Entries in Ontario Chamber of Commerce (25)

Wednesday
Sep092015

What business needs to know: Changes to WSIB

The way employer premiums are determined under Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) are changing. While in some respects the Proposed Preliminary Rate Framework marks a positive change from the existing rate setting process, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is concerned that the new rate framework could increase the premium rates paid by employers and, subsequently, the cost of doing business in the province.

The OCC supports efforts to modernize the workers’ compensation system in Ontario. Building a 21st century workforce is a core component of the OCC’s five year Emerging Stronger economic agenda. Keeping the province’s economy firmly on the path from recovery to growth will require changes to the way government and its agencies work. Ontario needs a workers’ compensation system that is both responsive to labour market needs and fiscally sustainable.

As such, the OCC has provided the WSIB with a written submission outlining 10 recommendations that the WSIB and the Government of Ontario should adopt to mitigate the impact of the proposed reforms. Over 25 chambers of commerce and boards of trade signed on to the submission.  The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce was one of the members of the OCC’s WSIB Taskforce and assures that considerable thought has been given to the proposed recommendations. 

“…the 10 recommendations that, if adopted will create greater certainty for employers and ensure that Ontario benefits from an effective workers’ compensation system,” explains Allan O’Dette, President and CEO, OCC. “The recommendations align with the key goals of the Proposed Preliminary Rate Framework, including its commitment to transparency, balanced rate responsiveness, and its efforts to fairly allocate premiums.”

The recommendations also align with the concerns of some members of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.   One member told me that under the current WSIB system a small self-employed business in the construction field must pay thousands of dollars into WSIB even if they currently have more comprehensive 24/7 coverage of their own.  While another member expressed concern about the unknown of the changes ahead, “am I going to see a rate increase or decrease under the new structure and when will I know exactly what the rate changes will mean for my business?”

Concern: The proposed rate framework will create savings for some employers, and create new costs for others.
Recommendation #1: The WSIB should provide a public and detailed analysis of how the propose rate framework changes will impact employers.

Concern: Employers with effective health and safety programs could end up subsidizing employers with high claim costs as a result of the proposal to stop surcharges.
Recommendation #2: The WSIB should implement a program similar to the Alberta PPS to encourage high cost employers to improve their health and safety management efforts and to ensure that the cost of poor performance is absorbed by poorly performing employers rather than other employers in their class. 

Concern: A limited number of classes risks grouping employers with very different risk profiles.
Recommendation #3: Expand the class structure to more accurately reflect the risk profiles of employers, while maintaining the predictability of industry classes and premium rate stability for employers.

Concern: The shift towards predominant business activity classification will increase the cost of doing business. 
Recommendation #4: The WSIB should reconsider implementing the predominant class model and continue to allow businesses to pay different rates based on their activities in different business areas.

Concern: The elimination of the Second Injury and Enhancement Fund would reduce reemployment opportunities for injured workers.
Recommendation #5: The WSIB should retain the SIEF to encourage the reemployment of injured workers.

Concern: The proposed claims experience ‘window’ to determine premium rates could result in employers being charged for risks that are no longer a feature of their
workplace.
Recommendation #6: The WSIB should implement a weighted cost claims “window” based on employers’ claims cost history over the past three years rather than six years to ensure that the rate charged to employers is reflective of their recent commitments to health and safety.

Concern: The WSIB’s unfunded liability is a drag on Ontario’s competitiveness.
Recommendation #7: The WSIB should be subject to oversight by the Auditor General.

Concern: The WSIB Fatal Claims Adjustment Policy will be redundant in the new framework.
Recommendation #8: The Fatal Claims Adjustment Policy should be eliminated from the framework as soon as possible.

Concern: The workplace safety market should be opened up to competition.
Recommendation #9: The Government of Ontario should study the merits of introducing comparable WSIB delivery models including options such as full and/or partial privatization. 

Recommendation #10: The Government of Ontario should amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to exempt construction employers who have obtained comprehensive 24/7 insurance coverage from coverage under the WSIB scheme.

The overall underlying concern throughout the submission is that any changes to the WSIB do not have a negative impact on the cost of doing business in Ontario.  The WSIB proposed changes are one of several examinations of legislation affecting workplaces.  The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the OCC are very aware that new legislation in the form of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and the Cap and Trade Program, along with increases to minimum wage and electricity prices are having creating a cumulative legislative burden on the business community.   

Read the full report, including the proposed breakdown of classes.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

Wednesday
Aug262015

Provincial business priorities and the federal election

Copyright Library of ParliamentThe 2015 federal election is now into its fourth week with seven left before the polls open on October 19th.  Already we’ve seen the leaders and the parties tackle many of the issues we would expect to see at a federal level, from the economy to taxes and tax cuts to the environment to child care.  But within those issues that have nationwide impact are the issues that affect each of the provinces.  The relationship Ontario has with the federal government is different from the needs of the western and eastern provinces.  

“The federal election comes at a critical time for Ontario businesses,” said Allan O’Dette, President & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). “It is essential that all parties commit to policies that will improve the business climate and spur economic growth in Ontario. By publicly evaluating the commitment of each federal party to this end, we are putting pressure on our federal politicians to demonstrate leadership and help our business community succeed.”

The OCC, Ontario’s most prominent and diverse business network, is calling on all federal political parties to make bold commitments that will improve Ontario’s business climate and drive economic growth. To that end, the OCC has released an Ontario business agenda for the federal election.  

“The central guiding principle of the report is that all intergovernmental relations, cooperation and policy harmonization should be paramount,” says O’Dette.

The report, “In Focus: Federal Priorities for the Ontario Economy”,  makes nine recommendations under four other principles:

Guiding principle: Federal policy should aim to fix the fiscal framework to enable greater reinvestment of the wealth generated in Ontario into its workforce and productivity capacity  

Ontario businesses and residents are poorly served by the federal government’s unprincipled allocation formulae in areas of major federal spending.  As a result of systemic inequities, Ontarians contribute between $9.1 and $12.5 billion more into the federation than what we get back in terms of services (Granofsky and Zon, 2014). 

Fiscal federalism has failed to keep pace with the 21st century macroeconomic realities of the country (Ibid). The federal spend to promote economic growth and development across the country should be allocated on a principled basis (OCC, 2015). 

  • Reform Canada’s broken EI system
  • Distribute economic development funds on a principled basis

Guiding principle: In all intergovernmental relations, cooperation and policy harmonization should be paramount

As Canadian provinces increasingly step into areas of traditional federal responsibility (retirement savings and environmental regulation, for example), the country’s regulatory landscape becomes more fragmented. Intergovernmental squabbling has at times exacerbated this fragmentation, to the detriment of Canada’s investment climate.  

The federal government – through its actions and its approach to intergovernmental relations – should promote policy harmonization across the country (OCC, 2015). 

  • Avoid further regulatory fragmentation by demonstrating leadership on key regulatory files
  • Provide businesses with accurate labour market data

Guiding principle: Federal policy should seek to make Canada and Ontario a global destination of choice for foreign investment

Ontario suffers from a $60 billion infrastructure gap, its share of economic immigrants to Canada has declined steeply over the past decade, and its productivity gap vis-à-vis the United States is widening (Association of Municipalities of Ontario, 2012; Ministry of Finance, 2014).  All these factors combine to weaken the business climate.  

Given the contribution Ontario’s economy makes to the broader Canadian economy, the federal government has a vested interest in the province’s economic fortunes and should act correspondingly (OCC, 2015)

  • Allocate infrastructure funds on a per capita basis
  • Ensure that the immigration system does not unduly limit employers’ access to the international talent they need

Guiding principle: Federal policy should champion Ontario’s competitive advantages

Ontario maintains a competitive advantage over our international competitors in several key sectors.  The province is rich in natural resources, our financial services sector is among the largest in North America, and our agri-food sector is primed for explosive growth as global food demand is set to double over the next 30 years. Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry has the potential to rebound – provided that Ontario can remain competitive globally.

The federal government should align resources behind -and build on- Ontario’s competitive advantages (OCC, 2015).

  • Improve the manufacturing sector’s connections to Canada and the world
  • Show a commitment to Ontario’s north

Guiding principle: The government should act in a fiscally responsible manner

While Ontarians are acutely aware of the fiscal challenges facing their provincial government, fewer understand the deteriorating fiscal capacity of the Canadian government.  The federal government spends nearly $30 billion a year on debt servicing costs. Meanwhile, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio has risen by 4 percentage points since 2007, and now stands at 33.1 percent.  While Canada is still in a relatively strong fiscal position, any deterioration in the federal government’s finances could drag on investor confidence.  

The federal government should – at a minimum – maintain Canada’s fiscal position (OCC, 2015).

  • Begin to pay down the federal debt

In the end all this to say that Ontario needs its federal government to be involved and committed to seeing the province prosper.  “A healthy Ontario economy is good for Canada,” said O’Dette. “All parties must be prepared to take the bold actions necessary to solidify a bright future for Ontario and further the economic success of our great country.”

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce has sent questions on business-related issues to the candidates. The responses will be posted to the Chamber website.  The Chamber is also holding an all candidates debate on business issues Tuesday, October 6 from 4-6pm. 

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

Tuesday
Aug252015

OCC: Harnessing the Power of the Sharing Economy

In this report, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce explores the challenges of bringing new and different business models into the economy.  While, Uber has not landed in Peterborough, Peterborough the tourist area does have a 100+ listings on Airbnb. Peterborough is also home to a number of co-work spaces in our downtown and beyond.  

OCC Report: Harnessing the Power of the Sharing Economy  

What are your thoughts on the official arrival of this billion dollar sector of our economy?  What regulation, if any, is required?  How does this sector integrate with traditional sectors?   

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" LinkedIn Group.

Wednesday
Aug192015

The ORPP: comparing apples and oranges?

Last week the Government of Ontario announced a few new rules to the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).  

Key Details of the Announcement:

  1. Businesses that offer a Defined Contribution (DC) plan with a total combined contribution rate of 8%, where at least 4% is contributed by the employer, will not have to pay into the ORPP.
  2. Those businesses that offer a non-comparable type of pension plan or do not offer any type of pension plan will have to contribute to the ORPP.
  3. Large employers (500 or more employees) will start contributing in 2017, medium sized employers (approximately 50-499 employees) in 2018, and small employers (50 or fewer employees) in 2019. Any employer that offers a non-comparable Defined Benefit (DB) or DC plan has until 2020 to bring their current plan in line or they will have to make contributions to the ORPP starting in 2020.

As mentioned in a press release by the Peterborough and Ontario Chambers of Commerc, the announcement is a step in the right direction for Ontario businesses in that the government has responded to the business community’s concerns by broadening its definition of a “comparable” pension plan.  

However, we remain concerned that the ORPP, in its current form, will raise costs for the majority of businesses who operate in the province, including those employers that offer non-comparable plans like Group RRSPs. Recent OCC survey data indicates that if faced with mandatory increased contributions under the ORPP, 44 percent of businesses would reduce their current payroll or hire fewer employees in the future.  

The crux of the comparability issue is that the ORPP is a defined benefit plan and most employers today offer their employees defined contribution plans.  Interestingly enough, the Government of Ontario, in its Key Design Question document on ORPP, states that for small and medium-sized businesses workplace pension plans, especially defined benefit plans, can be costly and difficult to administer.  

Defined Benefit (DB) plan: A pension plan with a guaranteed benefit amount at withdrawal

Defined Contribution (DC) plan: A pension plan with a guaranteed contribution amount; the output is dependent on the market at time of withdrawal, as is an RRSP.  

One local employer offers a voluntary program where employees contribute 3% and they match that amount for a total savings of 6%.  Under the new rules this employer has to make a decision on how to move forward.  The employer would have to increase their defined contribution plan by two percent and make it a mandatory program, keep the current program as is and start paying into the ORPP as well (the proposed ORPP is a combined employer/employee contribution to a total of 3.8%), or scrap their current plan and continue only with the ORPP.  

So why is the Government of Ontario considering a defined benefit plan?  They have said that the ORPP will mirror the CPP, which is a defined benefit plan and given the number of people that would be involved, size also becomes a mitigating factor.  However, a number of questions still remain.  We still don’t know the full administrative costs of the ORPP, the government is dealing with a large fiscal deficit and what measures are in place should the plan fall on hard times and the money isn’t there for the defined benefit?  

The Peterborough Chamber, along with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has asked the government to conduct an economic impact analysis of their proposed pension plan and publicly release the results.

“We remain deeply concerned about the cumulative burden facing Ontario employers,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “Rising electricity prices, the introduction of a cap and trade system, and the ORPP will further add to the cost of doing business in Ontario. 

Following considerable advocacy efforts by a coalition of businesses led by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the government has committed to releasing a cost-benefit analysis of the ORPP before the end of the year.

There are still a number of questions that remain around the ORPP program including how the self-employed will be affected.  The Government of Ontario has not yet defined the rules, but has released the following: 

“Our goal is for every employee in Ontario to be part of the ORPP or a comparable workplace pension plan by 2020. That includes the self-employed.  Unfortunately, the federal Income Tax Act (ITA) does not currently allow self-employed individuals to participate in registered pension plans. We have asked the federal government to amend the ITA to allow for the self-employed to participate in the ORPP. The province will continue to explore options to enable the participation of the self-employed in the ORPP.”

Knowing that there are still a number of questions to be answered, “we will work with government in order to ensure they have a full appreciation of the potential impacts of the ORPP,” says Harrison.  

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

Friday
Aug072015

OCC Regulatory Update August 2015

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce's (OCC) Regulatory Update summarizes what employers need to know about the latest changes to the regulatory environment for businesses.

We provide regulatory updates to the Chamber Network at three key times during the year to coincide with the government’s regulatory schedule. You will receive our next updates in December 2015 and June 2016.

As you know, easing the regulatory burden for Ontario businesses is one of our top priorities. We are committed to continuing to advocate for a business climate that fosters investment and growth.

Ministry of Labour Considering Major Changes to Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act
Ongoing

This spring, the provincial government launched public consultations on the changing nature of the modern workplace. The consultations focus on how the Labour Relations Act, 1995 andEmployment Standards Act, 2000 could be amended to keep pace with the changing needs of workers and employers.

Among the issues being discussed at these public consulations are proposals that would make it easier to join a union and major changes to employment standards, including stricter rules for employers as it pertains to scheduling and sick leaves.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is currently drafting a formal submission to the Ministry of Labour in response to its consultation paper.

To provide your feedback to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, please contact Liam McGuinty, Manager of Policy & Government Relations.

Learn More

Ministry of Labour Set to Launch Compliance Blitz Targeting Sectors Known to Use Internships
In effect September 1, 2015

From September 1 to December 31, 2015, the Ministry of Labour is conducting a blitz focusing on sectors known to employ young workers in internship programs. There are indications that the government may focus on sectors including Information Technology and others known to have internship programs.

Ministry of Labour blitzes are not uncommon. As part of the blitzes, employment standards officers visit employers to verify compliance with core Employment Standards Act, 2000regulations, such as the Employment Standards Poster requirements, wage statements, unauthorized deductions, record keeping, hours of work, eating periods, overtime pay, minimum wage, public holidays and vacation with pay. The blitzes tend to focus particularly on sectors where there is a history of employment standards violations, where vulnerable workers are employed and where an increasing number of Ontarians are working.

For a full schedule of Ministry of Labour blitzes, visit: http://bit.ly/1IMog0W

Employers Creating Employment Opportunities for Students and Recent Graduates with Disabilities Now Eligible for Government Grants
Ongoing

This June, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce launched the Abilities Connect Fund. This grant program assists employers in creating employment opportunities for postsecondary students and recent graduates with disabilities. It also assists with integrating people with disabilities into the workplace and increase retention and their career trajectory.

Employers can receive a maximum of $20,000 to assist in the hiring and training of up to four employees. They can also receive up to $3,000 to purchase workplace assistive devices to support any employees with disabilities.

To apply to the Abilities Connect Fund, visit http://bit.ly/1KOjq4v or contact project lead Lesley Cole.

Minimum Wage Set to Increase to $11.25
In effect October 1, 2015

Ontario is raising the general minimum wage from $11.00 to $11.25 per hour, effective October 1, 2015. Minimum wage rates for jobs in special categories are also increasing:

  • The student minimum wage is rising from $10.30 to $10.55 per hour
  • The liquor servers minimum wage is rising from $9.55 to $9.80 per hour
  • The homeworkers minimum wage is rising from $12.10 to $12.40 per hour

For a full list of the scheduled changes to the minimum wage, visit: http://bit.ly/1fRjezq

Employers Now Have Direct Access to Economic Immigrants Arriving Through the Express Entry Immigration System
In effect

Employers now have direct access to foreign talent through Job Match, a revamped version of Job Bank, the federal government's job database.

Job Match will now allow eligible employers in Canada and skilled foreign nationals to connect with one another more easily, making integration faster once immigrants arrive in Canada.

To access skilled foreign nationals through Job Match, visit: http://bit.ly/1EpsQxM

The OCC's Regulatory Update summarizes what employers need to know about the latest changes to the regulatory environment for businesses.

* Please note that this email includes hyperlinks to third party websites. Although the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and its member Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade make reasonable efforts to obtain reliable content from third parties, the OCC and its member Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade do not guarantee the accuracy of any third party content. The OCC and its member Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade do not necessarily endorse the legislative or regulatory changes listed in this email.