Make better business decisions with data
There is no shortage of data in this day and age.
We live and work online, we survey and poll, our services run through digital systems — much of what we do is tracked and analysed in some shape or form. Economists often refer to data as the new oil both in terms of its global economic value and in what it means for growing businesses.
We get a number of requests at the Chamber for data on a variety of subjects and business sectors. While we can help provide some data and analysis, we also rely on our community and industry partners for raw and aggregate data.
Here are a few places to look for free, high-quality data for making decisions for your business:
Business Data Lab
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce launched the Business Data Lab (BDL) a year ago. It brings together data from a variety of sources to track evolving market conditions and provide Canadian businesses with critical information to help make better decisions and improve performance. The BDL provides timely reports and analysis on things like the economy, workforce mobility trends, and business conditions.
The BDL also includes the Business Conditions Terminal, which provides access to real-time data on markets that matter to your business with high-quality, high-frequency indicators.
Workforce Development Board
Looking for information on local workforce trends? The Workforce Development Board is able to access data that isn’t always available to the general public or can be expensive for an individual business to purchase. They also track local labour activity. With this data, they provide analysis and reports with valuable insights businesses can use to help grow their workforce and figure out what are competitive salaries.
Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development (PKED)
The website is branded Invest Peterborough and the Kawarthas for a reason — the Data and Resource hub on their website includes information on all things Peterborough, including market information, quality of life data, logistics, talent, demographics, economics, major employers, reports on various sectors and economic development opportunities, and more. PKED is in the midst of their annual Business Count, a comprehensive survey of local businesses that runs through August and provides in-depth tracking and analysis on local businesses.
Canadian Chamber of Commerce
The policy team at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCC) have put together some comprehensive reports and policy papers on various business issues. Where the Business Data Lab offers large swaths of data that can be narrowed down to specific sectors and geographics, the CCC provides data based on issues like cyber security, international trade, cannabis regulation, supply chains, Indigenous affairs, and more.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Similar to the CCC, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) provides a lot of resources, including data, relating to issues with a provincial scope, like healthcare, Ontario’s economy, transportation and supply chain, and cyber security. Their publications include some very in-depth reports, often partnered with other industry associations, on specific topics like tourism and aggregates.
Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce
Our website has a Resource Hub where we have compiled resources and information on topics like starting or growing a business, exporting, training, workforce, and research. Some of the information links to work from our partners and some of it will point you to services offered by our members. It’s a great place to get started and find some new places to source information.
If there’s data regarding people and businesses across Canada, there’s a good chance Statistics Canada tracks it. A lot of businesses and agencies, including the Chamber, rely on data from Statistics Canada for our research and reports. They offer raw data and non-partisan analysis.
Your own business!
When it comes to market research, no one knows your customers and their habits better than you and the technology you use to run your business. Your point-of-sale system, website, social media, customer relationship management (CRM) software, newsletter, and advertisements are all gathering valuable information on who your customers are, how and when they spend money, where they are, what they like, and what motivates them. It can also find people who have similarities to your customers, but aren’t currently spending money with you. If you’re unsure how to fully access the potential of your data, we have a Digital Service Squad member ready to connect and offer one-on-one help for free. Additionally, the Chamber has several experts within our membership and grants to cover some of the cost.
This list is nowhere near exhaustive, but is a good place to start. Chances are, there is an industry group with specific knowledge and data on your business sector. There are also a host of businesses, non-profits, charities, and government agencies with data on pretty much any issue and sector. Not sure where to look? Connect with the Chamber and we can help.
In the Spirit of Business
Unfairness in regulation and taxation is an area of particular concern to chambers of commerce.
One sector where this unfairness is particularly concerning is within alcohol production and sales. Wineries and craft breweries have come a long way in Ontario and contribute to a thriving manufacturing and agriculture industry. But in many ways, cideries and distilleries have been left behind. It’s stifling growth within the sector for businesses across Ontario.
For this reason, the Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Prince Edward County Chamber of Commerce, Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce and several others to put forward a renewed policy resolution titled In the Spirit of Business. This policy resolution was approved by members of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and will be part of their advocacy platform for the next three years.
Here is our resolution:
Currently, the policy regime applied to craft brewery and winery industries is not aligned with the one applied to the craft distillery industry, resulting in challenges for growth and sustainability of the sector as an integral part of Ontario’s economy.
Craft distilling is an industry in rapid growth. Distillers are creating jobs and boosting economies in large and small centres. The segment supports 6,000 jobs in Ontario and annually contributes $1.5 billion to Ontario’s Gross Provincial Product, while craft distillers and the spirit industry generate over $2.5 billion in annual sales.
The spirits industry works closely with local farmers, connects to tourism and hospitality industries, and contributes to the economic growth of rural areas across Ontario.
However, significant challenges still need to be addressed, i.e., tax at craft distillery tasting rooms is 61.5%, which is 10 times what Ontario wineries pay. Additionally, craft distilleries do not receive recognition for using ingredients produced in Ontario.
For these reasons the craft distillery industry should be considered in policymaking.
The province of Nova Scotia continues to be a leader in the spirits industry since the government opened the door to growth in 2014 by reducing the markup by 60-80% with another 10% mark down if distillers use provincially grown agriculture products. The government cut the license fee from $2,000 to $500, increased production threshold, and introduced a graduated markup based on annual production. These measures allowed craft distillers to thrive. In British Columbia, since the introduction of a graduated tax system, the industry has grown from 17 to 48 distilleries in the province.
Craft spirits are considerably more laborious to produce than large-scale industrial spirits and are also marketed at higher prices. Any short-term revenue reductions from lower LCBO markups and tasting room taxes will be surpassed by the increased revenue from higher employment and consumers supporting local premium spirits that will come from a thriving craft distillery industry.
In the past few years there has been some movement towards parity with other craft alcohol industries, such as:
• Allowing craft distillers to distribute their products to bars and restaurants.
• Allowing craft distillers to open “Pop-up” retail stores via Special Occasion Permits; and
• The continuation of “The Small Cidery and Small Distillery Program” for a three-year commitment (expires in 2025).
Craft distillers believe these changes are a step in the right direction, but additional changes are required to reach parity with other craft alcohol industries in Ontario. For example, the update to “Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health” recognizes that the consumption of beverage alcohol is equivalent across different categories, therefore craft distillers believe it is possible to have all regulations regarding alcohol align to the same standards.
This call for change is not only coming from the chambers of commerce and boards of trade but also from Craft Spirits Ontario.
We are urging the Government of Ontario to:
1. Approve the continuation of “The Small Cidery and Small Distillery Program” until 2027 and that both industries be considered in tandem moving forward.
2. Remove the LCBO fees applied to sales from craft distilleries and craft cideries directly to licensees and by-the-glass sales.
3. Align the craft distiller's regulations with the craft beer and wine industry by applying a graduated rate to the current spirits basic tax, with a zero percent markup on the first 50,000 litres sold.
4. Lower the LCBO markup on spirits and ciders made primarily with Ontario ingredients by Ontario facilities to be equivalent to microbreweries, graduated by production method and volume.
Our economy, and inflation, are slowing — but so far, we’re on track for the “soft landing” the Bank of Canada has been steering our economy toward.
In the span of less than a year, the base overnight lending rate went from 0.25% to 4.5%. All the while, as interest rates climbed in 2022, inflation continued at well above the levels we’ve grown accustomed to. In the later part of 2022, inflation finally began a decline and that’s continuing into 2023. As of April, inflation had dropped to 4.3%, the lowest it has been since August of 2021 and down from 5.2% the month before.
Meanwhile, economic growth (measured as Gross Domestic Product) at the start of the year was 0.6% but dropped to 0.1% by February.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce Business Data Labs breaks down the current economic movers and shakers:
• Output grew in 12 of 20 sectors. Both services and goods sectors were up by 0.1%, while goods sectors have had a tougher time since last fall.
• Professional services (+0.6% monthly growth) continue to lead the economy.
• The resilience in construction (+0.3%, up for a second straight month) is impressive, given the large increase in interest rates over the past year. Perhaps pricing in Canada’s housing market has already hit bottom, given on-going supply challenges and strong demand expected from large increases in immigration in recent months.
• The public sector grew by 0.2% and has grown for 13 months in a row. The federal public servant strike will be a drag on output starting in April.
• Wholesale (-1.3%) and retail trade (-0.5%) were weak, dragged down by auto and gas station sales.
What does this mean for local businesses?
Higher cost of living (inflation) and debt servicing (interest rate hikes) led to reduced consumer spending for many people, but is back on the upswing. According to RBC, discretionary spending jumped in April, including a 1.3% jump in restaurant spending.
While the current economic challenges have some echoes of 2008, there are some big differences — most notably the fact that people are still working. According to Statistics Canada, the number of job vacancies in Canada decreased to 855,890 in the fourth quarter of 2022, down from 987,700 in the third quarter. Less people are hiring, but we still have far more job openings than people to fill them.
The Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey for April paints a more positive view on our current economy as our unemployment rate continues to hover at 5%, employment increased by 33,000 (0.4%) in Ontario and wages are up 5.2% year-over-year.
In the grand scheme of things, most Canadians who are willing and able to work are still employed and making more money than they did last year. Where many economic slowdowns result in hikes in unemployment, the decrease in hiring is only narrowing a significant gap between demand for labour and its availability.
That’s not to say our local economy won’t feel the pinch of a slowing economy. Households and businesses carrying more debt have been hit harder by the rise in interest rates. Wage numbers are an average and not everyone has experienced pay increases that keep up with the increased cost of living. And some business sectors are facing more economic hardships than others.
Considering the fact that we just came through a devastating public health crisis followed by runaway inflation not seen in a generation, which has led to governments around the world trying to slow our economy without crashing it, we are well positioned for a “soft landing.” Consumer discretionary spending is trending back up, interest rates have stabilized, and we have a strong workforce.
A quick look around the workplace can provide a snapshot of a business’ investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Some businesses have been actively and strategically investing in DEI for decades while others have come on board more recently.
While there’s no question creating workplaces that welcome and support people of various backgrounds and identities is inherently a good thing — it’s also good for business.
A study by McKinsey & Company found that companies with higher racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Additionally, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers.
Workplaces that foster an environment where people with different life experiences, different cultures, different abilities, and different identities all are empowered to contribute meaningfully will create stronger, more resilient businesses.
An article in the Harvard Business Review titled How Investing in DEI Helps Companies Become More Adaptable highlights companies that invest in DEI are more adaptable to change. Companies with the highest DEI scores were considered to be 80% more able to change. In an era of constant change and volatility on a global scale, the ability to change and adapt is crucial.
Additionally, investing in DEI helps a business attract and retain talent. According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Canadian Survey on Business Conditions Report, Q3 2022, 39% of respondents identified recruiting skilled employees as an obstacle to business over the next three months, 37% listed a shortage of labour force, and 31% identified retaining skilled employees.
If a prospective employee looks around your workplace or hops on your website to see staff and board profiles and doesn’t see people they can relate to, it’s going to take more effort to convince them that your workplace is a good fit. Employers are having to recruit differently to find talent, including targeting different demographics than they might have in the past.
The Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce recently held our annual Business Summit, which featured a well-attended workshop on DEI and a workforce panel discussion where DEI was one of the most popular topics of discussion for the business community.
An article from Insight Global highlights nine benefits of strong DEI in the workplace:
• Reach a more extensive and inclusive talent pool
• Diverse workplace teams are more likely to perform better financially
• Inclusivity fosters a sense of belonging for employees
• Higher employee retention and lower turnover
• Diverse workplaces breed innovation
• Inclusion can improve business decision-making
• Equity and inclusion can tackle workplace burnout
• Creates competitive business advantage
• DE&I protects company culture
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce SME Institute has a brief titled DEI: What it is and why you should have a strategy which gives an overview of how to move forward with DEI goals.
A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace won’t happen by accident. Businesses looking to take this seriously need to be intentional and create a strategy to get where they want to be. For those looking for a bit of help getting started or getting connected, the Chamber network has resources and there are many local organizations with the knowledge and tools to help.
Advocacy through policy is at the heart of what a chamber of commerce does.
As is tradition, chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across Ontario gathered Saturday for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM and Convention to push forward a new round of policy resolutions for the Government of Ontario.
Though the debate is one day, the whole process takes months. Chambers work with their policy teams, committees, boards, and members to lay out and prioritize local business issues that the provincial government can help address. We reach out to businesses in specific sectors, industry groups, and fellow chambers for input and support. Once drafted, the policy resolutions go through rigorous review by our fellow chambers and the OCC’s Policy and Advocacy Committee. It all culminates in a one-day policy debate where 200 chamber and board of trade delegates present, debate, and vote on the resolutions. All approved resolutions become part of the OCC advocacy efforts at Queen’s Park and beyond for the next three years.
Often, these policy resolutions start with a business talking with their chamber about a particular barrier they are dealing with and offering some solutions that the government should consider. It’s about as grassroots as advocacy gets. This year’s compendium of resolutions covered a wide range of issues, including property tax fairness, rural transit, mining development, alcohol regulation, procurement, local detox centres, workforce needs, and broadband internet expansion.
We submitted four of the 43 resolutions up for debate and all four were approved by the membership:
• Accounting for economic outcomes in regional collaboration projects
Issue: Jobs created during collaborative regional economic development projects are only attributed to the municipality in which they are geographically located.
Develop a mechanism that allows for multiple municipalities who have invested in a regionally significant project to account for jobs created proportional to financial contribution when reporting to government.
• Diversifying healthcare to ease the burden on Emergency Rooms and family doctors
Issue: Our hospitals are in crisis, 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.
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 health care 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.
• Invest in Workforce Planning Boards
Issue: Workforce challenges are one of the biggest barriers to economic growth in Ontario. It is essential that businesses, non-profits and charities have access to as many workforce resources and tools as possible. After years of funding cuts and precarious one-year funding agreements, now is the time to re-invest in all 26 Workforce Planning Boards across the province of Ontario with increased funding and three-year contracts.
1. Increase the funding for each Workforce Planning Board to cover the cost of LMI Help Desk Services, the Local Jobs Hub, and website maintenance and updates.
2. Increase the length of funding agreements with Workforce Planning Boards to three years.
• Tax Rebates for Home Care
Issue: Receiving healthcare at home is the preferred route for most people where feasible, saving both them and the government money, compared to staying in institutions. However, upfront capital costs are a major barrier to home care. Lack of access to a hospital bed and patient lift limits peoples’ access to home care.
1. Create a one-time refundable $10,000 tax credit toward special medical equipment and renovations, including hospital beds and patient lifts, for people of all ages requiring home care services.
2. Expand funding for virtual home monitoring programs through Ontario Health Teams and other health care providers, to help seniors live safely in their homes and reduce the burden on the hospital system.