Entries in Peterborough Chamber (83)

Wednesday
Feb032016

Why are we ploughing ahead with ORPP?

The provincial government released the final design parameters for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) last week, but it wasn’t successful in quieting the calls from the business community to delay the plan until the federal government has completed its review of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).  

Many members of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce are left wondering why the rush?  When the ORPP was announced, the reason for hatching a made-in-Ontario retirement plan was because the federal government was unwilling to consider expanding CPP.  The new government has committed to a conversation with Canadians about how to improve the program and yet Ontario is ploughing ahead.  Our agricultural community may have something to say about the impact of ploughing a field that has been tapped too often.   

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce policy staff has identified the impact of the newly announced design details including:

Implementation timelines. We learned that government will not extend ORPP implementation timelines, as we had asked. This will put pressure on both government and employers to meet the January 1st, 2017 implementation timeline, which we believe is very ambitious. These tight timelines necessitate increased collaboration between government and employers over the next 11 months.

A new funding policy. In the event that the ORPP becomes underfunded, there exists the potential for the ORPP Administration Corporation Board of Directors to increase contribution rates by up to 0.2 percent. The OCC had been seeking a guarantee that employer contribution would not exceed 1.9 percent and we will continue to lobby the government on this point.

A clearer definition of employment. Until the parameters were issued, it was unclear what constituted an “Ontario employee.” This has now been defined. A person will be considered employed in Ontario if they report to work, full- or part-time, at an employer’s establishment in Ontario. This definition captures a greater number of businesses than many anticipated, including federally regulated businesses.

A streamlined comparability test. The government is establishing a comparability test that can be applied at the level of a subset of employees. This has important implications for those employers whose employees are not offered identical benefits. For example, some employers have different benefits for part-time and full-time employees. The government has indicated that this test would streamline the administrative process of assessing plan comparability. The OCC looks forward to receiving greater detail on this comparability test.

ORPP is a large part of the cumulative burden that Ontario businesses are facing.  It has the potential to hurt our competitiveness by hampering a business’ ability to hire or even retain their current employees.  While the economic analysis by the province indicates that there will be a period of reduced GDP growth, as businesses adjust to the cost, the analysis is also banking on reduced Employment Insurance (EI) and Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) premiums.  These are not guaranteed reductions.  In the case of EI the federal Liberals did say during the election they would reduce premiums, but not near the same amount as expected when the premium rate was announced under the previous government.  In the case of WSIB, the earliest implementation date is 2019, allowing for a year of adjustment for businesses.  

In October 2015, the Peterborough and Kingston Chambers of Commerce submitted a recommendation to the federal government that employees be allowed to increase their CPP contributions.   

The Peterborough Chamber has been involved in the ORPP conversation for the past two years and has contributed letters and impact analysis on behalf of our members.   And while some of the design details have been created in direct response to focused advocacy by us and our colleagues at the OCC, the question remains why January 2017 is a hard and fast timeline. 

Taking the time to allow the federal government to examine the CPP is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of a province recognizing that ORPP will have a negative impact on our fragile economy, hurt our competitiveness and is not the best answer right now for business or Ontario residents.   

Wednesday
Jan202016

We need a business budget in Ontario

Open the envelope or email of an official letter from the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce to the provincial government on the 2016 pre-budget consultations and what you would find are four key points. Included would be the growing pressure of legislative burden on the Peterborough business community, the need for infrastructure that improves how we get our products to market, the ability to retain and hire skilled talent, and the willingness of the province to become more efficient in its ways.  

The Chamber Network is often asked what we see as the role of government. Quite simply it is this: provide the framework in which business can operate at a highly competitive level and in doing so have the ability to create and retain highly skilled talent.  There is no expectation from the business community for government to create jobs.  The expectation from the business community is that the chosen framework respects the need for transparency and a certain amount of flexibility as it is applied to the industries that make up Ontario’s economic sphere.  

Cumulative Burden

This is essentially the piling-on effect of various pieces of legislation or policy directives from several different government ministries where the impact is felt directly at the business or private sector level.  Among those pieces of legislation and directives are hydro prices, yearly minimum wage increases, the proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, the College of Trades, WSIB premiums, and cap and trade to name a few of the new input costs facing businesses.  

Through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, chambers such as Peterborough have been pushing for more inclusion in the regulatory approach that will result in achieving goals that are mutually beneficial.  

One of the major roles of the private sector is to drive the economy.  This roadway, rail, or boat on which the private sector is travelling needs to be fairly barrier free with opportunities to offer input.     

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is a major player to success in the private sector and the Ontario economy. In the Peterborough
area we know that infrastructure deficits are real. If our built infrastructure such as roads, bridges, rail and sewers is in poor condition it has a negative impact on a business' ability to get products to market and to bring imports to the area.   

Infrastructure includes not only those built pieces, but the telecommunications lines and the system that carries our energy to our businesses. Essentially infrastructure is how we move people, goods, information and power to keep our economies chugging along.

The provincial and federal governments have made infrastructure commitments and the Peterborough Chamber urges them to identify projects that will propel economies forward, projects that will create and open up regions to new possibilities, and projects that will foster connections between all sizes of communities.

 

Take the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Survey on the 2016 Provincial Budget

 

Skilled Talent

The needs of employers in this sphere are challenging and diverse.  There is no one-size-fits all approach that seems to have bridged the gap. In the trades, the apprenticeship system is complicated and not always
easy to navigate for employers or those choosing a career in the trades. Those employers with businesses in smaller municipalities and centres are further disadvantaged by ratio requirements. For those with minimum wage jobs to offer, they have to be able to incur the yearly pressure from minimum wage hikes before they consider adding an employee.    

Ontario’s fiscal situation 

The province is running a $10.3B deficit.  While meeting deficit elimination targets are important, understanding and knowing the plan past 2017-2018 is also an significant piece of the puzzle.  What measures will be put in place to create more sustainable levels?  The Chamber Network has offered a number of ways to move forward including program reviews and means-testing, and discussions with the federal government that would result in mitigating the $11B gap in the share of federal funding Ontario receives versus the federal revenue it collects.  

At the end of the day, Peterborough businesses are looking for a province that is flexible and able to
anticipate changes in the marketplace in a way that doesn’t slow down the economic wheel, but rather improves its efficiency and function, so that Ontario reaps the benefits.   

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" LinkedIn group.

Wednesday
Dec232015

In business? The Chamber has your back

One of the main mandates for the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is to foster a pro-business attitude at all three levels of Government with strong credible lobbying on your behalf.   The one page report below touches upon some of the highlights from 2015.  

The Peterborough Chamber was very active in 2015 at the municipal level we successfully lobbied, along with our Kawartha Manufacturers’ Association and the Peterborough-Kawarthas Association of Realtors, to have the Tax Ratio Reduction Program re-instated with a commitment to see it through to completion in 2021. 

At the provincial and federal levels, we lead the way for the Chamber Network to approve a recommendation of support for the Energy East pipeline.  A project that will bring 250 jobs to Peterborough’s GE Hitachi plant.  

In 2016, we will be releasing a number of position papers with the Ontario Chamber, the 2015 Peterborough Chamber Annual Report Card and are aiming to bring forward policy resolutions to the provincial and federal policy meetings. 

The Chamber values your input on business issues.  If you have a regulatory and/or legislative issue please contact sandra@peterboroughchamber.ca

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

Wednesday
Dec232015

New rate framework on the way...have your say on WSIB

The impact of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rates has been an issue on the minds of many members of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce this past year.  We heard concerns on rates, rate increases and concern around communication of the rates.  As such, the Peterborough Chamber was part of an Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) task force developing recommendations for presentation to the WSIB.  

In September, the Chamber Network submission was presented as part of the stakeholder consultation process. In all, the Chamber Network provided the Government of Ontario with ten recommendations, seven of which dealt directly with the proposed changes to the rate framework.  Of those seven, six were incorporated in the new WSIB Rate Framework document released earlier this month.  

The OCC has provided us with an update on the seven rate framework recommendations (these are the Top 5):

Recommendation 1: Provide a public and detailed analysis of how the proposed rate framework changes will impact employers. The WSIB has committed to conducting a risk disparity analysis that will form part of the regular, ongoing monitoring of the Rate Framework. Emphasizing the key goal of ‘fairly allocated premiums’, the WSIB indicated that the analysis could lead to updates to the class structure designed to better distribute the costs by industry.

Recommendation 2: Introduce a surcharge mechanism to ensure that employers with effective health and safety programs don’t pay the cost of poor performing employers within their class. In our submission, the OCC noted that the elimination of the surcharge mechanism in the proposed framework would become problematic when an employer’s costs far exceed the rate charged to the highest risk band in their class.  The WSIB has responded with a commitment to implement a program similar to the Alberta Poor Performance Surcharge (PPS) to encourage high cost employers to improve their health and safety management efforts.

Recommendation 3: Expand the proposed class structure. The WSIB originally proposed to reduce the number of employer classes from 155 to 22. Members of the business community expressed concern that the proposed class structure risks grouping employers with very different risk profiles – which could impose undue costs on businesses. The WSIB has responded by increasing the number of classes in the proposed framework from 22 to 34. We will continue to work closely with the WSIB to ensure that businesses are fairly classified
according to their risk profile.

Recommendation 4: Reconsider implementing the predominant class model. The WSIB originally proposed to subject employers to a premium rate based solely on the business’ predominant activity. We view this as problematic as it could lead to significantly higher premium rates for employers engaged in multiple business activities. The WSIB has committed to ‘further exploring’ exceptions to this general rule to allow employers to pay multiple premium rates that are reflective of their business activities. The OCC will work closely with the WSIB to ensure fairness for employers engaged in multiple business activities.

Recommendation 5: Implement a weighted cost claims ‘window’. The OCC recommended that the WSIB implement a weighted cost claims ‘window’ based on employers’ claims cost history over the past three rather than six years to ensure that the rate charged to employers is reflective of their recent commitments
to health and safety. Although the WSIB plans to move ahead with the six years claims window, the OCC is encouraged by the updated weighted feature in which the most recent three years are weighted at 66.6 percent and the remaining three years at 33.3 percent, a significant improvement from the model that had been previously proposed.

These three recommendations:

 

  • The WSIB should be subject to oversight by the Auditor General.
  • The Government of Ontario should study the merits of introducing comparable WSIB delivery models including options such as full and/or partial privatization.
  • 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.

 

did not deal directly with the rate framework, but are still very much part of the lobbying effort by the Ontario Chamber Network as they are important to creating a more competitive business climate for Ontario.  

The Peterborough Chamber will be hosting the WSIB Secretariat’s Executive Director of Strategic
Revenue Policy on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 from 8:30-11:00am at the Kawartha Shrine Club.  The event is in conjunction with the Kawartha Manufacturers’ Association and the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Home Builders Association.  

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

Thursday
Dec172015

It's in the data - the story of rebuilding Ptbo

The Peterborough Chamber of Commerce along with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and Credit Unions of Ontario recently released Ontario Economic Update 2016.  The document tells us the story of Peterborough over the past year and provides a glimpse into what the future could hold.  

The report tells us that the housing market is driving growth.  There was a 16.4 percent increase in residential sales to October of this year, compared to last year.  This increase has pushed the average price of a home to $295,000.  Peterborough saw a surge in apartment building permits at the end of 2014 that has contributed to an increase in housing starts. Peterborough is ahead of 2014 in non-residential building construction investment spending.  

Employment is expected to grow about 1.8 percent in 2016 and then stabilize around 1.3 percent in 2017.  The authors of the report also predict we’ll see unemployment stabilize at just over 7.5 percent, which would make for the lowest average unemployment rate in a decade.  Population growth will also be on the positive side, increasing 0.8 percent in 2016.  

“We are pleased to see positive growth is expected for Peterborough in each of the next two years,” says Stuart Harrison, President  & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “This is reflective of what we are seeing with new businesses setting up shop in all sectors of our economy and areas of the city and county.”

So what does this all mean?  What is the big picture?  This is the story of a city that is in the final stretch of rebuilding.  It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve done it.  Peterborough is transforming from the traditional
manufacturing town of recent decades to a city with a diverse and vibrant economy.  Manufacturing, while still a key sector, is now defined as an advanced manufacturing sector with an emphasis on innovation; the Peterborough retail sector is chugging along with a good mix of unique stores and chain franchises; the public sector is strong between the university, college, hospital and municipal services; the agricultural sector is bringing new products to market; and the strategic emergence of an entrepreneurial hub caps off 2015 with a flourish.  

There are also a number of external factors that will have a positive impact on Peterborough.  The lower Canadian dollar will be good for tourism and our economic sectors who are exporting to the U.S. and beyond.  A stronger U.S. economy will also help drive growth in Ontario. The federal and provincial governments have promised a focus on infrastructure projects. These projects will stimulate growth across a variety of sectors.  

“Ontario businesses are helping Ontario emerge stronger from the downturn,” says Allan O’Dette, President & CEO, OCC. “In order to generate sustained economic growth, government must invest in infrastructure, close the skills gap, and ensure that input costs do not stifle investment or job creation.”  

To that end, there is a large role for chambers of commerce to play, “the Chamber will continue to lobby and develop recommendations to help mitigate the impact of the cumulative effect of significant provincial policy changes such as ORPP, WSIB rate framework reform, electricity prices, and Cap and Trade,” adds Harrison.

The takeaway from the Ontario Economic Update 2016: Peterborough CMA report is that the recent period of instability and uncertainty has afforded Peterborough an opportunity to explore the importance of
community, dialogue and a common goal.  Success calls for a willingness to be dynamic. It’s not always easy, but the results of this report prove that it’s necessary.

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

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