Category: Government Relations

Half of Ontarians fear their skills will soon be obsolete: Oakville Chamber of Commerce

New Ontario Chamber of Commerce report urges action into alignment of skills, education and career opportunities

Today the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, released a comprehensive report, Talent in Transition: Addressing the Skills Mismatch in Ontario, which identifies ten recommendations that will better align the skills acquired by Ontarians with those required by employers. The report, which was developed in partnership with leading officials in the private and educational sectors, as well as with representatives from across Ontario, includes exclusive, new research of both Ontario Chamber Network members as well as the general population on sentiment toward skills development.

Of the six in ten businesses who attempted to recruit staff in 2016, 82 per cent experienced a challenge in hiring someone with the proper qualifications. “Ontario employers are finding it more and more challenging to recruit properly qualified talent. If improvements are not made, we will find ourselves in a situation where there are ‘people without jobs and jobs without people” said Richard Koroscil, interim-President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Our latest report identifies opportunities to improve alignment of skills, education, career opportunities.”

It is not just employers who are concerned with the growing skills mismatch. Of the general population, half of Ontarians are concerned their skills and expertise will no longer be useful or will become less valuable in the next decade. Over the last decade, the skills mismatch has been a major concern for the future growth of Ontario’s economy. The report states that as Ontarians move into the knowledge-based economy, with rapidly changing technological advancement, it is essential to leverage our greatest asset, human capital.

The Ontario Chamber’s report outlines a strategy that unites government and industry to work collaboratively to ensure that all regions across Ontario have access to the skilled workforce required to compete in the global economy. In working together on the recommendations presented in this report, Government and industry can:
  • Improve the transition from school to the workplace (through the expansion of experiential learning opportunities).
  • Improve the labour market outcomes (achieved through Employment Ontario programs).
  • Develop a modernized apprenticeship system (reflective of the current business climate and focused on the integration of young people into the trades).
“We hear from employers in Oakville who are experiencing challenges to find qualified employees all the time,” said John Sawyer, President of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce. “If we align government, employers and educators to find solutions to the skills mismatch, we can strengthen our economy and ensure there are meaningful career opportunities here in Oakville.”

Ontario’s Chamber Network has been active on the skills issue since 2012. This report is part of larger advocacy work to ensure all regions across Ontario have access to the skilled workforce that they require to compete in the global knowledge economy.


Minimum Wage Increase & Proposed Labour Reform: Advocacy and Policy Update

The Oakville Chamber of Commerce shares the desire for broadly inclusive growth, where everyone has the opportunity to obtain a living wage. However, in order to achieve this, we need to ensure that we are not risking job losses, rising consumer costs, and economic hardship as a result of over-regulation.

Thank you to all of our members who have shared their comments regarding the proposed new labour reforms including the minimum wage increase to $15.00 in the next 18 months. We have heard you and we will continue to focus our advocacy efforts on your behalf.

In the past few weeks, the Oakville Chamber has met with the Minister of Labour, our local MPP Kevin Flynn, to share our members’ thoughts on the unintended consequences of the proposed changes. Namely, job losses due to rising costs, the inability to remain competitive, the possibility of shutting down local employers and increased costs to consumers. We are working with our local Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and combining our efforts to communicate our concerns related to the reforms and in particular, the pace at which these changes are scheduled to occur.

To that end, the Oakville Chamber is working with the Keep Ontario Working (KOW) group, a coalition of Ontario’s leading industry and sector associations as well as major employers. KOW brings together divergent voices to strengthen our collective advocacy. Our goal will be to address elements of the legislation where we think there is still room for negotiation, while bringing evidence to the table to support the notion of a broader package of offsets to help the business community transition into these new changes. The KOW website has been updated with new content and calls to action. You can visit it at www.KeepOntarioWorking.ca

We encourage you to submit a letter to our local MPP’s through the Coalition’s website (to submit a letter, click here). Please take the time to share your stories with Minister Kevin Flynn and continue to send us your emails. Your voice matters.


The Unintended Consequences of a $15 minimum Wage

The provincial government has introduced legislation that will increase the current minimum wage by over 30% from $11.40 to $15.00 per hour over the next 18 months.

Small business owners are expressing concern about the size and, in particular, the timing of the changes. Chamber members share the Government’s desire for broadly inclusive growth. However, in order to achieve this, we need to ensure that we are not risking job losses, rising consumer costs, and economic hardship as a result of over-regulation. The Ontario Government’s announcement of the Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan which proposes numerous changes to current labour and employment standards legislation will go to committee over the summer months. 

The recommendations include:
  • Raising Ontario’s general minimum wage to $14 per hour on January 1, 2018, and then to $15 on January 1, 2019, followed by annual increases at the rate of inflation
  • Mandating equal pay for part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal employees doing the same job as full-time employees; and equal pay for temporary help agency employees doing the same job as permanent employees at the agencies’ client companies
  • Expanding personal emergency leave to include an across-the-board minimum of at least two paid days per year for all workers
  • Ensuring at least three weeks’ vacation after five years with a company
  • Updating employee scheduling rules, including requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours of its scheduled start time.
The cost of all of these benefits will be borne by small business owners.  We believe the government has not yet fully understood the unintended consequences of these changes.   Chamber members have expressed their frustration and concern over rising costs and over regulation.

“It will impact our business cash flow and the costs will have to be passed on to the consumer.  Because taxes with source deductions are going to be higher. We are not against an increase if it is done in increments and not as a total 32% increase over a short period of time.” – Noel Lourenco, Boffo’s

Many affected employers have told us that these changes will have the opposite effect of what the Government is looking to achieve.  One small business owner told us that “Since higher costs for delivery will be passed down from the supplier to the merchant, it will result in inflation. I will be forced to pass the higher costs on to the consumer.” We have also heard from members who say the impact will be felt throughout their businesses.

“If something isn’t done this dramatic and unrealistic increase may force us to close our doors after being a Kerr Street merchant for the last 18 years.” – Dean MacLean, The Mermaid and The Oyster

Higher costs for employers will inevitably lead to higher prices for consumers.  If the businesses cannot transfer these new costs to the consumer, employers will be looking to reduce overhead by cutting staff hours and possibly cutting the number of staff.  This will reduce the job opportunities available to youth and other low-skilled individuals who need employment.

While we understand the commendable intentions of these proposals, it is clear that the government can’t legislate prosperity.  Instead of creating more opportunity for workers, changes like these often have the opposite effect by reducing jobs and increasing the cost of living. That is why the Oakville Chamber and the Chamber network with the Keep Ontario Working Coalition  have called on the government to conduct a comprehensive economic impact analysis.

As the provincial government moves this legislation through the committee process over the summer we urge them to truly understand the economic impact of these changes that have great potential to hurt job creation, consumer costs, and economic growth.  

How will this affect your business? Let us know: faye@oakvillechamber.com 


Ontario Deserves Evidence-Based Reform: Statement on Ontario’s Fair Workplaces Plan

Changes Will Hurt Job Creation, Consumer Costs and Economic Growth

The Keep Ontario Working coalition, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Chamber Network, expressed concern that the Government of Ontario’s Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan, commits to unproven sweeping reforms without ensuring protection against unintended consequences, including job losses, rising consumer costs and economic hardship.

The Keep Ontario Working Coalition (KOW) is a broad-spectrum group of business sector representatives concerned with sound public policy to help produce jobs and grow Ontario. As noted in the Business Prosperity Index of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Ontario Economic Report, despite projections that Ontario will lead Canada in economic growth in the coming years, diminished profitability, lower labour market participation, and sluggish market activity; along with other key factors have resulted in a risk-averse atmosphere that businesses are disinclined to grow production. Businesses are questioning if they should grow in Ontario or expand offshore. Despite that, Ontario’s private sector is still doing its part to support workers. As the Government pointed out in Budget 2017, 98 per cent of all new jobs since the recession in Ontario have been full time, and 78 per cent in above-average wage industries. This positive economic activity by Ontario’s private sector demonstrates a clear commitment to good jobs throughout our province.

OCC AND KEEP ONTARIO WORKING STATEMENT

The following is a statement by the Keep Ontario Working Coalition on the Government’s proposed workplace reforms:

We share in the Government’s desire for broadly inclusive growth. However, in order to achieve this, we need to ensure that we are not risking job losses, rising consumer costs, and economic hardship as a result of over-regulation. “Government cannot regulate prosperity. To demonstrate true fairness and compassion for workers, we must ensure Ontario has a strong economy to help create jobs and increase economic growth. “That is why we are urging the government to take time this summer to have an independent third party conduct a comprehensive economic impact analysis on the proposed reforms to consider the unintended consequences to employers. In addition, as the province’s biggest employer, the government must fully understand what these changes will cost in relation to the provincial treasury as well as social services and other government agencies. “Why is evidence-based policy important? Only three years ago, the Premier’s own Minimum Wage Advisory Panel conducted extensive research and concluded: ‘In the Canadian context, researchers have generally found an adverse employment effect of raising minimum wages especially for young workers…typically those studies find that teen employment would drop by 3 to 6 per cent if the minimum wage is raised by 10 per cent.’ “While the Changing Workplaces Review cautioned that any regulatory change shouldn’t impair the competitiveness of businesses in the province, the reforms outlined in Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Plan thus far do not provide the balance needed to help ensure a competitive environment for Ontario. “But we have time. Now we must work cooperatively with government to identify the scale of the economic impact of these changes and help employers transition into any new policy regime. We will continue to be cooperative partners with government to find solutions that will, where possible, inhibit negative impacts on the growth of Ontario’s economy, our people, and our communities.”

Oakville Chamber strongly objects to potential labour and employment standards reforms

Changes would discourage investment, eliminate jobs and diminish economic opportunities in Ontario, especially among small business owners

 The Oakville Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, has sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne warning against potential changes to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA), including the introduction of a $15 minimum wage. The letter is cautioning that these reforms may have unintended consequences impacting job creation and competitiveness, as well discouraging investment in the province.

The potential reforms are coming at a time when costs for consumers and the cost of doing business is high and putting Ontario at a competitive disadvantage. Ontario has experienced slower growth in GDP and job creation than in the past, and drastic reforms to labour and employment run the risk of causing serious damage to the future prosperity of the province. “These sweeping changes could seriously impact job creation and the health of our local economy in Oakville” said Faye Lyons, Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy at the Oakville Chamber of Commerce. “We need to get the message out that the proposed changes would discourage investment in Ontario, thereby discouraging investment and diminishing economic opportunities in Ontario.”

On issues of non-standard and part-time work, Statistics Canada data shows that part-time work has risen 22 percent since 2003, down from the 36 percent increase in the previous 12-year period. Recent studies show that 76 percent of part-timer workers voluntarily choose part-time work to better accommodate schooling or personal life.

“We are urging Premier Wynne to complete an economic impact analysis of the proposed reforms to limit potential consequences that could seriously jeopardize our future growth,” said Richard Koroscil, Interim-President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “We support reform where and when it is needed, but we caution against change for change’s sake.”

The Ontario Chamber’s letter reminds the Premier that Ontario’s employer community is doing its part to create a better jobs and working conditions in the province. Budget 2017 points out that 98% of all new jobs created since the recession have been full time, and 78% have been above- average wage for their respective industries. The letter notes that the goals of economic growth and improved employee rights are not mutually exclusive. The Ontario Chamber believes that what supports the competitiveness of Ontario’s economy can also help enhance quality of work. Increased education and enforcement may assist with compliance to Government regulations and can improve worker environments. Regulatory reform that raises costs for business, only to reduce the ability of business to invest in and grow the labour force is counterproductive.

Read the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s letter to Premier Wynne.
For more information on how the proposed reforms could affect Ontario’s economy, see the Ontario Chamber’s Rapid Policy Update.

Link Investment in Core Infrastructure to Productivity Performance and Enhancement

Oakville Chamber of Commerce, co-sponsored by the Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce Issue: Provincial and federal infrastructure investments must support the long term growth of our economy and quality of life.

Background:   Ontario’s infrastructure deficit is delaying recovery in all parts of the province.  Meanwhile, congestion in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) costs the region an estimated $6 billion in lost productivity each year. With Ontario’s population expected to grow approximately 30% by 2041 our infrastructure needs will justifiably grow with it. Roads, bridges and highways are all critical to our economic competitiveness. Canada’s current infrastructure deficit is estimated to be approximately $200 billion, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) claims that left unattended this deficit could potentially rise to as much as $2 trillion by 2065.

The Ontario government has committed to invest approximately $150 billion over 12 years in direct infrastructure spending however it is not yet clear where these funds will be deployed and which principles will guide infrastructure spending. According to the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card (CIRC) almost 60% of Canada’s core public infrastructure is owned and maintained by municipal governments and the total value of core municipal infrastructure assets is estimated at $1.1 trillion dollars. 

While most of our infrastructure challenges are the responsibility of our local government, both the federal and provincial government have committed renewed investment to tackle our infrastructure needs.  Successful distribution of this funding will be achieved by the co-ordination, communication and collaboration of all levels of government.

Infrastructure funds need to be allocated effectively and efficiently to the right types of projects. It is vital that investments are made strategically into projects that support the long-term growth of our economy. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), every $1 billion invested in infrastructure generates between $1.20 billion and $1.64 billion in real GDP growth; a proven multiplier effect guaranteed to boost the economy. Similarly, every $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates approximately 16,000 jobs which are supported for one year across multiple sectors. Under current federal infrastructure programs, Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, funding recipients are required to demonstrate that projects are “incremental” – i.e. new or accelerated projects – rather than projects funded and/or prioritized through asset management plans.

Moving into Phase Two of the federal government’s distribution of federal funds, investments in productivity-enhancing projects need to be the criteria.  The government needs to adopt an outcomes-based approach to infrastructure funding instead of a project-based approach. The government also needs to find a balance between its strategic objectives and ensuring that eligibility criteria for Phase Two infrastructure programs are flexible to ensure that municipalities can meet their diverse needs. The need for a long term sustainable infrastructure plan will still be essential. 

The new infrastructure demands coupled with the maintenance and future rehabilitation will further strain our resources.  This will only be compounded by further population growth. The federal government also needs to expand the use of public, private partnerships (P3s) while making it easier for smaller projects, like those at the municipal level, to attract private sector investment. Canada is a global leader in the use of public, private partnerships. Both the provincial and federal governments should look for innovative and collaborative approaches to help ensure that private sector money and know-how can be directed to projects that benefit communities of all sizes.

Recommendations: The Ontario Chamber of Commerce urges the Government of Ontario to:
  1. Develop an infrastructure strategy that demonstrates how infrastructure dollars will be allocated linking investment in core infrastructure to productivity performance and enhancement, economic growth and job creation;
 
  1. Work with the federal government on developing a principled approach to the design of the federal government’s funding commitments;
 
  1. Continue to use Alternate Finance Projects (AFP’s) and Private, Public Partnership (P3) models to develop large infrastructure projects, where appropriate and develop strategies to encourage private sector investment in smaller, municipal level projects;
 
  1. Recognize the many years of critical capital planning and prioritization work already undertaken by municipal asset management plans and work with the federal government on a flexible approach by not imposing “incrementality” requirements for project eligibility.

Ontario Chamber Network sends a letter to Minister Bains promoting nuclear innovation in Canada

Yesterday, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, calling for increased support for nuclear innovation in Canada.

The Ontario Chamber Network has long recognized the important role of nuclear technology and its contribution to our economy. Aided by Ontario’s leadership and expertise, we believe that continued Canadian investment in nuclear innovation will benefit not only our environment, but the future prosperity of our nation. On May 3, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Hon. Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, calling on the federal government to continue Canadian leadership in nuclear innovation.

Read the letter.

Businesses Need More Support to Limit Cap and Trade Impact

Ontario Chamber Network calls on Premier Wynne to Prevent Exporting Jobs During the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy

 Today the Ontario Chamber of Commerce with the support of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce sent an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne calling on the government take action through Budget 2017 to contain the costs of the cap and trade system to better support Ontario’s business community.

At a time of low business confidence across the province, and increasing competition from the United States, rising input costs for Ontario business risk negatively impacting jobs and investment in Oakville and across province. In fact, President Donald Trump’s administration is proposing a 30% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget; eliminating its climate change programs. This means that the cost gap between Canada and the United States will only grow wider, to the competitive detriment of Canadian businesses.

In the letter, the Ontario Chamber warns that the province must measure the impact of cap and trade among other input costs to fully understand the cumulative burden facing Ontario’s business community. Because businesses are directly affected by the costs associated with cap and trade, the Government of Ontario must ensure that the revenue and design of the system is allocated and developed in a way that supports Ontario’s business community.

“On behalf of our members, the Oakville Chamber will continue the dialogue with the provincial government to try to limit the impact on business competiveness.  We also believe that it is important to ensure that our members understand the program and what it means for their bottom-line,” said Caroline Hughes, Chair of the Board, Oakville Chamber of Commerce. “Along with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, we are calling on the Premier to take action and support our businesses and local economy.”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has identified four priority actions that would assist the business community to better navigate the cap and trade system:
  1. Prioritize the allocation of cap and trade revenue for businesses, in addition to other efforts to offset the cost of cap and trade. Making the process to access resources as quickly as possible will be important, especially for smaller businesses who have little time or money to dedicate to program applications.
  2. Prioritize innovation funding. Many Ontario businesses have already taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Achieving further reductions could be difficult and will often require the implementation of new technologies.
  3. Create greater post-2020 design certainty. Post-2020 certainty is important for businesses looking to make long-term investments in Ontario.
  4. Monitor and respond to regional impacts. To ensure the strategic allocation of cap and trade revenues, government should conduct a regional analysis of the impacts.
“Increased input costs imposed on the private sector mean that Ontario risks losing out on jobs and investment, and risks an economically and environmentally damaging shift in production to jurisdictions that are not taking action to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” said Graham Henderson, Chair of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “More action must be taken. In all policy decisions, the provincial government must consider how we can prevent exporting jobs while importing pollution.”

The letter is aimed at impacting government policy in Budget 2017, and builds on the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s meetings with senior government officials. These meetings have emphasized the need to ensure Ontario’s businesses remain competitive and confident in the face of a changing economy.

The Oakville Chamber of Commerce and Ontario’s Chamber Network have engaged in significant advocacy on the cap and trade issue since 2015. This letter builds on the Ontario Chamber’s earlier communications to government calling on the Ontario Energy Board to disclose cap and trade costs to taxpayers as a line-item on natural gas bills.  Last year, the Ontario Chamber Network also called on the government to delay the implementation of the cap and trade system until 2018.

Read the letter.

2017 Federal Budget: Work in Progress for Oakville’s Business community

The Oakville Chamber of Commerce is encouraged by the focus on skills development, but calls for increased investment in competitiveness trade-enabling infrastructure.

Yesterday afternoon, the federal government released their 2017 budget. The Oakville Chamber of Commerce welcomes the Government of Canada’s decision to focus on skills and innovation; however, the Budget delivers underwhelming implications for Oakville’s business community. Oakville’s businesses face more regulation and increased costs imposed by all levels of government for fees, taxes and essential inputs, like electricity. The Oakville Chamber believes more urgency is needed in reducing business costs and improving competitiveness. The Oakville Chamber has heard from its members for the need to address the current skills gap and has advocated this to all levels of government. The Chamber is encouraged with the Budget’s plan to invest $225 million over four years, starting in 2018-2019, to develop an organization which has three main goals: identify the skills sought and required by Canadian employers, explore new and innovative approaches to skills development, and share information and analysis to help future skills investments and programming. The Oakville Chamber is also encouraged with the Budget’s increased funding for work-integrated learning, which aligns with their policy priorities for 2017.
“Addressing the current skills gap is essential to creating a sustainable workforce. Our members have been asking for this type of investment and we are pleased to see the federal government delivering” stated John Sawyer, President of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce.
Investing in the workforce helps create a competitive advantage, however; there is a pressing need for investment in trade-enabling infrastructure. The Oakville Chamber has been urging investment in the type infrastructure that will boost productivity.
“From our 2016 Advocacy Survey, our members stated the need for infrastructure investments in Oakville. In particular, their top three infrastructure priorities were all transportation related. They are local roads and bridges, public parking and transit” stated Faye Lyons, Vice President Government Relations & Advocacy, Oakville Chamber of Commerce. “Increased spending must be directed towards this kind of trade-enabling infrastructure that can transition our economy to an innovative and high-growth phase.”
Unfortunately, these types of investments represent just 11% of the total $120 billion in infrastructure spending. The Oakville Chamber is concerned about the lack of funding for this type of infrastructure in the Budget. Trade-enabling infrastructure delivers a significant return on investment and responds to the need for Canadian goods in the global market. Lastly, the Oakville Chamber would like to see the federal government recognize the increasing cost to doing business in Oakville, Ontario and Canada. In our 2016 Advocacy Survey our members stated rising costs as the most significant factor impacting business and industry, and this is an unfortunate reality faced by businesses across the province and throughout Canada. While the Oakville Chamber applauds the federal government for its focus on skills development and innovation, the infrastructure gap and the rising cost of doing business must be addressed in order for Oakville’s, Ontario’s and Canada’s businesses to be competitive. Read the full Budget 2017 Analysis by the Chamber.

Immediate Action Required to Address Deficiencies in the Provincial Interest Arbitration System

As a result of wage settlements resulting from the provincial arbitration system, the costs of emergency services have increased at over three times the rate of inflation annually since 2002.

  Today the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, formally released an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne addressing deficiencies in the arbitration system. Cc’d on the letter were Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn and Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro. As recognized in the letter, the cost escalation resulting from settlements is unsustainable, particularly in an era of fiscal restraint generally, and especially in an environment where municipalities are greatly restricted in their options to raise new revenue. “Our principal concern is that the current system does not adequately consider the capacity of municipalities to pay” stated John Sawyer, President of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce. “In order to ensure the fiscal sustainability of municipalities, we believe that immediate action is required to address deficiencies within the provincial interest arbitration system.” Therefore, the Oakville Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Ontario Government to take 3 important steps:
  1. Reform the provincial interest arbitration system to reflect the current capacity of Ontario municipalities to pay for increased service costs
  1. Improve efficiency by requiring that arbitration decisions be delivered in less than 12 months.
  1. Improve accountability and transparency for the taxpayer.
Read the letter here.