Category: Provincial Government Relations

Oakville Chamber’s message to all levels of government

Build the necessary infrastructure to support a digitized world and stay current in the latest technology to remain competitive in a post-COVID-19 world

COVID-19 has been surreal to many of us.  Over the course of a few days, businesses were shut down, nonessential workers were required to work from home and people were asked to self quarantine in an effort to control the virus. 

This created a need for organizations, businesses and people around the world in almost every industry to reinvent and adapt to one of the most challenging times since the Second World War.

The difference between then and now is the advancement of science and technology. Unfortunately, COVID-19 represents a tremendous economic shock and burden.  According to experts, recovery is what will be required over the next 18–24 months to get output back to its pre-crisis level.  

There is however some positive aspect and learnings that have developed as a result of the pandemic; technology has enabled hundreds of millions of people to remain connected, productive and healthy.  

For the better part of a decade, Digital Transformation has been the core driver of organizational change. The transition from legacy IT to cloud computing; the expansion of retail and banking into the mobile space; the rise of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and smart automation; and the growth of the IoT were, among other massively transformative technologies, at the heart of a generational forward evolutionary leap. And it is therefore not surprising that these very technologies have enabled businesses, governments, healthcare systems, students, and workers to adapt to the turmoil of disruption caused by the pandemic.[1]

The ability for us to adapt so quickly under these unprecedented conditions only underscores the critical need for governments to continue to invest in digital technology, innovation and a connected infrastructure.  

As part of the plan for recovery, the Oakville Chamber believes that governments at all levels will need to enhance digital connections amongst business, employees, citizens and government to create an attractive climate for business investment and job creation for economic growth.  

An increasingly digital economy will require major investments in sophisticated networks, cybersecurity and electronics.  It will also force businesses to adopt new technologies and business models to interact with customers, clients and employees.

In collaboration with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its Roadmap to Recovery we will urge the federal government to commit to adopting technology and innovative measures to ensure a smart and lasting recovery.

Locally, the Oakville Chamber will continue to press the Town of Oakville to forge ahead with its development of both a Mobility Strategy as well as a Digital Strategy.  This is critical as part of our Town’s economic recovery.  Now, is the time to embrace technology and the economic benefits that ensue. 

[1] Forbes


Faye Lyons, Vice President, Governent Relations & Advocacy


New Research Identifies Opportunities to Support Small Business Success

Ontario Chamber Network releases the fourth annual Ontario Economic Report and introduces the Small Business Friendliness Indicator

Today the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber Network, released the fourth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER) which reveals opportunities where both business and government can focus to create an environment more conducive to small business success.

The inaugural Small Business Friendliness Indicator (SBFI) measures Ontario’s competitiveness from the perspective of small businesses. For 2020, the SBFI score is -9, (on a scale of 100 to -100) indicating that the business environment poses some challenges for firms with fewer than 99 employees. However, through measures such as investment in online services and support for regulatory compliance, industry and government could improve that score.

“Small businesses are the backbone of economy; 98% of Ontario businesses are small business” stated Tim Caddigan, Chair of the Board, Oakville Chamber of Commerce. “Small businesses employ nearly three million Ontarians and represent over two-thirds of private sector workers. Given the share of the economy this sector represents, we must work to increase their competitiveness.”

The SBFI is intended to provide an assessment of the ease of business in Ontario across seven different metrics; this year the scores for three metrics were positive: the helpfulness of the Province in starting a business, the ease of licensing, and the delivery of useful training and networking programs from a variety of sources.

The SBFI also revealed that small business owners are eager to embrace more online services from government, especially with respect to regulatory compliance.

Drew Redden, President and CEO of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce added “The Ontario Economic report revealed that investment in infrastructure, such as transportation and broadband, topped the list of business priorities for government, followed by reducing red regulatory burdens, lowering the cost of living, and reforming business taxes. This aligns with our members’ priorities for government as listed in our Roadmap for Business Success, which are: business competitiveness, recruiting and training talent, transportation and infrastructure, and innovation.”

Other highlights from the Ontario Economic Report include:
  • The confidence gap, which measures the difference between business’ confidence in themselves and in Ontario’s economic outlook, widened in 2020 to near historical levels. Although organizational confidence remains high, business confidence in the broader economy dropped seven percentage points in 2020, explained in part by lowered growth expectations nationally and globally. Beyond this, challenges related to the costs of doing business, the high cost of living, and the province’s debt continue to be top of mind for Ontario Chamber members

  • Challenges related to accessing financial capital, attracting and retaining talent and burdensome regulations continue to compromise the ability of many of Ontario’s community to compete effectively with other jurisdictions.

  • Despite these challenges, Ontario’s principal economic indicators remain sound, albeit subdued, heading into 2020, but economic growth is expected to vary greatly across the province. The forecasts show employment and population growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe surpassing other parts of Ontario, reinforcing a decade-long trend of imbalanced economic growth across the province.

Read the 2020 Ontario Economic Report.



Chamber shares business priorities with Minister of Finance Rod Phillips, MPP Stephen Crawford and MPP Triantafilopoulos during Budget Consultation

Remaining competitive, specifically when it comes to taxes and regulations, continues to be a priority for Oakville Chamber members. 

Recognizing that the government already announced a reduction in the small business Corporate Income Tax rate, the Oakville Chamber believes that there is still more that can be done to encourage business growth and scale up with regard to the structure rather than the level of the Corporate Income Tax. 

For example, the Small Business Deduction (SBD) reduces the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) rate on companies’ first $500,000 of active business income.  The flat rate structure of the Small Business Deduction means that companies are faced with a substantial rise in their corporate tax rate when their annual income increases above $500,000 at which point the rate jumps from 3.2 percent to 11.5 percent.   To address this challenge, the Chamber network recommended creating a variable or bracketed Small Business Deduction for income below $500,000. 

With a Corporate Income Tax rate that increases gradually as revenue grows, small business owners would no longer be discouraged from actively seeking opportunities to grow their firms.  This reform should be revenue-neutral, such that total tax revenue generated before and after the change remains the same. 

Additionally, we encourage the Province to exempt businesses’ incremental income (additional earnings over the previous year) from the Corporate Income Tax in a given year.   With this exemption in place, firms that are growing can reinvest more into their businesses.  Eligibility could be restricted to target higher-growth firms by setting a threshold minimum rate of income growth over the previous year to qualify for the exemption. 

Transportation infrastructure and congestion also remains a concern for the Oakville community. Population growth as well as increased employment growth, is positive for our local economy; however, it also underlines the need for building a resilient transportation network that works for all modes of transportation to supply the movement of goods and people. 

Recognizing that the province has committed to a share of funding for local projects like the Wyecroft Bridge, the Burloak Underpass and the Kerr Street Underpass, the Chamber further calls on the government for a sustainable and planned funding program for infrastructure projects such as the network required for MidTown which was identified as an Urban Growth Centre. 

As our communities become more connected through the collection of data, artificial intelligence and technology, it is vital that we are prepared for the business climate of the future and that we remain competitive with other jurisdictions.

A report recently released by the Province signals that the province is positioning Ontario to be a leader in the development, commercialization and adoption of advanced manufacturing and mobility technologies.  Supporting new mobility technologies, enhancing the innovation ecosystem as well as supporting research and development and early stage technology development are all measures that will assist communities in their efforts to adopt new technologies.  

Beyond providing the legislative and regulatory framework, the Chamber encourages the province to further connect municipalities and establish a common framework for the development of alternative Connected Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle scenarios, readiness guidelines, and potential projects.  The creation of a dedicated program could further incent municipalities to invest in infrastructure/technological updates within their local jurisdictions; thereby creating a healthy environment for emerging transportation technologies.

The future efficient movement of both people and goods and services will depend on the effective management of a connected infrastructure.

As the industry evolves and becomes a reality, it will become a competitive economic advantage for communities that embrace it—and a disadvantage for those that don’t.

The new market for automated and connected vehicles is expected to grow exponentially and large economic benefits are expected.  Other regions are not standing still (e.g. United States, Japan and China) and are already adopting strategies for automated vehicles and attracting investment in this field.   Companies could soon be including Autonomous Vehicle, connectivity and technology readiness in their decisions on where to locate a business or expand operations.

To address concerns surrounding attracting and retaining talent, we believe that strong partnerships between government, industry, and post secondary institutions are fundamental to supporting a robust and dynamic workforce.  Experiential learning programs – including but not limited to work-integrated learning, co-operative education, and internships – are one of the ways these partnerships help ensure students are graduating with the skills in demand by today’s employers and the jobs of tomorrow. 

To that end, we urge the government to explore options to incentivize greater employer participation in these programs.  For instance, this might involve expanding the Co-operative Education Tax Credit or offering a tax credit to employers who hire graduates of co-operative education. 

On behalf of our Oakville Chamber members, we will continue to press all levels of government on policy reform that encourages business competitiveness and growth. 


Today, Ontario’s Finance Minister is in Oakville for pre-budget consultations

Faye Lyons, Vice President of Government Relations & Advocacy will be presenting member priorities to the Minister.  Below are her remarks:


Good morning.  My name is Faye Lyons and I am the Vice President of Government Relations for the Oakville Chamber of Commerce. 

On behalf of the Chamber and our over 1100 members I thank you Minister for the opportunity for us to provide our recommendations for the upcoming Provincial budget. 

As you know the Ontario Chamber of Commerce will be submitting a comprehensive list of recommendations on behalf of the network. 

Today, with the three minutes allotted to me I will focus on the local business priorities identified by our Chamber.   

In our most recent advocacy surveys, members identified business competitiveness, transportation, recruiting and retaining talent and innovation as their top priorities. 

We commend the government on its intention to form a Premier’s Advisory Council on Competitiveness to identify opportunities for improving Ontario’s competitiveness. 

Our members identified taxes as an obstacle to business competitiveness and growth.  To that end, recognizing that the government has already announced a reduction in the small business Corporate Income Tax rate, there is still more that can be done to encourage business growth and scale up with regard to the structure rather than the level of the Corporate Income Tax. 

The Small Business Deduction (SBD) reduces the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) rate on companies’ first $500,000 of active business income.  The flat rate structure of the Small Business Deduction means that companies are faced with a substantial rise in their corporate tax rate when their annual income increases above $500,000 at which point the rate jumps from 3.2 percent to 11.5 percent.   To address this challenge, the Chamber network recommends creating a variable or bracketed Small Business Deduction for income below $500,000. 

With a Corporate Income Tax rate that increases gradually as revenue grows, small business owners would no longer be discouraged from actively seeking opportunities to grow their firms.  This reform should be revenue-neutral, such that total tax revenue generated before and after the change remains the same. 

Additionally, we encourage the Province to exempt businesses’ incremental income (additional earnings over the previous year) from the Corporate Income Tax in a given year.   With this exemption in place, firms that are growing can reinvest more into their businesses.  Eligibility could be restricted to target higher-growth firms by setting a threshold minimum rate of income growth over the previous year to qualify for the exemption. 

Transportation infrastructure and congestion remains a top concern for the Oakville community. Congestion on Oakville roads is a barrier to business, and members cite that Oakville does not have the road infrastructure for the development it needs. Additionally, Oakville’s economic growth is an important factor in the success of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA).

According to the Provincial Ministry of Finance, the Greater Toronto Areas (GTA) population is projected to increase from 6.9 million in 2017 to 9.7 million in 2041. Halton is projected to be the fastest-growing census division in Ontario over the projection period, with growth of 56.2 per cent to 2041.   

Increased employment growth, as well as population growth, is positive for our local economy; however it also underlines the Chamber’s call for building a resilient transportation network that works for all modes of transportation to supply the movement of goods and people. 

Recognizing that the province has committed to a share of funding for local projects like the Wyecroft Bridge and the Burloak Underpass, with the projected population growth mandated by the provincial growth plans, Oakville would benefit from a sustainable and planned funding program by the Province for infrastructure requirements for crucial transportation infrastructure projects  such as the network required for MidTown which was identified as an Urban Growth Centre. 

A reliable transportation network is essential for trade, the movement of goods and services as well as people.  It is also integral to our province’s economic competitiveness.

As our communities become more connected through the collection of data, artificial intelligence and technology, it is vital that we are prepared for the business climate of the future and that we remain competitive with other jurisdictions.

Population growth as well as increased employment growth, is positive for our local economy; however, it also underlines the need for building a resilient transportation network that works for all modes of transportation to supply the movement of goods and people. 

A report recently released by the Province signals that the province is positioning Ontario to be a leader in the development, commercialization and adoption of advanced manufacturing and mobility technologies.  Supporting new mobility technologies, enhancing the innovation ecosystem as well as supporting research and development and early stage technology development are all measures that will assist communities in their efforts to adopt new technologies.  

Beyond providing the legislative and regulatory framework, the province can further connect municipalities and establish a common framework for the development of alternative Connected Vehicle/Autonomous Vehicle scenarios, readiness guidelines, and potential projects.  The creation of a dedicated program could further incent municipalities to invest in infrastructure/technological updates within their local jurisdictions; thereby creating a healthy environment for emerging transportation technologies.

The future efficient movement of both people and goods and services will depend on the effective management of a connected infrastructure.

As the industry evolves and becomes a reality, it will become a competitive economic advantage for communities that embrace it—and a disadvantage for those that don’t.

The new market for automated and connected vehicles is expected to grow exponentially and large economic benefits are expected.  Other regions are not standing still (e.g. United States, Japan and China) are already adopting strategies for automated vehicles and attracting investment in this field.   Companies could soon be including Autonomous Vehicle, connectivity and technology readiness in their decisions on where to locate a business or expand operations.

Chamber members have also identified recruiting and retaining talent as a barrier to their ability to succeed.  We believe that strong partnerships between government, industry, and post secondary institutions are fundamental to supporting a robust and dynamic workforce.  Experiential learning programs – including but not limited to work-integrated learning, co-operative education, and internships – are one of the ways these partnerships help ensure students are graduating with the skills in demand by today’s employers and the jobs of tomorrow. 

To that end, we encourage the government to explore options to incentivize greater employer participation in these programs.  For instance, this might involve expanding the Co-operative Education Tax Credit or offering a tax credit to employers who hire graduates of co-operative education. 

On behalf of the Oakville Chamber, I thank you for the opportunity to share our member’s priorities for the upcoming budget.



Addressing Regional Imbalances Critical to Ontario’s Future

Industry report outlines strategies to unlock the economic potential of communities across the province

Today the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber Network, released a new report, The Great Mosaic: Reviving Ontario’s Regional Economies. The report outlines how government of all levels can work with industry to unleash the potential of Ontario’s regional economies and reinforce the competitiveness of the province as a whole.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link and our ability to prosper depends on the strength of our different regions. Economic and population growth rates in the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Ottawa have far surpassed those in other areas of the province,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Our communities – and the province as a whole – risk falling behind if we do not leverage the rich and diverse competitive advantages of our local economies.”

The Great Mosaic: Reviving Ontario’s Regional Economies examines the opportunities and challenges faced by different communities across the province and offers a framework for thinking about the present and future of Ontario’s regional economies.

“We urge policymakers to take a modern and comprehensive approach to economic development by leveraging the existing competitiveness advantages of Ontario’s regions, and implement deliberate strategies to support long-term growth in communities across the province,” added Rossi.

The Ontario Chamber Network’s report makes 17 recommendations to strengthen the well-being of Ontario’s regions. Key takeaways include:

  • The most cost-effective way to drive economic development is to cultivate talent, trade, and infrastructure. Governments should make it a priority to upgrade transportation and energy networks, modernize their regulations and business supports, offer dynamic education and training opportunities, and encourage labour mobility.

  • Building regional capacity for innovation is fundamental to productivity and growth. This means improving commercialization and technology adoption, strengthening regional innovation centres, expanding broadband internet access, and facilitating cluster development.

  • Modern governance of economic development should empower a wide range of stakeholders including businesses, post-secondary institutions, and not-for-profit organizations outside government. Regional collaboration, economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and the use of data are all critical to mobilizing local assets.

“In the face of technological transformation and globalization, there is no question that Ontario has what it takes to succeed. We are optimistic that the province can successfully navigate the modern economy if we work together to unlock the economic potential of our communities,” said Drew Redden, President and CEO, Oakville Chamber of Commerce.

 

Read the Ontario Chamber Network’s report, The Great Mosaic: Reviving Ontario’s Regional Economies.

Read the Ontario Chamber Network’s full list of recommendations.

 


Unleashing the economic potential of Ontario’s beverage alcohol sector

Ontario Chamber Network Recommends a Comprehensive Approach to Alcohol Reform in Ontario

Today, the Oakville Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a new report, Refreshing the Sale of Beverage Alcohol in Ontario. This report outlines how the province could modernize the sale and distribution of beverage alcohol and responsibly promote growth across all four categories – wine, beer, spirits, and cider. 

“Ontarians want to see a more modern, convenient beverage alcohol retail system and we are closer than ever to substantive reforms to how alcohol is distributed, bought, and sold in Ontario,” says Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

The report finds that, despite public support for modernization, reform is a more complex undertaking than it appears at first glance, due to the complexity of legislation and regulation involved. As the government proceeds with reforms to beverage alcohol sales, the Oakville Chamber and Ontario Chamber Network the need for a comprehensive approach to avoid perpetuating inequities in the taxation and regulation of wine, beer, cider, and spirits that limit growth.

“By removing barriers and levelling the playing field,” Rossi added, “The Province can unleash the potential of the beverage alcohol sector, support regional economic development, meet the needs of today’s consumer, and generate greater tax revenue to fund the public services on which Ontarians rely.”

Refreshing the Sale of Beverage Alcohol in Ontario provides the Government of Ontario with a number of timely recommendations including:

  • Modernizing the sale of beverage alcohol by allowing beverage alcohol producers to sell their products on e-commerce marketplaces and platforms using third parties to process payments.
  • Alleviating tax burdens by reducing taxes on Ontario wines, aligning taxation levels for craft cider with those of craft beer, and applying a graduated tax to the current spirits basic tax.
  • Cutting red tape by reducing the reporting Ontario wineries and cideries have to complete from a monthly to quarterly basis, allowing Ontario spirits and craft beer producers with a retail store to sell their products at farmers’ markets, and providing airports with an exemption to allow for the sale of alcohol 24-hours-a-day.
  • Removing antiquated inter-provincial trade barriers by allowing consumers to purchase alcohol online from other provinces/territories and producers to deliver these products to the consumer’s home.

“The power of the alcohol sector to be a force for economic growth extends beyond just the expected industries. The production, distribution, and sale of alcohol has a ripple effect that benefits agriculture, tourism and hospitality, and retail throughout the province” stated Drew Redden, President, Oakville Chamber of Commerce.  

 

Read the Ontario Chamber Network report, Refreshing the Sale of Beverage Alcohol in Ontario here.



Provincial Budget 2019

“The Oakville Chamber has been focusing our advocacy efforts on four key priorities: Transportation and Infrastructure, Business Competitiveness, Recruiting and Retaining Talent, and Innovation. The Chamber is encouraged to see these member priorities reflected in the Provincial Budget.

The Chamber also welcomes the government’s focus on building a more competitive tax environment. The Ontario Job Creation Investment Incentive will provide the needed tax relief for business while promoting investment and job growth. The Oakville Chamber, along with the Ontario Chamber Network, will continue to encourage the government to help small businesses scale-up by creating a variable small business tax rate.

The Oakville Chamber looks forward to seeing more details on the government’s planned investments of $14.7 billion in infrastructure over the next ten years, and will continue to press the government to address the province’s infrastructure deficit.”

-Drew Redden, President, Oakville Chamber of Commerce


Read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce analysis.

Read the Provincial Budget 2019.



Long-Term Transportation Plan Fundamental to Ontario’s Diverse Transportation Needs

This week the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released Moving Forward: Towards a Strategic Approach to Ontario’s Transportation Needs (Part I), a policy report calling on the Ontario Government to develop a Long-Term Transportation Plan. To address the current and future transportation needs of the province, the report highlights three areas of opportunity that will help improve the movement of goods and mobility of Ontarians.

In a recent Ontario Chamber survey, 58 percent of Ontario businesses rated existing transportation infrastructure as fair or poor. With much of the existing infrastructure in Ontario built in the 1950s and 1960s and nearing the end of its useful life, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce recognizes that the costs of investment are high, and Ontario is far behind when it comes to building new and maintaining old infrastructure.

“Transportation is the backbone of our economy, affecting the movement of people and goods and the everyday lives of Ontarians and businesses,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Yet, congestion, limited transit connectivity, population growth, aging assets, unique regional needs, and a historic under-investment in infrastructure have led to a significant gap between the actual and needed infrastructure in Ontario. This has led to real challenges faced by Ontario residents and businesses every single day.”

The Ontario Chamber developed an initial thirteen strategic and pertinent transportation recommendations for a stronger Ontario within three critical areas. Although not an exhaustive review of all transportation modes and regional needs across the province, this approach will help to address the current and future transportation needs of the province with a focus on:

  1. Transit planning governance (with an initial focus on the GTHA);
  2. Moving people and goods by rail; and
  3. Autonomous vehicles.

The report points to short- and long-term opportunities, including CN Rail’s Milton Logistics Hub, the use of advanced signalling technology to increase capacity on subways, VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail proposal, bringing two-way all-day GO Train service to the Innovation Corridor, developing ‘Union Station West’, and the return of passenger rail to Northern Ontario.

Ontario was also the first province in Canada to implement a pilot regulatory framework to allow for the testing of autonomous vehicles and driverless technology. The report calls attention to the readiness of the province for the reality of autonomous vehicles in the near future, recommending Ontario capitalize on its first-mover status in this space. The OCC urges all levels of government to work together with industry to attract future investments, innovation, and jobs, as well as ensure Ontario is the first province to reap the benefits associated with this technology.

“50% of Ontario businesses view transportation infrastructure as critical to their competitiveness. The province needs a plan that is strategic, provides value for public dollars, optimizes existing assets, leverages the private sector and technology, and takes into account the unique needs of our province,” added Rossi. “Moving forward, we will continue to consult our members on the province’s vast and diverse transportation needs.”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has been active on the transportation file for years, and will continue to provide thought leadership on other transportation modalities as part of its ongoing advocacy on the province’s transportation planning and priorities.

Read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s report: Moving Forward: Towards a Strategic Approach to Ontario’s Transportation Needs (Part I).




2018 Fall Economic Statement

The Oakville Chamber of Commerce has issued the following statement in response the the Government of Ontario’s 2018 Fall Economic Statement.

“The Oakville Chamber of Commerce is encouraged by many of the measures outlined in the Government’s Fall Economic Statement including the focus on fiscal accountability, electricity costs, and cutting cumulative red tape. Our local and provincial economy are strongest when industry and government work together.  We look forward to working with our local MPPs as we continue to discuss the measures outlined in the Fall Economic Statement and advocate on behalf of our members”

Drew Redden, President, Oakville Chamber of Commerce

Read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s analysis of the 2018 Fall Economic Statement.

Read the 2018 Fall Economic Statement.