Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Canada is facing a competitiveness problem. Inflation, supply chain constraints, and labour shortages risk undermining a swift and robust economic recovery. Meanwhile, recent domestic and international events have renewed the spotlight on energy security and affordability.  

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has released the 2022 Federal Budget Submission focused on public policies that increase Canada’s economic resilience to ongoing and future threats. 

 

“Businesses across Waterloo Region are continuing to feel the effect of the pandemic,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “Budget 2022 must lay the groundwork for a strong, inclusive recovery with policies that support the sectors and demographics hardest hit by the pandemic, building the infrastructure and workforce of the future, and modernizing regulation to ensure Canada can attract investment and nurture entrepreneurship.” 

 

Some key highlights from the budget submission include recommendations for the Government of Canada to: 

  • Promote Canada’s energy sector on the global stage and recognize nuclear power as a clean and necessary energy resource in the fight against climate change. 
  • Expand immigration and express entry of skilled workers to address labour shortages.  
  • Increase the Canada Health Transfer Payment to meet the current and future pressures facing Ontario’s health-care system.
  • Modernize transportation infrastructure to address bottlenecks along supply chains and facilitate the decarbonization of the transportation sector.
  • Reform the federal tax system to attract foreign direct investment, drive domestic business growth and innovation. 
  • Develop a sustainable path to reduce the federal debt-to-GDP ratio and wind down other pandemic-related supports to ensure long-term fiscal balance and the capacity to address future economic shocks. 

The OCC’s 2022 Ontario Economic Report found that a staggering 62% of sectors face labour shortages in Ontario and expect to continue facing them over the next year. Together with supply chain disruptions, these shortages impact the cost of living, service delivery, and product availability. 

 

“As the indispensable partner of business, we call on the government to resolve long-standing structural issues, including barriers to interprovincial trade and skilled labour shortages, to drive entrepreneurship, investment and long-term economic growth,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC. 

 

The recommendations outlined in the budget submission were developed together with businesses, associations, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce, and boards of trade from across the province.  

 

See budget recommendations: http://bit.ly/3uRp9Bl

 

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Pain points throughout Ontario’s economy are impairing business operations, and now consumers are feeling the pinch too. 

 

The frustration is palpable. From the grocery store and trucking industry to their pocketbooks, Ontarians are experiencing the very real consequences of labour shortages, global supply chain disruptions, and inflation. 

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) recently released the sixth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER) providing regional and sector-specific data on business confidence, policy priorities, and economic indicators, which together provide a unique view on the hurdles ahead. 

 

“Ontario began to see some positive momentum in 2021 thanks to progress on vaccines and reopening. Business confidence, GDP, and employment growth are trending upwards after record lows in 2020. However, the road ahead remains uncertain for businesses and households as labour shortages, supply chain disruptions, and inflation are hitting home,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “A staggering 62 percent of sectors are facing labour shortages in Ontario and expect to continue facing them over the next year. This is having real-life consequences on the cost of living, service delivery, and product availability.” 

 

“Our small business Members here in Waterloo Region have proven their strength and resilience over the past two years. Business confidence is rising across the province but for many the additional strain on operations as a result of new variants and additional restrictions continues to dampen their recovery,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.

 

This year’s OER reveals the impacts of the pandemic continue to disproportionately impact small businesses, organizations led by women and people with disabilities, with the hardest-hit sectors being businesses in the arts, entertainment, and agricultural sectors. 

 

“We are seeing a domino effect of structural issues. Jobs are going unfilled, demand is outpacing capacity, and these issues are driving up prices for consumers and uncertainty for businesses,” said the report’s co-author, Claudia Dessanti, Senior Manager, Policy, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Two years into the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we need a long-term plan that will provide stability and lay the groundwork for economic growth.”

 

Key highlights of the report include: 

  •  1. In terms of regional economic outlook, Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie is looking at jobless rate of 4.5 percent in 2022, compared to 7.3 percent in 2021. Also, it shows an employment change of 5.4% this year compared to 3.7 percent in 2021. The population change of 1.5 percent in 2021 is expected to remain the same in 2022. Confidence in Ontario’s outlook by Region indicates 38 percent of respondents in Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie are not confident, compared to 23 percent (39 percent remained neutral). Also, 52 percent of those asked said they agreed there was a labour shortage in Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie, while 29 percent said they disagreed. 
  • 2. Overall, 29 percent of Ontario businesses are confident in Ontario’s economic outlook in 2021 (compared to 21 percent the year prior), and 57 percent are confident in the outlook of their own organizations (up from 48 percent). 
  • 3. Most sectors (62 percent) are facing labour shortages and expect to continue facing them over the next year. 
  • 4. Inflation of raw material and transportation costs at the producer level is affecting consumer prices, which rose 3.5 percent and is expected to rise another 3.5 percent in 2022. Ontario’s year-over-year housing price growth was above 30 percent in December 2021.
  • 5. Small businesses are more preoccupied with cost relief measures such as business taxes and electricity rates, while larger businesses are more focused on long-term infrastructure, regulatory, and workforce development issues.
  • 6. All regions except Northeastern Ontario saw positive employment growth in 2021, though several regions have yet to offset the major job losses seen during the first year of the pandemic.

 

Read the report: https://occ.ca/oer2022/

 

The sixth annual OER offers unique insights into business perspectives across Ontario. The report is driven by data from our annual Business Confidence Survey (BCS) and economic forecasts for the year ahead. The BCS was conducted online from October 6 to November 19, 2021, attracting responses from 1,513 organizations across Ontario. The OER was made possible by our Landmark Partner, Hydro One, and Research Partners, Golfdale Consulting and Bank of Montreal. 

 

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The decision to retighten restrictions in Ontario in hopes of curbing the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and a rapid increase in hospitalizations has once again left businesses scrambling to make ends meet.

 

But with these latest restrictions, which includes cancelling in-door dining in restaurants and implementing capacity limits in the retail sector until Jan. 27, the lack of solid financial supports to assist businesses get through this latest wave is creating a great deal of frustration.

 

“If the government wants businesses to be compliant and agreeable with restrictions and be part of the solution to end this pandemic, then they are going to have compensate business,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The Province has done a very poor job of doing that from the onset of the pandemic.”

 

A similar sentiment is shared by his counterpart at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

“We are all doing our part. Now, the government needs to do their part,” said Ontario Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Rocco Rossi in a Jan. 3 media release. “What additional steps does the government plan to take over the next 21 days and beyond?”

 

Greg says he welcomes the introduction of an Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant announced Jan. 7 that will see eligible small businesses receive $10,000 throughout these current closures as well as electricity-rate relief but believes more supports are needed.

 

“It may be enough for three weeks they are proposing, no question about it,” he says. “But if the closures are going to be in place longer than three weeks, which I hate to even say, they’re going to have to up the ante substantially. Businesses are at their most vulnerable time right now and business owners are at their wit’s end and at the end of their bank accounts.”

 

An application portal for this program is expected to open in the coming weeks and eligible businesses include:

  • Restaurants and bars;
  • Facilities for indoor sports and recreational fitness activities (including fitness centres and gyms);
  • Performing arts and cinemas;
  • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions;
  • Meeting or event spaces;
  • Tour and guide services;
  • Conference centres and convention centres;
  • Driving instruction for individuals; and
  • Before- and after- school programs.

Also, those eligible businesses that qualified for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant and are subject to closure under modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen will be pre-screened to verify eligibility and will not need to apply to the new program. 

 

“The government can’t hesitate and must ramp up supports as quickly as possible, and as robust as they possibly can,” says Greg.

 

Greg says the new Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program unveiled before Christmas, which aims to provide eligible businesses with rebate payments equivalent to 50% of the property tax and energy costs they incur due to current capacity limits, doesn’t work for many businesses.

 

“Right now, many businesses that don’t have a separate tax or hydro bill because it’s included in the rent they pay will be ineligible to get that recovery,” he says, adding the mid-January timeline announced by the Province before it activates the portal for businesses to even apply just adds to their growing financial burdens. “The portal was already available after the government initiated a property tax and hydro rebate program a year ago. They should have opened this up right away.”

 

In response to these restrictions, the Ontario Chamber Network sent a letter Jan. 6 to Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy calling for the following:

  • Extend the Small Business Support Grant for a third round targeted towards all businesses whose revenues are directly and/or indirectly impacted by current public health restrictions. Eligibility should include businesses previously eligible for the Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Support Grant and businesses losing revenue because of restrictions affecting their clients (e.g. food service suppliers); 
  • Work with the federal government to increase rental subsidies provided under the newly expanded Local Lockdown Program like the enhanced Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program for businesses directly or indirectly impacted by public health restrictions; 
  • Immediately open the recently announced portal which would allow businesses to access rebates for property taxes and utilities, accompanied by rapid disbursements for eligible business expenses; 
  • Expand access to rapid antigen tests and PCR testing, with priority given to Ontarians unable to work from home, both to limit unnecessary isolation time and allow workers to demonstrate eligibility for paid sick days and other supports; 
  • Work with financial institutions and the federal government to forgive loans for businesses most severely impacted by public health restrictions. 

While the urgency for immediate assistance is needed, Greg says he fears these supports won’t be released quick enough to assist businesses, noting many of whom were starting to realize significant growth in the latter part of the summer and early fall.


“There are so many small businesses that have mounted a great deal of debt and it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to survive,” he says, adding for many it will be like starting from square one. “And we all know the survival rate for small businesses in the first five years is low.”

 

As well, he says businesses that have been around for a decade or two and were in ‘growth mode’ prior to the pandemic are also facing tough times ahead.


“It’s all been taken away from them now and the government just doesn’t seem to be there for them,” says Greg.


While he says while stricter health measures may be needed with this more easily transmissible COVID-19 variant, the line between science and politics has become somewhat blurred.


“There is a divide between science and politics and the two can never come together simply because politicians are trying to please the masses and science is trying to avert the predictable and therein lies the difference,” says Greg. “For the most part, I think government has been trying to take the science data and apply it to political realities and that’s never going to create a good scenario for anybody.”


He says there were measures the Ontario Chamber Network called upon the Province to take prior to the start of the second wave, such as mask mandates requiring surgical-grade and N95 masks being a requirement in public.


“Again, we still don’t have that,” says Greg. “I think there were other measures they should have invoked many months ago that would have probably put us in a better position going into this latest wave. The reality of the situation is the government has become so reactionary they tend to take longer to make decisions.”

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A shortage of rapid antigen screening kits threatens to hamper the ability of local Chambers to assist Waterloo Region businesses stay safe over the next few weeks, says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Since the start of April, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province to provide free self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout our Region.

 

Since that time, more than 700,000 of the kits have been distributed, not to just to Chamber members but all SMEs with less than 150 employees. The goal of the program was to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

“Up until December, everything was running very smoothly, and people were ordering kits and they were keeping workplaces safe,” says Greg, noting a provincewide shortage has altered that at very critical time for businesses. “There are a number of workplaces that are in a very vulnerable situation that are essential and it’s very important they screen employees every couple of days. You can’t have an essential business close their doors for 14 days.”

 

The Chamber initiative, which began as a pilot program and was quickly implemented provincewide by other Chambers through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network, is waiting on a delivery of approximately 150,000 of the kits to fulfill orders placed by businesses through its Chambercheck.ca portal.

 

“But the fact of the matter is we have at least 1,600 businesses who are now waiting in the cue to get their kits and we don’t have any,” says Greg, noting that leaves approximately 70,000 employees in Waterloo Region without access to rapid screening until at least mid-January.

 

“Even when we receive our order that still won’t be enough because to test that many employees we need at least 280,000 kits,” he says, explaining proper screening requirements call for employees to use the kits at least twice a week.

 

The Chamber’s last order of 50,000 kits – a week’s supply - arrived Dec. 6 and was quickly allocated to businesses or re-allocated to other businesses (including restaurants) if they were not picked up. 

 

“We know there are many workplaces that have to have them,” says Greg, adding a decision by the Province to distribute a single box of screening kits containing five tests to students over the Christmas break may not have been the best method. “It’s a great idea, but not enough has been handed out. Five tests aren’t enough and there isn’t a real strategy attached for their use and to even retain some tests for going back to school. Just handing them out is no real strategy.”

 

He says distributing through workplaces has been a great way to reach more people. 

 

“We’ve always said from the very beginning of this to the Province that about 63% of Ontarians are in workplaces so if you make rapid screening kits available for employees you have the potential to reach 63% of the population,” says Greg, noting not all employees may wish to take part in the screening program unless it was mandated. 

 

He says it would have proven cheaper for the Province to distribute more screening kits to workplaces and even curtail the resale of the kits for exorbitant amounts online.

 

“The BESTWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region), along with the Chambers, started encouraging the Province to do rapid screening in May of 2020 and it took them almost a year to get out and going because we stepped up to the plate and said we would do the pilot program,” says Greg. “We literally wrote the playbook so they could pass it on.”

 

He says running the free screening program through the Chambers has also ensured all the necessary safety protocols are followed.

 

“We have all the safeguards in place to make sure these kits are being used correctly and continue to be accessible to answer any questions if businesses have had a problem,” says Greg. “It really has been a seamless program, but now we’ve seen an unnecessary pause during the most critical time for these businesses.”

 

For information, visit Chambercheck.ca

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Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce Kick-Off Campaign to put a Spotlight on Shop Local in Celebration of Small Business Week 2021.

 

Supporting local has never been more important and is the theme of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) annual ‘Small Business: Too Big to Ignore’ Campaign’ which takes place during Small Business Week which runs October 17-23.

 

Throughout the week, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce – which created the ‘Too Big to Ignore’ movement several years ago - and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), along with 155+ chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the province, are encouraging Ontarians to support local businesses in their community as well as amplify ongoing advocacy and initiatives to promote and protect small businesses who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

 

“I encourage everyone in Waterloo Region to do what they can to support and celebrate our small businesses by shopping and dining locally, not just during Small Business Week, but all year round,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce CEO & President Greg Durocher. “It’s very clear that small businesses are not only the heart of our communities but the backbone of our economy.”

 

Small and medium-sized businesses contribute significantly to our national and local economies and employ nearly 90% of Canada’s private sector workforce and 88% of Ontario’s, according to a StatsCan survey conducted over three weeks in April of 2020 in partnership with the Canadian and Ontario Chambers of Commerce.

 

However, that same survey showed since the arrival of COVID-19, many of these small businesses have been impacted. In fact, results indicated that 68% saw a 10% decrease in revenue and 22% said they were unable to stay fully or partially open during the pandemic, and that more than 25% feared they couldn’t stay open for more than three additional months.

 

This is why supporting local businesses, especially now as our economic recovery builds momentum, is imperative.

 

“By coming together in support of our small businesses, we can come through this time stronger and more resilient than ever,” says Greg, adding the timing of the #YouGottaShopHereWR initiative is extremely timely in relation to Small Business Week.

 

Created in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce thanks to a federal grant, the initiative is encouraging all local businesses – not just Chamber members - to create a short fun video that can be posted on the YouGottaShopHereWR.ca website and shared via Instagram & TikTok using the hashtag #YouGottaShopHereWR.

 

“Not only do we hope to raise the profile of these local businesses but show everyone why Waterloo Region is such a great community,” says Greg.

 

In addition to encouraging people to shop and support local, the ‘Small Business: Too Big to Ignore’ campaign also puts a spotlight on ongoing Ontario Chamber Network advocacy and initiatives such as:

 

“Small businesses are cornerstones of our local economies and key to thriving communities—creating jobs, driving innovation, and generating wealth for us all,” says Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, OCC.

 

Canadian Small Business Week takes place during the third week of October every year. This year, the celebration will occur October 17-23.

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The pandemic’s arrival has jolted our economy both nationally and locally.

 

According to Statistics Canada, the Canadian economy contracted just over 18% between March and April of last year.

 

However, as pandemic-related restrictions began to lift the business climate has continued to improve but it’s not out of the woods just yet. That’s why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to create the #YouGottaShopHereWR marketing campaign.

 

“Now more than ever our small to medium-sized businesses need all the support we can give them,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “Our aim is to provide that support by encouraging people to spend their hard-earned dollars close to home.”

 

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber Network partnered with the Government of Canada to support small businesses nationwide through the creation of shop local initiatives by investing approximately $33 million in a plan to motivate Canadians to buy local. The Chambers submitted a joint proposal and received just over $200,000 of that funding which they’ve used to create the campaign, in co-operation with some local community partners and business associations.

 

“Creating these partnerships is vital to ensure the success of #YouGottaShopHereWR,” says Greg, noting the timing of the campaign couldn’t be more ideal since October has been deemed ‘Small Business Month’. 

 

Small businesses made up of 98% of employer businesses in Canada in 2020, according to a recent StatsCan report, employing 9.7 million people which represents approximately 64% of Canada’s total labour force. By comparison that same year, medium-sized businesses employed about 3.2 million people (approximately 21.2% of the labour force).

 

“There’s no question that SMEs are significant drivers when it comes to our economic recovery,” says Greg. “That’s why we hope many of our local businesses, whether they’re Chamber Members or not, will want to take part in this campaign.”

 

Participation is easy, he says, noting all that is required is a short video to promote the business which is then shared through the YouGottaShopHereWR.ca website and various other digital channels such as Instagram and TikTok.

 

“The videos should be fun and not more than a minute long, and there’s instructions that we will provide to show them how to do it,” says Greg, adding the purpose is to not only encourage people to shop locally but generate brand awareness for businesses in Waterloo Region.

The #YouGottaShopHereWR campaign runs until January 15, 2022, as an added boost to assist businesses during the post-holiday shopping season.

 

Learn more about how your business can participate by visiting  https://yougottashopherewr.ca

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Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber Releases

“Mental Wellness in the Workplace: A Playbook for Employers”

 

While concerns around workplace mental health predates the pandemic, COVID-19 has, without question, exacerbated the problem. Although most businesses recognize the importance of investing in mental health, few have put a formal strategy in place, creating a mental health action gap.

 

With the support from Sun Life, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released resources to help them close the gap: Mental Wellness in the Workplace: A Playbook for Employers and A Playbook for SMEs.

 

These resources provide employers of varying sizes with strategies and supports to help bridge the gap – from fostering a health-focused culture to effectively communicating with employees to encouraging staff to access free government resources.

 

“According to the OCC’s 2021 Business Confidence Survey, 89% of employers believed spending on employee health and wellbeing was a good investment. Yet, only 53% said they had a formal strategy in place[1] – a situation the OCC refers to as the mental health action gap. While these numbers have improved since the Chamber’s 2016 survey, the action gap remains,” said Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher. “We know that mental health can be a challenging topic for businesses, but employers play a critical role in the employee health equation. We also know that inaction comes with a real cost.” 
 

Prior to COVID-19, poor mental health in the workplace accounted for:

  • $50 billion in direct costs per year, including health care, social services, and income support like short- and long-term disability claims;
  • $6.3 billion in indirect costs from lost productivity; and
  • 500,000 Canadians missing work each week due to mental health issues or illnesses.

“Many employers are looking for practical steps they can take and resources they can easily leverage to develop psychologically healthy and safe workplaces. We’re pleased to release these tools during Mental Health Awareness Month in partnership with Sun Life to help businesses address this action gap,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

 

To support employees’ mental health, the Playbook for Employers encourages businesses to focus on five key areas:

  • Develop a mental health strategy. This strategy should be linked to an organization’s equity, diversity, and inclusion plans and include performance measures to monitor progress.
  • Build a psychologically healthy and safe workplace culture. Training and employee engagement can create a positive workplace culture.
  • Communicate widely and regularly. Continuous, two-way communication between leaders and employees is key to destigmatizing mental health and encouraging employees to access supports.
  • Ensure adequate resources for employees and their families. Supports should be varied, visible, and accessible – both in-person and virtually.
  • Prepare for hybrid work (if applicable). Consider what steps need to be taken in the long run for a hybrid work environment. Hybrid or flexible work environments can benefit employee mental wellness, but it is important to equip leaders and employees with the resources needed to thrive in this new way of working.

“Creating mentally healthy workplaces is critical to Canada’s long-term recovery,” said Jacques Goulet, President, Sun Life Canada. “Businesses have an opportunity to reimagine their roles – including how they support employees’ physical and mental wellness and improve company culture going forward. This Playbook for Employers serves to empower businesses and build a healthier, more resilient Canada.”

 

Read the Mental Wellness in the Workplace: A Playbook for Employers.

 

Read A Playbook for SMEs.
 

Thanks to our Exclusive Landmark Partner, Sun Life, as well as OCC members and mental health experts who contributed to the development of this resource.

 

 

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The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber of Commerce release second pillar of their ‘Ontario Business Matters’ federal election campaign: Healthy People and Prosperous Communities

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) called on the next Parliament to take decisive action to support healthy and prosperous communities as the foundation of a robust and inclusive economic recovery.

 

In its Second Pillar of its Ontario Business Matters federal election platform, released today, Healthy People and Prosperous Communities, the Cambridge Chamber and OCC underscore the importance of strategic investments in health care, childcare, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and reskilling opportunities for those hardest hits by the pandemic.

 

“The COVID-19 crisis has strained Ontario’s health care system and the economic impacts of the pandemic have been disproportionate for women, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, and racialized peoples,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “Targeted policies – such as making childcare more accessible and affordable for families as well as advancing re-skilling opportunities for those hit hardest by the pandemic – will be critical to Canada’s rapid recovery and long-term growth.”

 

The campaign also notes the need to address growing health care needs, support the province’s aging population, and prepare for future crises. It also calls on federal parties – along with businesses to do better to confront Canada’s racist legacy and the enduring implications of the residential “school” system.

 

“When people are healthy and prosperous so too is the economy and business. We all must do better when it comes to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, including the business community, as outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations on Business and Reconciliation,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

 

Recommendations under this pillar include:

 

  • Advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
  • Increasing health transfers to Ontario to address growing healthcare needs such as the surgical backlog and limited cancer screening, support the aging population and prepare for future crises.
  • Improving accessibility and affordability of childcare by working collaboratively with the province to reduce childcare costs and improve access for families.
  • Advancing opportunities for women and equity seeking groups in economic recovery such as enhancing reskilling and education programs for those displaced by technology adoption and pandemic-related job losses.

Through the Ontario Business Matters federal election campaign, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and OCC, along with over 155 local chambers and boards of trade, are sharing pressing policy issues related to Ontario business that need to be front and centre in the federal election.

 

For more information about the Ontario Business Matters campaign, please visit website.

 

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Cambridge Chamber and Ontario Chamber of Commerce release first pillar of their ‘Ontario Business Matters’ federal election campaign focused on business competitiveness and workforce recovery

 

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and Cambridge Chamber of Commerce are calling on all political parties to take bold action to strengthen business competitiveness as the economy continues to reopen and recover.

 

In its Ontario Business Matters federal election platform, the OCC and Cambridge Chamber underscore that longstanding issues – including barriers to interprovincial trade, relatively low immigration quotas, financing challenges, and infrastructure gaps– must be addressed to strengthen Canada’s long-term resilience and recovery.

 

“As the economy continues to reopen, labour shortages are being felt across the province. The skills mismatch has been a longstanding challenge for businesses to remain competitive and has been amplified by the crisis,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “We are calling on the next Parliament to address these critical labour market needs, along with enhanced access to capital and trade, to support Canada’s recovery.”

 

The first pillar of the Ontario Business Matters campaign is Workforce Recovery and Business Competitiveness, with recommendations such as:

 

  • Removing barriers to interprovincial labour mobility and trade.
  • Increasing Ontario’s allocation of immigrants under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program.
  • Enhancing access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Modernizing federal privacy frameworks.

“With Ontario responsible for 40% of the national GDP[1] and home to almost 50% of all employees in high-tech, financial services, and other knowledge-intensive industries[2], adopting pragmatic solutions to support Ontario business competitiveness will be a critical driver of Canada’s economic recovery,” added Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the OCC.

 

The Cambridge Chamber and OCC underscore that special attention must be placed on policies that facilitate equitable recovery for small businesses, communities, and sectors that have been most severely impacted by the pandemic, including women, Indigenous peoples, racialized people, and businesses in the tourism, retail, and foodservice industries.

 

Through the Ontario Business Matters federal election campaign, the Cambridge Chamber and OCC, along with more than over 155 local chambers and boards of trade, will be sharing pressing policy issues related to Ontario business that need to be front and centre in the federal election.

 

For more information about the Ontario Business Matters campaign, please visit the OCC’s website.

 

 

 

 

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While COVID-19 has created a uniquely difficult situation for Ontario’s municipalities, it has also exposed areas to improve municipal fiscal governance.

 

Local governments do not have the fiscal autonomy they need to make them competitive and maintaining the status quo could be devastating for communities in a post-COVID economic recovery. The impact of the virus and the resultant public health measures have meant that most municipalities are seeing a decline in revenue and increase in expenditures.

 

In response, as all levels of government look to balance debt and deficits while protecting the well-being of our communities, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released its latest report, Better Budgets: Bolstering the Fiscal Resilience of Ontario’s Municipalities, which identifies 14 recommendations for both the Province and municipalities which can bring immediate and long-term relief to communities across Ontario.

 

“Municipalities in Ontario are facing a triple threat this year: an ongoing pandemic that has been devastating to local economies, reduced revenue from closed or limited services, and increased spending on public health and human services. The Financial Accountability Office estimates the pandemic will collectively cost municipalities $2.7 billion in 2021, on top of the expected $4.1 billion impact of 2020,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “In Budget 2021, the Government of Ontario committed to a long‐term economic growth plan. It is imperative public policymakers do everything they can do to ensure communities like ours do not get left behind in recovery.”

 

During the June 28 edition of our Chamber Chat, Cambridge City Manager David Calder and CFO Sheryl Ayres took a closer at the report and provided some great insight on the merits and viability of some of these recommendations, while identifying misconceptions relating to others.

 

“I commend the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on their work on Better Budgets,” said David, adding the report contained some ‘old chestnuts’ municipalities having been trying to change for many years when it comes managing finances. “It’s a good variety. Some we can support and some that might not be as supportable.”

 

Greg said for many years there has been ongoing discussion centred on the ‘restrictiveness’ of municipalities’ ability to raise revenue, noting changes are clearly needed, especially when it comes to Ontario’s property tax system.

 

“We have to undue to the system so to speak and make sure taxes are applied appropriately,” he said.

 

Sheryl agreed the current property tax system, which has been in place since the 1990s, is need of a full review.

“In doing that, they also need to look at other revenue tools that municipalities can use in addition to property taxes,” she said, noting that 91% of tax dollars go to the Provincial and Federal governments, leaving the remainder for municipalities. “Yet, we’ve got the greatest portion of expenses related to the assets that we own, and we are closer to the people in terms of the local services we provide. I believe we need a comprehensive review of the whole tax system and how it’s allocated across three levels of government, ensuring there is transparency and equity in how the funds are raised from the residents of Canada.”

 

David said the downloading of services to municipalities is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

 

“We need to review who should be providing what services and whether there are ways to be more cost efficient in the supply of those services,” he said. “It’s a very complex conversation but one that needs to take place.”

David said municipalities have been looking for ways to be more autonomous for many years in effort to make better decisions at the local level.

“We’ve got to figure out where do we want to be in that spectrum,” he said. “There needs to be discussion around trying to make sure we control our delivery a little bit where appropriate.”

 

The OCC report agrees and states the Ontario’s post-pandemic recovery and long-term success will depend heavily on unleashing the economic potential of its municipalities.

 

“Given that local governments in Ontario cannot run budget deficits, their current options for fiscal sustainability are limited to tax increases, service cuts, and the use of reserves,” said Claudia Dessanti, Senior Manager, Policy of the OCC. “Now is the time for municipalities and the province to explore alternative means of achieving fiscal sustainability.”

 

Key recommendations outlined in the report include:

Undertake a comprehensive and forward-looking review of Ontario’s property tax system to ensure the system is more equitable, efficient, and predictable for businesses.


Adhere to the ‘pay-for-say principle’ to ensure that all responsibilities are accompanied by adequate funding.


Enhance and incentivize regional collaboration across municipalities.  

 

The OCC report was created in partnership with KPMG Canada. Read the report.

 

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