Our healthcare system is in crisis.
Hospitals are struggling to fulfill all the healthcare needs we are asking of them. At the same time, many people in Ontario are without access to a family doctor. Lack of access to healthcare is leading to greater lost time and limiting workforce mobility. While our hospital and family physician services are in need of investment, there are other healthcare professionals in our communities that are underutilized and can help fill in the gaps when it comes to primary and non-urgent healthcare needs.
This is why the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce is submitting the following as a policy resolution to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). It’s a document we worked closely on with fellow chambers, boards of trade, and industry associations. The OCC takes policy submissions once a year which go to members at the annual convention later this week to debated and voted on. If approved, they become part of the OCC’s advocacy efforts for the next three years.
Hospitals are regularly at capacity for dealing with emergencies and staffing struggles have led to regular temporary closures to new admittance.
While COVID-19 and a particularly difficult influenza season created challenges, adding further pressure is the lack of family physicians. According to the Ontario College of Family Physicians, more than 3 million Ontarians could be without a family doctor by 2025.
People without a family doctor are left to piece together their healthcare services with what is available to them, including attending Emergency Rooms for non-urgent healthcare needs.
Increasing the service capacity of hospitals and access to family doctors should be a priority for the government, but there are other healthcare services that can help take some of the pressure off in the near term.
Nurse Practitioners can shoulder some of the demand for family doctors through funding more Nurse Practitioner-led clinics as a primary care option, as well as funding the additional Nurse Practitioner seats at Ontario's universities.
Similarly, pharmacists have the expertise to ease some of the healthcare burden by increasing their ability to prescribe and administer medication. Steps have recently been taken to expand this capacity, but more can be done.
Community Health Centres are able to provide physical and mental healthcare to some of our most vulnerable citizens. There are still many communities around Ontario that do not have this service, which serves individuals who live with complex mental health and/or addictions, extreme poverty, and disability. It is welcoming to newcomers, racialized individuals, Indigenous persons, and individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. The need for Community Health Centres is especially important for businesses located in historic downtowns who are dealing with the consequences and filling in some of the gaps for marginalized individuals.
Enhancing funding for Community Paramedicine Programs will assist communities with an additional safety net that will meet people’s healthcare needs without a visit to the hospital.
We need our government to work with local healthcare providers to ensure people have access to walk-in clinics. This is a vital stopgap for people unable to access a family doctor, but in need of non-emergency healthcare — yet many communities are un- or underserviced. Enhancing access to walk-in clinics is a necessary preventative measure that will ensure the treatment of various ailments that may otherwise be escalated and lead to readmittance, putting further pressure on an already strained healthcare infrastructure.
Mobile clinics offer resources to rural communities that are often without significant local healthcare services.
Employers in Ontario are facing significant challenges attracting and retaining their workforce. Providing adequate and efficient healthcare will minimize absenteeism and create a stronger, healthier workforce.
Workers are reluctant to relocate due to the potential loss of access to a family doctor, limiting workforce mobility in Ontario.
Healthcare challenges increase in rural communities, adding more barriers to attracting skilled workers — particularly for our struggling tourism sector.
A healthy workforce will drive a healthy economy.
Our recommendations to the Government of Ontario:
1. Provide more funding for Nurse Practitioner-led clinics, and fund additional Nurse Practitioner seats at Ontario's universities
2. Expand funding for community paramedicine programs.
3. Support Community Health Centres as a means of addressing healthcare needs for those with barriers and needs that fall outside the scope of traditional healthcare systems.
4. Ensure communities have access to walk-in clinics.
5. Invest in mobile clinics to meet non-urgent healthcare needs in rural communities.
6. Make medical schools more financially accessible to students interested in entering the medical field.
7. Work with the federal government to Improve the mobility of physicians within Canada by broadening the national licensure program.
8. Continue to improve recognition of equivalent qualifications held by international medical graduates to integrate them into the Canadian medical field and meet fast-growing demand.
9. Increase admission capacity for different types of healthcare professionals,
10. Expand programs to offer incentives for healthcare professionals — including physicians, nurses, specialists, and technicians — to locate in rural and northern regions experiencing higher levels of healthcare workforce shortages.
11. Ensure that communities across Canada possess the digital infrastructure necessary for enhanced and integrated telehealth programs that bring physician teams and patients closer together.
The SME Institute promotes itself as a “one-stop shop for services and resources, we are a community of partners, mentors and peers who are committed to the collective success of SMEs.”
So, what does this mean for local businesses?
As a Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce member, you can access training, consulting, networking, SME-focused tools and resources, and tips on the SME website.
The training programs are run by the CCC partner and trusted experts, to bring relevant and up-to-date content to help your business grow.
“Learn how to recruit, retain and train talent; find and attract investors; use technology to grow your business; and boost your business performance through diversity and sustainability.”
Their consulting page has a list of “trusted experts and connections to get the support you need to help you reach your goals”. Experts from Grant Thornton LLP, M2M Business Solutions, Cat-Tec Inc., Goodman Sustainability Group and Mentor Works - A Ryan Company are included as advisors – with packages and services available for any member ready to access them.
The SME Institute also has a Marketplace page, with extra tools available to help businesses become more efficient. As an example, Canadian Government Funding Application Writing Services by Mentor Works, “a leading government funding firm dedicated to streamlining the funding and grant application process for businesses across Canada. Through Ryan ULC, an award-winning global tax services, consultancy and software provider, Mentor Works can offer a 360 Funding Experience and a grants discovery and screening platform that helps match businesses with government funding opportunities.”
The SME Institute’s Founding Sponsor, our friends at RBC, also offer some services. First, the RBC Insight Edge “helps you uncover actionable insights for your business without the need to sort through mountains of data. Using anonymized credit and debit card transactions along with demographic and location data, RBC Insight Edge offers real-time intelligence through an easy-to-use dashboard.”
The second is the RBC PayEdge. “RBC PayEdge is an innovative accounts payable platform that automates payments to suppliers by integrating with your accounting system. It enables you to easily access funds from any Canadian bank account and most credit cards to pay suppliers globally. Businesses of all sizes can save time and money using RBC PayEdge — whether they’re an existing RBC banking client or not. “
As the world changes, including the way businesses operate and how customers interact with them, all organizations can use the resources available to them to stay competitive. As your local Chamber, we can help on a local, provincial, and national level.
We need to invest in public transit
Investing more in public transit will help our city thrive.
Public transit is crucial for people getting to school, appointments, work, the grocery store, and to visit friends and family. For some, it’s an economical option compared to car ownership. Some prioritize transit to cut down on their carbon footprint. Some simply prefer not to drive or have physical barriers to operating a car.
Before the pandemic hit, public transit was providing nearly 5 million rides per year.
One particular aspect of transit is hitting businesses particularly hard – the commute.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce recently issued a letter to Mayor Jeff Leal and members of City Council advocating for further investments in transit.
Businesses in Peterborough are struggling to access the workforce they need. According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Canadian Survey on Business Conditions Report, Q4 2022, businesses cited labour-related challenges as three of their top 10 barriers. More than one-third of businesses across Canada report significantly struggling to retain and recruit the workers they need.
It is a complex problem and will take multiple solutions to address. One area that employers have brought to our attention is the struggle many of their staff have getting to work via public transit. Of businesses surveyed, 57% responded that improved transit service would help them access their workforce needs. The biggest concern raised was route disruptions and cancellations. If an employee does not live within walking distance of their work and does not own a car, they need reliable service. Regular, last-minute bus cancellations make it very difficult to get to work on time, if at all. Many resort to paying significantly more than a bus ticket for a ride to work, sometimes multiple times per week. The added expense, uncertainty, and frustration at wasting their time leads people to consider other employment options.
Other barriers highlighted include bus schedules not fitting with shifts, the length of time it takes to reach their destination, and transit stops not being in convenient locations.
We have employers in our community where 30% to 50% of their workforce depend on public transit to get to work. Route disruptions and cancellations are leading to turnover as employees consider both shorter commutes and working from home.
The City of Peterborough is undertaking a review of its transit service. We would like to see the needs of our local businesses and workforce considered when deciding how we invest in transit and how we plan and schedule routes. When determining what kind of service to support, we would like council to consider how it will impact and hopefully enhance people’s ability to get to work. Our workforce needs safe and accessible transit stops in residential neighbourhoods throughout the city with convenient stops in commercial and industrial employment areas.
Recruitment and retention are huge struggles for many businesses right now and the issues are not expected to subside any time soon. We believe investing in a more reliable transit service will improve the resilience of our local businesses.
It is clear that public transit will play a vital role in the growth of our city. Investing in a more robust transit service will help employers generate economic growth, create a stronger workforce, improve the quality of life in our community, and help us address our climate change goals.
A tale of two budgets
Both the federal and provincial governments have recently released their budgets and they could hardly be more different.
Ontario’s budget came in $10.7 billion under its initial projected deficit with projections of a balanced budget next year. It’s debt to GDP ratio shrank. Driving this is higher revenue from inflation.
It’s in stark contrast to the federal budget where the deficit for this year is expected to increase by $6.6 billion. The plan to balance the budget by 2027-28 is gone, with no current projections or strategy for balancing the books. Our national debt to GDP ratio is increasing this year, but is expected to decline later.
In the fiscal philosophy of spending when times are bad and saving when times are good, we’re getting some mixed messages regarding what times we’re in.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has its analysis of the budgets. The highlights for Ontario include:
• Further steps to address labour market challenges by boosting immigration through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program and removing barriers to foreign credential recognition through the Ontario Bridge Training Program.
• Creation of additional pathways into health care jobs through the expansion of the dual credit program which will provide secondary students with opportunities to start their careers as nurses, personal support workers, medical laboratory technicians and paramedics sooner.
• Introduction of the Ontario made Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit to support local manufacturing companies in investing and expanding in Ontario, strengthening provincial supply chains.
• Investments in mental health through an additional $425 million over three years for mental health and addictions, including a five per cent increase in the base funding of community‐based mental health and addiction service providers funded by the Ministry of Health.
It comes up short in investing further in the healthcare system, supporting small businesses through scaling digitization funding and improving access to capital, climate adaption and mitigation strategies, removing interprovincial barriers to trade and labour mobility, and investing further in our supply chain.
For the federal budget, the OCC’s analysis pulls out a few highlights:
• Incentivizing investments in the green economy, with new refundable tax credits for clean electricity, carbon capture, and equipment to manufacture and process clean technologies and critical minerals; an expansion of the reduced corporate income tax rates for zero-emission technologies; and funding through the Canada Infrastructure Bank for major clean infrastructure projects.
• Advancing economic reconciliation by developing an Economic Reconciliation Framework, supporting Indigenous equity ownership of infrastructure projects, co-developing a First Nations-led National Land Registry to help realize economic benefits of First Nations lands, and implementing a co-developed Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy.
• Mitigating supply chain challenges by introducing measures to support a National Supply Chain Strategy and developing transportation supply chain data that will help reduce congestion, improve efficiency, and inform future infrastructure planning.
• Supporting a resilient health care system through the New Canadian Dental Care Plan, funding for a renewed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy to help address the opioid overdose crisis, and an ongoing focus on data collection.
The federal budget fell short on addressing labour market needs, reforming employment insurance, fast-tracking broadband internet investments, modernizing the federal tax system, and committing to regulatory reforms for industries that include cannabis, hospitality, and tourism.
Both budgets tackle some of the key issues our business community is facing and both fall short in some crucial areas.
Whether we should be tackling the current inflation challenges and looming recession with a budget big on spending or using the “good times” of increased government revenue to reign in spending is a difficult question — though both governments are clearly showing where they stand on the issue. The next year is going to be difficult to predict in terms of our economy. It will be interesting to see how accurate current spending predictions are at the end of the fiscal year.