Entries in Peterborough Chamber of Commerce (31)

Thursday
Sep082016

Transparency needed on cap and trade costs

With all that is going on around the issue of electricity, a recent decision from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has the Peterborough Chamber and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Network shaking their collective heads.

Currently businesses in Peterborough are dealing with price increases that are impacting competitiveness, the impact of a potential merger of PDI into Hydro One, lack of transparency around the items included in the Global Adjustment fee and now the Ontario Energy Board has decided to include cap and trade costs in the delivery charge of utilities.   

This move presents a number of concerns including that it seems to be in direct conflict with the Premier’s goal of being the most transparent and accountable government anywhere in Canada.  

In response to this decision the Chamber Network through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to the Chair of the OEB and copied Premier Wynne and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault requesting that cap and trade costs be their own line item on energy bills for businesses and consumers. 

The letter outlines four areas of explanation as to why a separate line item is required: transparency, efficiency, sectoral applications and exemptions.

Transparency

Under this area of concern, the letter outlines the need for accurate information to be available to customers so they can make appropriate choices about their energy use including: 

  • understanding how month-to-month emissions costs will help emphasize the value of reducing usage
  • allowing Ontario businesses to properly manage and reduce their usage of fossil fuels
  • offering more information than tariff sheets on a utility’s website
  • creating a direct signal to customers to use less gas and invest in energy efficiency measures
  • educating and influencing customer behaviour

Efficiency

A separate charge will enable customers to confirm they have been charged the correct amount and recognize the different treatment of large emitters in relation to the to customer-related obligations and allow for fewer incidents of customer confusion and inquiries.

Sectoral Applications

Large emitters agree the charge should be separate to allow them to ensure they have been charged the correct amount.

Exemptions

Some users of fossil fuels (farmers and First Nations) are currently tax exempt.  Will this continue to be the case if the cost is rolled into other delivery charges on the purchase of gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas?

The letter concludes with a call for the decision for cap and trade costs to be included in delivery charges to be reversed to allow for more transparency for businesses and consumers, and to better inform customer behaviour to help achieve the government’s emissions reduction objectives.  

Read the full letter on our website:

peterboroughchamber.ca

Tuesday
Aug232016

What we heard: being in business is tough

In 2016, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism have partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to bring the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign to our members.  This campaign will highlight the important contributions of small business to our economy and
communities, and actively engage small businesses in investigating the top barriers to small business growth - and identify solutions to overcome those challenges. 

In June two roundtable events were held and we spoke to and received feedback from about 30 businesses.   The content from those sessions has been captured in an easy to read report that can be found on the Chamber website at peterboroughchamber.ca/small-business-too-big-to-ignore.html. 

In addition to those roundtable events the Chambers also put together a short survey for the business community.  The survey was designed to help us reach and gather feedback from as many businesses as possible.  Hearing from our Peterborough and area business community is important because the information provided will help advance the provincial dialogue around small business. 

The survey consisted of eight questions:

  1. How many paid employees does your business have (including part-time staff as a .5)?
  2. In which industry is your business based?
  3. Where is your company located?
  4. Does your company perform transactions online? (i.e. e-commerce, selling tickets to events)
  5. Have you experienced difficulty filling a vacant staffing position in the last year?
  6. If yes to #5, what were the greatest challenges that you experienced in filling that position?
  7. What are the most significant barrier(s) impacting the success of your business?
  8. How can we, as a business community, work together to ensure government responds to these challenges?

The responses represent close to 50 employers with over 300 employees across a variety of sectors, including  business and financial services, engineering, construction, infrastructure and hospitality industries healthcare, retail, manufacturing, tourism and distribution industries.  The businesses were located both in the City and County of Peterborough.

At the outset of the campaign, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identified three areas of focus: access to talent, infrastructure gap and the cost of doing business.  The survey was designed to follow these focus areas.  

One of the more interesting results can be found in the access to talent bucket.  The survey revealed that of the employers who responded almost half expressed challenges in filling vacant positions at their business.  The main challenges were finding people with the right skills and work ethic to fit their needs.  Access to internet, work for partners, and lack of incentives to hire students were also mentioned as challenges by employers when it comes to hiring. 

Question 7 asked business owners, "What are the barriers impacting the success of your business?"

The overall theme that emerged was the impact of navigating “the overwhelming and complex layers of provincial legislation” from energy costs to licensing to the rules around hiring and borrowing money.  There is also a general concern about more legislation being added. 

Infrastructure needs appeared as a concern of employers alongside the issue of the internet; it's cost, access, and options for business.

Most of the employers indicated they were not using the internet to perform transactions online, including e-commerce.  

When it came to how we can ensure government hears the concerns of business, the benefit of speaking as one voice was stressed along with the importance of advocacy and having a defined focus in two or three areas to put forward to government. Some areas suggested in the survey were taxes, the need to recognize the difference between rural and urban issues, and taking a team approach to our region.   

We thank those business that took the time to answer the survey and if you would like to weigh in, contact us
at sandra@peterboroughchamber.ca or 705.748.9771. 

Wednesday
Aug102016

Let's not miss Opportunity Drive on infrastructure

Strong infrastructure to move our goods = a strong economy.

Canada is the second largest country in the world with 9.985 million km2 to its credit.  The vastness and
geographical variety across the country and from province to province are what make Canada unique; are a source of pride to Canadians', are an economic driver, and yet present a constant challenge.  

98% of businesses in Canada are categorized as small business.  These businesses have products that need to get to market, to other businesses and to consumers in their own communities, and they need the
infrastructure to do it, stay competitive and reach their growth potential.  

As found in the provincial Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Freight Guidelines, “freight movement plays a major role in the provincial economy, generating large revenues and supplying jobs for hundreds of thousands of employees. According to Transport Canada, in the year 2011, trade between Ontario and the United States amounted to over $284 billion. 38% of Ontario’s economy comes from freight-intensive industries. In that same year, Ontario led Canada in exports to countries other than the United States, with approximately $40 billion in goods exported. Ontario’s economy is multi-faceted, ranging from farming to manufacturing to 21st century knowledge economy businesses. All  of these depend on the movement of freight in some way.”

The MTO defines freight movement as “the transportation of goods by road, rail, air, water and even pipeline. It includes: the movement of raw natural resources; the movement of refined goods for manufacturing, like steel, or auto parts; and the movement of finished products for markets like furniture or food products.”

It’s why businesses and business groups such as the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce are advocating loudly for infrastructure, to be precise - trade-enabling infrastructure.  Trade-enabling infrastructure is roads, rail, and waterways that can move the goods our businesses produce and receive the goods that are needed to keep local economies moving forward.

Infrastructure funding was a large part of the 2016 federal budget, and it’s been said that Ontario and Canada are approaching a crucial infrastructure juncture in that much of the built infrastructure from post World War II (roads, bridges, etc) is reaching the end of life and requires a major overhaul.  With tens of
millions in projects required in the City and County of Peterborough alone, never mind across the country, and the limited ability of municipalities to responsibly foot the bill, it is imperative that policies and programs are developed to provide focused, timely and innovative solutions.   

Next month chambers of commerce and boards of trade will be gathering at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM to make suggestions to government around various issues including infrastructure
and how to power forward the Canadian economy.  One way is a coordinated infrastructure strategy that incorporates all of the tools in the toolkit, including all levels of government and the private sector, uses funding models, is consistent in its application and recognizes the importance of all modalities: road, rail, water and air. 

There is a lot of ground to cover to move goods in Canada.  We need to be at the leading edge of
infrastructure innovation in order to meet and conquer our challenges and ensure Canada is ready to move the world through our borders. 

Wednesday
Aug032016

Changing Workplaces Review important to all

The 300+ page interim report on the Changing Workplaces Review has now been released.  What does it mean and how will it impact employers and employees?  The review is the mechanism through which the Ontario Ministry of Labour is currently examining the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Standards Act; two pieces of legislation that impact all workplaces in Ontario.  The Review has been tasked with examining key workplace trends, including the increase in non-standard working relationships such as temporary jobs, involuntary part-time work, and self-employment.

The interim report contains hundreds of options to the legislation. The options laid out and that are presently being considered by the Special Advisors will impact nearly every aspect of the relationship between employers and employees, as well as the ability of Ontario businesses to create jobs and grow the economy.

It’s for this reason that employers and employees must have an active interest in any changes to legislation.  Keep Ontario Working is an initiative of the leading employer and sector associations in the province, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and is designed to provide information about how you can ensure that government is improving legislation to support workers’ rights, create jobs and grow the economy.

The employer groups believe that, “At a time when the costs to consumers and the cost of doing business in Ontario is rising, government must consider the impact that these changes will have on Ontario’s competitiveness and workers.  Any changes to labour and employment legislation will have implications for Ontario’s economy, and that’s why it’s time for all Ontarians to identify barriers to growth and recommend changes that will give businesses and their workers room to grow.”

In particular, Keep Ontario Working will focus on several policy options in the interim report that the
government is considering, including: 

 

  1. Labour Certification Rules: The requirement for a secret ballot vote must be maintained. Certification simply by signing a union card diminishes employees’ rights and transparency. 
  2. Scheduling Provisions:  Options that would create rigid and universal requirements and a one-size-fits-all approach to scheduling fail to recognize the diverse needs of Ontario’s workforce.
  3. Sector Exemptions: The interim report includes options that would provide for changes to sectoral exemptions. Doing so would ignore the unique needs of important industries like agriculture and information technology when it comes to flexible scheduling and compensation.

 

The group goes on to say:

“In an effort to solve one problem, we don’t want to impose more issues. One-size-fits-all solutions, like many outlined in the interim report, could remove the flexibility that many of Ontario’s employers and employees enjoy. We deserve evidence-based policy and the Government of Ontario should conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess the impact on jobs and the economy for any changes to labour and employment legislation that they accept from the Changing Workplaces Review.”

For their part, the special advisors leading the review have recognized “the diversity of the Ontario economy, its businesses, and the competition they face.  A “one-size-fits-all” regulatory solution to a problem in a sector or an industry could have negative consequences if applied to all employers. The unique requirements of some businesses and/or of some employees may – in appropriate circumstances – support differentiation by sector or by industry rather than province-wide regulation.”  

There is a constant call for us to be innovative to move the economy forward.  To that end innovation must be found in all aspects of our economy, from how we build products and services, to how our workforce is supported and encouraged, to how we get those products and services to market.  

Thursday
Jul072016

How infrastructure drives our economy

The importance of solid built infrastructure to our economy cannot be ignored.  Earlier this week, the Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli joined our MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal in Peterborough County to announce a top-up fund for small, rural and northern municipalities.  

In announcing the program, which will be distributed as part of the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF), the Ministers spoke to how roads and bridges are critical pieces of ensuring a strong economy.  The challenge is the cost of repairing the current infrastructure to ensure our economy moves forward.  

“Peterborough County has about $75 million in infrastructure repair needs,” said Warden J. Murray Jones, while Mayor Daryl Bennett emphasized the need in the City.   

The top-up application component will allow municipalities to submit proposals for specific infrastructure projects.  This application-based funding is aimed at allowing smaller communities to bring their total OCIF funding up to $2 million over two years to ensure all communities have opportunities to address larger, critical infrastructure projects.  

“By expanding the OCIF, our government has shown municipalities that we are committed to working with them to address critical infrastructure needs in their communities through predictable, stable funding,” said Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and MPP for Peterborough.  

Over the next three years, $670 million will be invested in the fund.  Infrastructure and the gap associated with the needs versus the ability to fix have been highlighted as a barrier to success for business. A recent report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identifies that about half of the infrastructure gap is accounted for by road and bridge assets.  The report encourages the government to spend infrastructure dollars wisely and on projects that are considered trade enabling, from roads and bridges to rail and ports. 

The announcement comes at an opportune time.  Last week Stuart Harrison and I joined a tour of two large operations in Havelock-Belmont-Methuen Township: the ethanol plant and quarry owned and operated by Drain Bros. and the Unimin mine.  Both are doing really neat innovative projects with their businesses.  In the case of Drain Bros. they have found and/or developed uses for many of the materials or by-products so that there is little wasted in their processes.   

Unimin is planning a modernization of its plant to increase efficiency and capability of producing their product, nepheline syenite.  

These types of infrastructure announcements help municipalities ensure that roads and bridges are in good working condition so that companies such as Drain Bros. and Unimin can grow, reach new markets, and offer jobs in their communities.