Entries in small business (4)


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. 


What we're hearing: Small Business Too Big to Ignore 

Policy advocacy on behalf of our members and business in our communities is a core priority of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. We want to know the policy issues that are important to you so that we can effectively represent your interests.

To that end, two roundtable events were held on Thursday, June 23, 2016 in Lakefield at the Marshland Centre and in the Station Boardroom at the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.   

Twenty-eight business owners and business advocates attended the two hour sessions discussing issues relevant to small business in our communities.  The roundtables were part of the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign launched in May 2016 in partnership with these two local chambers, other chambers and boards of trades across the province, and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.  

Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success 

This introductory report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce lays out three obstacles that are common across the province:

1. Lack of Access to the Workers We Need

2. Key Infrastructure Gaps

3. The Rising Cost of Doing Business

The campaign is designed to highlight the importance and contributions of small business in Ontario.  The feedback from our local roundtables and others across the province will inform a final report on the factors critical to the success of small businesses. The final report will be released during Small Business Week in October 2016.

The participants of the roundtables were divided into small groups and talked about the challenges for small business.  Both groups identified the following as the top challenges:


  • education for employees and the workforce
  • compliance with legislation
  • procurement
  • workplace attitudes
  • succession planning
  • sustainability


In discussing solutions for the challenges the number one suggestion was:


  • removing red tape 


followed by:


  • understanding the government’s expectations around enforcement and inter-ministerial awareness 
  • improved education programs for apprentices and retraining for current employees 
  • grant programs for small and medium enterprises


Both groups felt the role of the Chamber was to be the voice of business and that there was strength in numbers.  There were suggestions for increasing collaboration between the Peterborough and Kawartha
Chambers and identifying how a mid-size city region such as Peterborough can bridge the policy gap between rural and urban issues.  

Read our roundtable report and add your voice to the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign by filling out a short survey, found on our website peterboroughchamber.ca/small-business-too-big-to-ignore.html


Have your say: what's ailing small business in Ptbo?

93 percent of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce membership fall under the category of small business (100 employees or less).  These businesses employ close to 8,500 people.  For the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, 96% of their membership is small business, employing over 3,800.

Recently, the Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), launched Small Business Too Big To Ignore, a six month campaign to highlight the important contributions of small businesses to our communities and investigate the top barriers to small business growth. 

Along with the campaign the Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers will be hosting a series of roundtables using the OCC’s recent report, Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success, which is aimed at starting a conversation about the underlying challenges that are weighing on small businesses and stifling job creation.

In the report, the OCC cites the rising cost of doing business as a major impediment to small business growth. In fact, OCC survey results show that one in twenty businesses in the province expect to close their doors in the next five years due to rising electricity prices. In addition, 38 percent will see their bottom line shrink, with the cost of electricity delaying or canceling investment in the years to come.

“Rising electricity prices is just one of the many elements adding to the cost of doing business in the province,” said Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “The Peterborough and Kawartha Chambers are launching this campaign to take a look at how we can engage both government and business leaders in our communities in a productive conversation to answer the question ‘what exactly is ailing small business?’.”

In addition to the rising cost of doing business, the report also lists key infrastructure gaps and a lack of access to skilled workers as the top three obstacles weighing on small business. According to a recent OCC survey, 39 percent of employers have had difficulty filling a job opening over the past year and a half - an increase of 11 percentage points since 2014.

“Building a 21st century workforce that is reflective of the needs of employers in our area has been a cornerstone of our advocacy efforts for quite some time,” said Sherry Boyce-Found, General Manager, Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. “We’ve seen tremendous progress on this file over the past few years, but we recognize the need to foster greater connections between skilled workers and employers.”

The goal of the roundtables with small business owners is to identify the barriers that they face and understand how the three areas already identified fit into the equation.

“Small businesses of 100 or less employees are the core of our membership and employ nearly 3 million Ontarians, which is why we’ve decided to undertake the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign,” said Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the OCC. “The insights gained from the local chamber consultations will inform an upcoming OCC report to be released during Small Business week in October 2016. We are really looking forward to the feedback.”

Top 3 Obstacles to Small Business Success


The reality of an ineffective WSIB for small business

Source: wsib.on.caWhile the amount of unfunded liability at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has been shrinking over the past number of years, a second area of contention continues to be the policies around self-employed individuals.  

More than one-third of members of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce have 1-3 employees and this Chamber member explains his frustrations with the current system:

“WSIB is a workplace insurance policy.  As an employee, I understand the need to be insured through your employer in case of an accident. However, I am self- employed, working on my own.  I have life, short term, and long term disability insurance coverage through my own insurance company. This insurance is paid into monthly on a flat rate fee and premiums aren't based on my occupation.  

My WSIB contribution is a growing rate based on a percentage of my company's performance.

This means that the greater the net profits of my business are, the more I pay in insurance.  This rate changes for every company based on the type of work they perform.  This is an insurance policy that if anything did happen and I was able to fight through the system to collect anything, my rates would increase to the point that would make me very uncompetitive with other companies in town.

For sole proprietors who work on their own, this is essentially a tax that drives the cost of doing business up for the consumer.  WSIB is basically getting an extra income through government legislation forcing those who would never collect from the system, to pay into it.”

At the end of “Are we there yet?: An employer perspective on WSIB reform” -an Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) report, the authors identify future discussions on the WSIB file. Among them is the impact of mandatory WSIB coverage on sole proprietors and small business owners.  The OCC encourages the government to re-open the door to exemptions for those with private coverage.

The OCC report recognizes that small business owners cannot afford to provide both mandatory WSIB and private individual or group coverage.  The difference being “private individual or group coverage is often a superior product, covering employers for both accident and sickness – whereas WSIB provides compensation related solely to workplace injuries.” 

This Chamber member agrees with that assessment: 

“I find the WSIB on small construction-related tradespeople particularly unreasonable because (1) they are
unlikely to ever claim and risk a resulting increase to their premium and (2) if they are injured off the job they aren’t covered. My personal opinion is that they’d be much better off with proper disability insurance (which would likely be cheaper).”

What we know about the current state of the WSIB:  

  • Employers are paying the highest premiums in Canada
  • Premium rates were frozen for 2015; this is the second consecutive year for a rate freeze
  • The unfunded liability sits at just over $9 billion; down from a high of $14.2 billion five years ago
  • The number of workers 
  • returning to work after a year has more than doubled.
  • Lost time claims have dropped by 17 per cent, from 50,667 in 2009 to 41,987 in 2013.

(Hamilton Spectator, Feb 1, 2015)

A survey in 2013 by the OCC of over 2,000 businesses revealed that 36% of businesses surveyed think the WSIB provides value for Ontarians, while 35.3% do not.  This shows that business owners are almost split down the middle.  

Is the system working at its most efficient?  If not, why not? In 2013, shortly after the WSIB brought in a new chair (former Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer) the report was released by the OCC and offered seven key recommendations: 

  1. Continue reforming the WSIB, based on the principles of fiscal responsibility, transparency, client focus, efficiency, competitiveness, and independence and accountability.
  2. Follow through on the three-stage plan to reach a 100 percent funding ratio by 2027. 
  3. Continue to monitor and publicly report progress on implementing recommendations in the Arthurs Report.
  4. Introduce a systematic, ongoing process for reviewing group classification and making changes.  A transparent mechanism should allow for movement between classification units based on the improvement and/or deterioration of cost experience.
  5. Build upon the improved actuarial capacity and engage in regular dialogue with the expert community.
  6. Restore confidence in the WSIB’s independence and autonomy.  Amend Regulation 175/98 to codify WSIB decisions and ensure that circumstances for government intervention in the rate-setting process are clearly specified.
  7. Ensure that the WSIB is subjected to the regular oversight of the Auditor General of Ontario. 

The Arthurs Report is a comprehensive assessment called Funding Fairness: A Report on Ontario’s Workplace and Safety and Insurance System that laid out a framework for reforming the WSIB and plugging its funding gap.  

For the Chamber Network in Ontario, WSIB continues to be a great source of concern.  Chambers from across the province have voted to make this issue a priority in our lobbying efforts to the provincial government.

Tell us your WSIB stories through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.