The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), in partnership with its Chamber Network and corporate members, have achieved meaningful advocacy wins on behalf of Ontario’s employer community.
Here is a snapshot of some of the most recent progress we’ve made.

BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: HIGH-SPEED INTERNET IN THE RING OF FIRE

Ask: The OCC has long recognized that inadequate access to high-speed internet is compromising the ability of communities across Ontario to attract and retain businesses. On this issue, Ontario’s Chamber Network has passed a series of resolutions advancing the call for all levels of government to work collaboratively and commit to the expansion of broadband infrastructure in rural and remote regions of the province to support economic growth in Ontario. As such, the OCC urged government in both their 2016 and 2017 provincial and federal pre-budget submissions to invest in high-speed internet, as it is a basic infrastructure need essential for business.

Win: In a joint federal-provincial announcement on October 6, 2017, each government committed the necessary funding to bring high-speed internet to the mineral-rich Ring of Fire region in Ontario. This funding will help residents and businesses in the North bridge the digital divide.

REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION FARE INTEGRATION

Ask: At the 2016 Annual General Meeting, the Ontario Chamber Network passed a resolution advocating for fare integration in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA). It is our position that a fully integrated fare system would make for a more customer-friendly, seamless and affordable transit network, while helping to alleviate wider-region traffic congestion and gridlock.

Win: On October 5, 2017 the Ontario government signaled it is moving towards improved public transit integration within the GTHA. Effective January 2018, the Ontario government is lowering the cost of commuting by introducing a 50 percent discount for PRESTO card users who transfer between GO Transit or the Union Pearson Express (UP Express) and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), in both directions. For those riders whose regular commute includes GO/UP Express-TTC transfers, this step towards regional fare integration and more affordable transit options will save them approximately $720 per year.

STRENGTHENING AND MODERNIZING WORKPLACE DEFINED PENSION PLANS

Ask: In a September 2016 open letter to Minister Sousa, the OCC advocated that the Ontario government eliminate the current solvency rules and adopt a strengthened going concern approach for Defined Benefit (DB) pension plans. In partnership with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), the OCC highlighted the need to enhance the affordability of these plans for plan sponsors, so as to reduce the competitiveness concerns of the business community.

Win: On May 19, 2017, the Ontario government signaled it will implement a new framework for DB pension plans by adopting a going concern approach. This shift will yield huge cost savings for businesses that sponsor DB pension plans.

ONE-WINDOW CONCIERGE SERVICE FOR ONTARIO BUSINESS

Ask: Cutting red tape for business has been a key component of the advocacy work of the OCC. During our Small Business Too Big to Ignore Campaign, culminating in the Obstacles and Opportunities report, the OCC urged government to establish a “one-window regulatory concierge service” to assist small businesses in understanding, navigating, and achieving compliance with relevant regulatory requirements.

Win: As a direct result of the advocacy of the OCC, the Ontario government announced in May 2017 that it will introduce new legislation to cut unnecessary red tape for business by introducing a “one-window service” to help small businesses. The program promises to help small businesses access support, information and resources when navigating Ontario’s regulatory environment.

OPENING GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT TO SMALL BUSINESS

Ask: Recognizing the barriers faced by Ontario SMEs to winning public procurement contracts, the OCC urged government to adopt new methods to encourage small business participation in the procurement process. In two reports, Adopting our Advantage: Supporting a Thriving Health Science Sector in Ontario and Breaking Barriers: Ontario’s Scale Up Challenge, the OCC recommended that the Provincial government consider leveraging public procurement to strategically support small business, as well as modernizing the approach to procurement generally.

Win: As part of the May 2017 announcement of legislation intended to reduce red tape for small business, the Government proposed the introduction of a preferred procurement policy to provide improved access for SMEs to government contracts.

MODERNIZING THE CONNECTING LINKS FUNDING PROGRAM

Ask: In our 2017 Pre-Budget Submission, we called for a one-time, $30-million
enhancement of the Connecting Links fund as a transitional measure to assist affected
communities in addressing the two-year gap in which the program was discontinued.

Win: In Budget 2017, the government announced that funding for the Connecting
Links program will increase to $30 million per year by 2018-9.

ENHANCING PRIMARY CARE

Ask: In the inaugural report of the 2016 Health Transformation Initiative, Transformation
Through Value And Innovation: Revitalizing Health Care in Ontario, the OCC called for greater
use of integrated provider care teams to better co-ordinate holistic care and to ensure
patient needs are consistently and effectively addressed.

Win: Announced in Budget 2017, the government is investing a further $15 million
to create new, or expand existing, interprofessional health care provider teams.

FINANCIAL LITERACY AND SKILLS FOR THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

Ask: Through our policy resolution process, the Ontario Chamber Network identified the
need to enhance financial literacy and experiential learning opportunities available to high
school students, post-secondary students and recent graduates, ensuring young people
entering the workforce have the skills they need to succeed in the
knowledge economy.

Win: In Budget 2017, the Ontario government reiterated its support for inserting
financial literacy into the secondary school curriculum past the pilot stage. It also
identified further career studies pilot projects to be launched, including those
centred around career/life planning, entrepreneurship skills and digital literacy.

HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES SCALE-UP

Ask: The OCC has consistently identified the regulatory burden as a barrier to business
growth and innovation in Ontario. In 2016, we specifically highlighted the challenges faced
by small businesses seeking to scale into medium- and large-sized firms in Breaking
Barriers: Ontario’s Scale-Up Challenge.

Win: Announced in Budget 2016, the Business Growth Initiative (BGI) committed
$400 million over five years to help leverage Ontario’s highly skilled workforce to
compete through innovation. In the 2017 Budget, the Ontario government expanded
the BGI by $650 million over the same period. The BGI is dedicated to helping
small businesses scale up through its Scale-Up Ventures Fund, encouraging the
broader economy to become more innovative, and reducing the regulatory burden
on business.

CLARIFICATION ON CAP AND TRADE TO SUPPORT BUSINESS

Ask: In an open letter to the Premier released in April, the OCC called for government
to prioritize the allocation of cap and trade revenue for businesses, prioritize innovation
funding, create greater post-2020 design certainty and monitor and respond to
regional impacts.

Win: In Budget 2017, the Ontario the government provided some clarification as
to how the cap and trade auction proceeds will be spent. With expected revenues
of $1.8 billion in 2017-8 and $1.4 billion in 2018-9, Budget 2017 details that $800
million will go directly towards helping homes and businesses adopt low-carbon
technologies while a further $410 million towards implementation of Green
Investment Fund initiatives.

Supporting Innovation in the Ontario Health Care System

Ask: In the 2016 Health Transformation Initiative, the OCC asked for improved pathways for Ontario health and life science technologies into our public health care system, as well as more supports for start-ups in this sector to bridge the commercialization “valley of death”.

Win: On April 3, 2017, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care announced the first recipients of the Health Technologies Fund, which supports the development of technologies that can bring value and improved care to the health care system. Additionally, the minister named the first three Innovation Brokers, who are leaders capable of connecting providers, patients and other stakeholders to innovative health technology companies.

Reducing Inter-provincial Trade Barriers in Canada

Ask:  Since the launch of Emerging Stronger, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has advocated to ensure greater policy harmonization and cooperation in all areas of intergovernmental relations, specifically identifying the need for the removal of interprovincial trade barriers. The OCC further championed the need to eliminate restrictions on internal trade and labour mobility within Canada during its 2015 federal pre-election campaign and in its report In Focus: Federal Priorities for the Ontario Economy.

Win: Effective July 1, 2017 the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) will reduce barriers to trade, investment and worker mobility. It includes rules that open trade in goods and services, processes that reduce differences in regulations and standards, and provisions that increase access to billions of dollars in government procurement opportunities for Canadian businesses. 

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