economy are branching out and taking on challenges to remain competitive. “Employer investments in training lead to gains for the economy. 

Employers who actively invest in the skills of their employees utilize these skills to increase productivity and market-share.” (Report, September 2014). The report also quotes the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which suggests that “even if 10 percent more employers could be persuaded to take this ‘high road’, the Ontario economy would move to a significantly higher skill equilibrium.” 

To support the six recommendations, the report “The Future of Training in Ontario” offers ten actionable suggestions: 

  1. Minimize administrative burdens on employers 
  2. Develop one access point for all government-funded workforce, training and employment services 
  3. Provide flexibility in employer financial contributions 
  4. Reserve funding for small to medium employers and first-time program participations 
  5. Encourage competition and consolidation in the service provider market 
  6. Enable third parties to play a brokerage role 
  7. Where no third party training provider is available, allow employers to train in-house 
  8. Build on existing partnerships between employers and training providers 
  9. Promote a consortia approach to training; allow employers with similar human capital needs to pool resources 
  10. Execute an employer engagement and marketing strategy in collaboration with employer organizations 

The document recognizes employers will need to develop an employee training strategy and that such a strategy has a certain amount of risk, such as losing employees to competitors once the training is complete. Esri Canada, a company that specializes in geographic information system solutions, has had a training program for employees since 2009. A representative told the OCC in 2013 that the company is willing to take the risk of training people and it’s paying off. That being said it’s crucial that any government programs make it easy for businesses to access them and put them to work. 

What does this all mean for employers in Peterborough? It means there will be increased options for training. It means employers will be investing in their workforce, their human capital, just as they invest in their tangible assets. In various roundtables with government officials, again and again, there is a plea from employers to make these type of programs no-brainers. Many employers would take advantage of them if they were easy to use, navigate and complete in a timely manner. 

Employer involvement in training of employees is just one way of pushing the Ontario economy forward, of pushing the greater Peterborough area economy forward and we must keep our options open. 

The full report can be found on the OCC website occ.ca and on the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce website peterboroughchamber.ca 

Comment on this article through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

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