Gaining the attention of political leaders and shaping meaningful dialogue with key decision makers in government is a cornerstone of our advocacy strategy. As I look back at the last fiscal year, I reflect on the wins we had as a chamber. On the local level, we successfully advocated for the consensus of City Council and worked to secure a federal commitment to the Maley Drive Extension, ensured continued advocacy for the Ring of Fire, fought against further increases in development charges and fed into a process to reduce red tape at city hall.
On the provincial level, we attended the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) inaugural Queen’s Park Advocacy Day and had the opportunity to meet with government officials to discuss the issues affecting you, our members, and the local business community. Topics included the increasingly high cost of energy, infrastructure, labour costs and pension reform.
The initial announcement of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) raised great concerns for our chamber in terms of increased regulatory fragmentation, administrative burden and economic consequences for businesses. This resulted in our chamber, in partnership with the OCC network, immediately stepping to the forefront of the discussion and leading a coalition of organizations to mitigate the overall financial impact of the plan. Although the move towards the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) enhancement avoids increased regulatory fragmentation and thus administrative burden compared to an ORPP, our work is not done. As CPP expansion is being examined we will continue to work with the senior levels of government to ensure that any changes to the CPP are carried out in a way that mitigates risks to the business community.
In order to thrive, Ontario businesses need affordable electricity. In response to increasing electricity prices, we called on the Ontario government to provide greater transparency in energy pricing. In March 2016, the provincial government released an updated Ontario Energy Report that included an industrial price chart providing a clearer cost picture for many businesses. We continue to advocate with the new Minister of Energy on our members’ concerns over ever-increasing energy costs.
In recent years the topic of regulatory reform has become a priority for Ontario businesses. We responded by calling on the province to adopt a crowd-sourced approach to regulatory change where the public could submit comments and suggest changes to the regulations that impact them. This spring the Ontario government announced the Red Tape Challenge, an initiative encouraging Ontarians to submit comments to a Regulatory Modernization Committee regarding regulations that impact them. For more information on the Red Tape Challenge visit www.ontario.ca/page/red-tape-challenge.ca.
Infrastructure is critical to business success and economic growth. In many communities across Ontario, a lack of broadband infrastructure inhibits business growth. This is why we urged the federal government to move beyond its Connecting Canadians initiative and invest in critical broadband infrastructure. In the most recent budget, the federal government announced that it’s investing $500 million over five years in a new program to increase high-speed broadband service in rural and remote communities.
We have raised the same challenge with the provincial government and have sent a letter to the Premier and to several Cabinet Ministers to invest in broadband infrastructure to provide greater economic opportunities for all corners of Ontario.
We also recognize that there is unprecedented opportunity in our mining sector here in Northern Ontario. This is why we’ve been working with the OCC to raise awareness throughout Ontario about the need to invest in mining for the future competitiveness of our province.
We look forward to working with you and on your behalf during the year ahead as we focus our attention on priorities such as minimizing the far reaching impact of the potential amendments to the Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act, to raise awareness for business owners to have a comprehensive succession plan in place, and to address the economic importance of small business to our community and province.
The chamber of commerce network is the only grassroots organization that represents the influence of the voices of business at all three levels of government. With your continuing support we will continue to champion business success and economic growth in Greater Sudbury.