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.

Closing Ontario's Tourism Gap

Ask: In our recently released Closing the Tourism Gap: Creating a Long-Term Advantage for Ontario the OCC advocated that the Ontario Government develop a government-wide Ontario tourism strategy with measurable targets. We also highlighted the need to work with tourism operators to reduce the regulatory and cost burdens within the industry by adding tourism to the Red Tape Challenge.

Win: In Ontario’s Strategic Framework for Tourism in Ontario the government explicitly acknowledged the efforts and leadership presented by the OCC through our solution based advocacy approach in the tourism sector. The report recognizes our efforts stating, that “The government is encouraged by the leadership that industry is already taking. Recently, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a forward-looking report on how the sector can collaborate to improve avenues for success. The report provides an examination of provincial tourism industry trends and presents recommendations for government and industry to work together to boost long-term competitiveness and generate sustainable demand for Ontario tourism.”

Win: The mission set out within the report “to meet or exceed global industry growth over a five-year period, which the world tourism organization estimates will grow by an average of 3.3 percent per year until 2030” satisfies the OCC’s recommendation of a long-term strategy with a clear industry growth target.

Win: The Ontario government has signalled that it will add tourism to the Red Tape Challenge, a direct recommendation of the OCC to help improve the operating environment for businesses.

Enhancing Ontario's Agri-Food Trade Relationships

Ask: As recognized in our recent report Fertile Ground, global awareness and trust in Ontario agri-food products enhances the competitiveness of our industry abroad.

Win: On November 14, 2016 Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Michael Chan, Minister of International Trade, arrived in India to lead Ontario’s first-ever agri-food trade mission. The mission was an attempt to attract new investment and aimed to continue to grow the agri-food sector globally. We are confident that the mission will enhance Ontario’s agri-food trade relationship with India. We look forward to continuing to work alongside government to ensure that the business community is well positioned to leverage new trade opportunities in the global marketplace.

Increasing the Number of Economic Class Immigrants

Ask: In our recent report Passport to Prosperity: Ontario’s Priorities for Immigration Reform, the OCC urged the federal government to reinstate the economic category immigration target to the 2015 range of 172,100 to 186,700 by no later than 2017/18.

Win: During his keynote address at the launch event of the OCC report in April 2016, Minister McCallum indicated his support for this and the remaining recommendations in the report.

Win: In October 2016, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced that the Federal government plans to keep the immigration targets for 2017 at 300,000. However, the new plan represents an increase in a higher target for economic immigrants – increasing from 160,6000 in 2016 to 172,500 in 2017. This measure will contribute to the ability of Canadian employers to attract the global talent that they need to remain competitive.

Shaping the Future of Provincial Regulatory Reform

Ask: Over the course of our five-year Emerging Stronger series and in our pre-budget submissions, the OCC has regularly called for a reduction in the regulatory burden on Ontario businesses.

Win: In the Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the government announced a series of steps to address the cumulative burden facing Ontario business:

The Red Tape Challenge, a strategy encouraging Ontarians to submit comments to a Regulatory Modernization Committee regarding regulations that impact them;
A Regulatory Centre of Excellence, which identifies and champions best practices from around the world;
A Government Modernization Fund to address the cost of modernizing outmoded regulatory processes;
A pledge to reduce the time taken to review air and noise approvals by at least 50 percent within the next two years, allaying concerns surrounding environmental compliance; and,
A promise to maintain the industrial exception in the Professional Engineers Act.

Shaping the Future of Mining in Ontario

Ask: The OCC called for matching federal and provincial commitments for infrastructure investment in the mining sector in its report, Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire.

Win: The Ontario Government announced it was committing $1 billion to the mining sector irrespective of federal funding.

Establishing Greater Transparency and Lower Costs in Energy Pricing

Ask: The OCC called on the Ontario government, in its July 2015 report Empowering Ontario: Constraining Costs and Staying Competitive in the Electricity Market, to provide greater transparency in energy pricing.

Win: The updated Ontario Energy Report, released in March 2016, included an industrial price chart that provides a clearer cost picture for Class A businesses.

Win: In the September 2016 Throne Speech, the government announced that the Industrial Conservation Initiative will be expanded so that any company that consumes more than 1MW will be eligible. Accordingly, an additional 1000 companies in Ontario are now eligible to save between 14% to 30% on their bill, a noticeable increase from the 300 companies currently enrolled in the program.

Win: The removal of the Debt Retirement Charge on commercial, industrial, and other non-residential electricity users on April 1, 2018, nine months earlier than expected.

Supporting Investment in High-speed Broadband Infrastructure

Ask: In the OCC’s federal pre-budget submission, we urged the federal government to move beyond its Connecting Canadians initiative and invest in critical broadband infrastructure.

Win: The federal government announced in its most recent budget that it is investing $500 million over five years in a new program to increase high-speed broadband service in rural and remote communities.

Ask: On July 19th, 2016, the OCC sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne asking the provincial government to commit infrastructure dollars to developing and expanding broadband infrastructure across rural and remote Ontario.

Win: On July 26th, 2016, the Ontario government announced their plans to invest $90 million dollars to bring high-speed Internet access to over 300 communities in Ontario.

Improving Income Reporting Practices

Ask: In our August 2015, report Harnessing the Power of the Sharing Economy, the OCC called on the provincial government to analyze income reporting levels in order to better understand the motivating factors behind providers’ decisions to report or not report income, and establish and clarify appropriate rules moving forward (e.g. minimum income thresholds).

Win: On February 19th, 2016, the Ontario government announced a pilot project with Airbnb to help educate the home-sharing service’s hosts on how to report their income and other key regulatory aspects of their service industry.

Modernizing the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Ask: Recognizing that the proposed Preliminary Rate Framework from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board could increase the premium rates paid by employers and, subsequently, the cost of doing business in the province, the OCC provided the WSIB with a written submission outlining 10 recommendations that the WSIB and the Government of Ontario should adopt to mitigate the impact of the proposed reforms.

Win: In December 2015, the WSIB released an updated Rate Framework that incorporates a number of suggestions and recommendations from the OCC, including 6 of the 7 recommendations directed to the WSIB in our September 2015 submission:

Provide a public and detailed analysis of how the proposed rate framework changes will impact employers;
Introduce a surcharge mechanism to ensure that employers with effective health and safety programs don’t pay the cost of poor performing employers within their class;
Expand the proposed class structure;
Reconsider implementing the predominant class model;
Retain the Second Injury and Enhancement Fund (SIEF);
Implement a weighted cost claims ‘window’; and
Eliminate the Fatal Claims Adjustment Policy.

Win: In September 2016, WSIB Chair Elizabeth Witmer announced a 5% reduction on the average premium rates for 2017, the first rate reduction since 2001.

Reinforcing Fiscal Sustainability

Ask: In our 2014 report How Bad Is It? What Do We Do About It?, the OCC called on the Ontario government to move down the path to fiscal sustainability by maximizing the value of its assets.

Win: The government of Ontario included an asset optimization target in its 2015 budget and renewed its commitment in this year’s budget.

Mitigating the Impact of Retirement Security Reform

Ask: Recognizing the burden of the proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), the OCC called on the government to delay its implementation to provide more time for businesses to adjust to the new financial obligations. We also asked that the government provide greater clarity and broader classification for “comparability” to include some Defined Contribution plans. All the while, the OCC was working toward our stated, preferred option to support retirement security through a national Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) enhancement instead of a stand-alone ORPP.

Win: In June 2016, Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced that the Government of Ontario would be abandoning the ORPP in favour of an enhanced CPP, avoiding increased regulatory fragmentation and thus administrative burden – avoiding significant consequences for Ontario’s business community.

Win: In February 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that her government was delaying the first phase of ORPP contributions from January 1, 2017 until 2018.

Win: The government expanded the definition, meaning that employers who already provide certain DC pension plans for their employees will be exempt from contributing to the new ORPP.

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