Entries in policy (10)

Wednesday
Jan142015

Policy Forum 2014: Collaborating for Social Services Success

The strongest theme to emerge from Policy Forum 2014: Connecting the Dots is that groups have to work in collaboration with each other. This theme was an underlying current at the table discussing Transforming Social Services. 

The policy forum was hosted by the Young Professionals Group (YPG) of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. It was based on an article by best-selling author, economist, thought leader and current Chancellor of Trent University, Don Tapscott. The article called “As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century” was first published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014. Seven key areas for improving a community were identified: 

  1. Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity 
  2. Open Government 
  3. Turning Public Safety Inside Out 
  4. Rethinking Transportation 
  5. Creating a Sustainable City 
  6. Transforming Social Services 
  7. Reinventing Local Democracy 

So far in this seven-part series we have revealed the table discussions on entrepreneurship, open government and reinventing local democracy. Entrepreneurship wrapped up with a call for a coordinated strategy. Having an official strategy would allow all interest groups to map out the united front on entrepreneurship the community wants to present to its own residents, the province and beyond. 

Open government revealed six recommendations in total including two quick wins:1.Putting the councillor handbook online as a guide to government for all residents and 2. Using external language vs. internal language to communicate better with residents and businesses. 

The discussion around reinventing local democracy led to a call for community-building activities, such as a parallel council and highlighting Peterborough’s community areas to continue to engage all residents. 

The group at the table discussing public safety came to the conclusion that when it comes to this issue everyone in the community has a role to play. 

Transforming Social Services 

Lynn Zimmer, Executive Director of the YWCA was the table lead for the discussion on transforming our social services. 

The group identified the following as currently happening in Peterborough: 

 

  • Data sharing/ measurement/ evaluation/proof of outcomes by various organizations which then leads to streamlined & priority based funding 
  • Collaboration between organizations and joint community projects and committees on a variety of issues, from employment to housing and homelessness (Vital Signs, Who Works Where in Peterborough, the 10 year Homelessness and Housing Plan, The Social Planning Council’s Living Wage White Paper) 
  • The Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough is seen as an asset though it is still in its infancy 
  • Increase in core funding 
  • Change in United Way funding – they are not sure if this will be positive or negative 
  • One-stop shopping program once a week for services at the YWCA 
  • Progress for various groups: Peterborough Council on Aging, The Mount development 
  • With an aging/aged population the need for services is increasing and there needs to be a focus on this particular demographic 

 

As a result of their discussion around the current situation, the group came up with one quick win, three short term goals and three longer term goals. 

Quick Win 

The Peterborough Volunteer 
According to the 2014 Vital Signs document which brought together 30 community groups, including the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, Peterborough has a high rate of volunteerism at 51.9% compared to Ontario (47.7%) and Canada (47%). So the numbers show people are the power in Peterborough. The group discussing the issue felt there were best practices we could learn from each other to harness and efficiently utilize the giving spirit. They also wondered about a coordinated volunteer management system for the entire city. 

Short-term Goals 

Amalgamation and Networking of Organizations 
This was a theme that was common throughout the table discussion. In his original article Chancellor Tapscott wrote about the Guelph Wellbeing Leadership Group. This group is made up of 22 community leaders from different sectors, agencies and stakeholders within that city. Through this group they are able to pool resources inside and outside government to find solutions. 

This coordinated approach could fuel best practices, recording the experiences of those who have retired from the sector. 

With the current culture of making every penny count, pooling resources would save time and effort and make more efficient use of the taxpayer dollars that go to these services. 

Communicating About the Non-Profit Sector 
Getting the word out about the services available, the volunteer opportunities and the difference these groups are making in the lives of Peterborough’s most vulnerable residents. 

Tapping into Expertise 
The group felt that there is an untapped wealth of knowledge about the social services and non-profit sector in our senior population. They feel that starting an intergenerational conversation could lead to new opportunities and ideas. 

Long-term Goals 

Transportation 
This issue was identified as the most important long term goal, in that an effective, efficient and safe transportation system is needed for clients and employees. The group identified that the more transportation available the more accessible services would be. 

The group came away with a similar conclusion as the policy forum attendees discussing the need for a coordinated strategy to help develop entrepreneurs in Peterborough. Taking a “we’re all in this together approach” to social services could lead to a “Peterborough Wellbeing Leadership Group”, and with the dedicated volunteers in the city and county it sounds like a winning combination. 

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

Thursday
Oct162014

How the Chamber of Commerce drives change

One of the core activities of the Chamber is to be a voice for the business community.   This is true in our communities of the City and County of Peterborough, and at the provincial and federal levels.  This is a quick snapshot of how we can drive change – and why there’s nothing wrong with staying in the middle lane, as long as we are aware that we may need to change lanes.  

When we talk about change in the chamber world it is more often associated with a regulation, by-law or  policy that currently exists or has been brought in by the municipality, provincial or federal government. Not only do we ask for changes to existing policies, but by expressing the business community’s voice on certain themes we can also set the tone for developing policy.

The Chamber’s policy committee, one of the largest chamber committees, meets once a month and is made up of volunteers from the membership as well as appointees from our MP and MPPs offices and Peterborough Economic Development.  This group discusses any pressing issues and makes decisions on how to proceed on a given issue.  This can range from conducting a survey to issuing a media release to writing a letter to completing more research on a given topic to developing a policy resolution containing specific recommendations to government.

There are several keys to change including information gathering, expressing the business community point of view and providing solutions.   

The Chamber has the opportunity to speak as one voice for its over 900  members.   We talk to politicians and staff about the change the business community would like to see.   We use the information you give us through Chamber surveys, approved policy resolutions, and conversations about concerns affecting your business.  We also write articles and letters expressing your views.  

A few recent examples of advocacy at work:  

Locally: Louis Street Park – a survey of our members identified that Louis Street was the preferred spot for an urban park.  The Chamber sent a letter and the survey to City Hall as well as issued a media release.  When it was approved another letter was sent reminding council of the business community’s position. The letter also asked that council consider putting something tangible at the park site (ie. trees or a sign that features the design) and that the completion date of the project be moved up as much as possible. 

Provincially: The Pension Day of Advocacy.  A day set aside where 50 plus chambers from across the province were speaking as one about their concerns on the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.   This was a high point in the advocacy on this issue, but not the beginning.  Pension reform was identified about a year ago as an area of concern.  Questions around it were part of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s yearly survey Emerging Stronger, and it was a part of the business community platform during the provincial election.   Since the government announced it was moving forward with the program in late June, the chamber network has written a letter to the Minister, participated in a conference call and the day of advocacy.  The end goal is to be part of a workable solution for the business community.  

Federally:   Chamber President Stu Harrison, Incoming Chair Pat Marren and I recently attended the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM.  The main reason for the AGM is to set the federal policy agenda so CCC policy staff can lobby the federal government. We accomplished this by passing some 65 policy resolutions and recommendations on a variety of issues, from innovation to labour mobility to labour market information to tax deductions for small business.  The goal is to encourage, through recommendations from the business community changes that can improve the business climate. 

What is a policy win?  A win can come in many forms when it comes to driving change.  It can be a seat at the table, it can be having a policy resolution passed at the provincial and federal levels, or the ultimate is a change in legislation.  

Through the Chamber Peterborough business successfully championed for an eight year commitment by the City of Peterborough to reduce the commercial and industrial tax ratios to between 1.5% and 1.8% of residential levels.   We put Louis Street back on the map as an urban park location with the city.  One health care policy, championed by Peterborough, has successfully led to pharmacists being able to administer flu shots in the Province of Ontario.  

At the CCC AGM, there was a session on “Effective Lobbying.”  The main takeaways from that session were:  

There is no one road to driving change.  One experience can be smooth sailing on new pavement and the next like working your way through a traffic jam. 

You have to manage how far your tank of gas will take you.  The Chamber has to carefully utilize the resources at hand from prioritizing issues to accepting feedback and cultivating relationships.  This is why the chamber is deliberately non-partisan during election campaigns and chooses to focus on the issues rather than candidates, because no matter whom is elected, as a lobby group for business we will have to work with them. 

We are not and cannot drive alone.  Change requires carpooling - bringing together our resources and knowledge to present a solid and factual case for change.  This does not happen in isolation and we are more effective working together. The stronger our membership, the more horesepower we have.

Read the Policy Report Card, which can be found at peterboroughchamber.ca  

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn. 

Wednesday
Oct082014

Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce says businesses are concerned about Ontario pension plan

The provincial Liberals are moving ahead with plans to install the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).  Businesses are concerned with the immediate and long term implications of such a program and chambers across the province, including the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, took part in a “Pension Advocacy Day” on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.   

The Peterborough Chamber and 50 other chambers across Ontario also recently signed a letter expressing the concerns of the business community.  The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), on behalf of the provincial Chamber Network, sent a letter to the Honourable Mitzie Hunter, Associate Minister of Finance. Minister Hunter has been charged with developing the framework for the ORPP.  The provincial government chose to develop this plan after the federal government refused to make any changes to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).     

As stated in the letter, the business community is very aware that a section of the population that is not prepared for retirement and acknowledges that “significant number of retirees, who lack sufficient income to maintain their standards of living, would have serious implications on the fiscal health of Ontario.”

However, many employers believe a standalone provincial pension plan is not the best route for Ontario.  As expressed in the letter, the concern lies in the cumulative effect of a number of expected increases for employers over the next few years from soaring electricity costs to very high WSIB premiums and yet Ontario’s Ministry of Finance projects the real annual GDP to be at 2.1% for the next twenty years.  This would be down from 2.6% growth seen in the previous twenty years. 

The provincial government is still in the very early design stages of the ORPP.  Here’s what we know so far:  

  • The ORPP will require equal contributions to be shared between employers and employees, not exceeding 1.9 per cent each (3.8 per cent combined) on earnings up to a maximum annual earnings threshold of $90,000. The ORPP maximum earnings threshold would increase each year, consistent with increases to the CPP maximum earnings threshold. 

Here are some illustrative examples of how much businesses will end up paying using the known parameters: 

  • A business has five employees, all of whom make $50,000.00 annually.
    • The business will need to pay $883.50 (1.9%) per employee per year in ORPP contributions
    • The business will be paying $4,417.50 in total, per year, in ORPP contributions for its 5 employees
  • A business has 20 employees, 10 of whom make $90,000 annually, five of whom make $50,000 annually, and five of whom make $30,000 annually. 
    • The business will need to make ORPP contributions of $1,643.50 for each employee that makes $90,000, $883.50 for each employee that makes $50,000, and $503.50 for each employee that makes $30,000.
    • The business will be paying $23,370 in total, per year, in ORPP contributions for its 20 employees. (OCC Backgrounder 2014)
  • Businesses already participating in a comparable workplace pension plan would not be required to enrol in the ORPP. The government has not yet defined what it means by “comparable plan”.
  • The ORPP would be publicly administered at arm’s length from government and have a strong governance model. 

Increased costs are not the only concerns of business:   

  • Unnecessary bureaucracy
  • Fragmentation of the pension landscape 
  • Ontario is moving in a different direction on pension while other provinces are looking at using Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs) (OCC letter to Minister Hunter September 2014) 

According to the OCC survey Emerging Stronger 2014 employers are overwhelmingly in favour of Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs). These plans allow for greater flexibility in terms of employer contribution and would not be mandatory.

Starting in 2017, the ORPP will be phased in and coincide with expected reductions in Employment Insurance premiums.  The largest employers would be enrolled first and contribution rates would be phased in over two years.  

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn. 

Wednesday
Oct012014

Peterborough Chamber helps set federal policy agenda for business

Incoming 2015 Board Chair Pat Marren of Glenn Windrem Trucking (right) and Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Stuart Harrison voting during the policy plenary at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting in Charlottetown, PEI. 

The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and delegates from chambers across the country debated 72 policy resolutions.  Those that were carried become part of the federal policy agenda for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC).  

Along with a dozen other Ontario Chambers, the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce lent its direct support to a policy resolution calling on the government to undertake an expedient review of the full impact that competitor jurisdictions' business attraction efforts are having on Canada's economy.  This would be done in co-ordination with businesses and chambers of commerce from across Canada and examine the impact in terms of both GDP losses and job losses.

"This is what we call the Parliament of Business," explains Stuart Harrison, Chamber President & CEO. "By discussing these issues and voting on policy resolutions chambers across the country collectively begin to speak with one very strong voice."

What this means for our members: 

The CCC will present the policies to federal government officials, meet with representatives and make known the position of local chambers on issues important to the business community.

At the 2014 AGM those asks were: 

  • improving the innovation climate through tax incentives and revising current programs to help SMEs and larger innovators
  • improving labour market information availability
  • removing interprovincial trade barriers
  • investigating the importance of effective child care in relation to number of spaces and cost
  • improving the newly-redesigned Temporary Foreign Worker Program
  • improving productivity for Canadian companies through tax incentives, subsidies and grants
  • improving some of the requirements for business to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 
 

 

Thursday
Sep252014

Taking care of the "Parliament of Business"

As chambers come together in the home of Confederation, Charlottetown, PEI for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM, they will not only reconnect but participate in spirited debate and development of policy resolutions. The delegates are aware of the ability of our Founding Fathers to look beyond their own borders to see the possibility and strength of Canada as a whole. 

The core purpose of a chamber is to improve the business community within our own municipalities, regions, provinces, territories and country. It is a privilege to be part of this process. The purpose of this meeting is not to pit one part of the country against another, but to develop solid policy resolutions for the greater good of the entire nation. If the past years have taught us anything, it’s that moving forward as one is much more powerful than going it alone. Ideas and policies developed in various corners of Canada must become our collective policies, ones that we as a group stand behind, promote and use at any given opportunity to foster discussion. 

We can be the best wordsmiths, the best researchers, and the best at debating amongst ourselves, but if our voice isn’t strong enough or isn’t used at all then our efforts for change will fall short. Trade, export/import, hydro rates, minimum wage, taxes, red tape, start-up 

capital, EI, pension plans, pressure from the United States, the dollar - any business in Canada, from the smallest to the largest, can add commentary to any of these issues. Currently, there are chamber network policy resolutions being presented to provincial governments on these issues and now we will be setting the agenda to move forward at the federal level. Lobbying for a welcoming and investment-worthy business climate that creates jobs and encourages business expansion in each province and territory makes for a strong Canada. It is also a way for business to give back to its home communities. 

The obligation of conference delegates is to ensure the chamber network and its push for policy improvement continues to matter. It is in this way that we write the script that becomes the Voice of Business for Canada. 

This is what Peterborough Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Stuart Harrison, volunteer in-coming Board Chair Pat Marren and myself will be partaking in come this weekend at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM in Charlottetown, PEI. 

It’s fitting that this process is happening in PEI as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference. That meeting of 23 delegates from the Maritime Provinces and the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec) was where the concept of confederation was formed. Canada would become a nation less than three years later on July 1, 1867 (http:// pei2014.ca/history_pg1). 

It's also a significant anniversary for the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce that is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in Peterborough. "The Chamber has been supporting the business community since 1889 with one core business," explains Bob Doornenbal, 2014 Board Chair and Director Franchise Sales & Marketing, Driving Miss Daisy. "That has been turned into our Vision Statement - Channeling the collective strength of the business community." 

In part, that is done through the policy process. This year, 69 policy resolutions and at least double that in the number of actionable recommendations to the federal government will be on the floor. Topics for the "Parliament of Business" include Finance and Taxation (16), Transportation and Infrastructure (10), Environment and Natural Resources (8), Human Resources (15), Industry (7), International Affairs (9), and Special Issues (4). 

From the list of 69 resolutions here are nine that standout: 

  1. Small Business Deductions 
  2. Ensuring Viability and Safety in Our National Airport System 
  3. A Climate Change Adaption Strategy for Canada 
  4. Temporary Foreign Worker and Skills Gap issues 
  5. Innovation Box Regime for Canada and Technovation: a shift in philosophy, an investment in Canada’s future 
  6. Recognizing and devising strategies to counteract the generous incentives offered by competitor jurisdictions 
  7. Improving regulatory processes to support the growth of Agri-business 
  8. Leveraging CETA to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers 
  9. Reforming Canada’s Child Care Plan 
  10. Reinstate the Canadian mandatory long-form census 

Policies are made through government legislation and are the framework within which business must operate. We are constantly striving for good, effective policy that makes being in business easier. It’s not an easy subject to wade through on your own, but as part of the Chamber network your business has a champion. 

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn. 

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